Putting down my beloved Siamese cat

There is nothing harder in life than saying goodbye to a loved one. This evening, I had to make the hardest choice of my life. This evening, I had to put my beloved Siamese cat to sleep. A year and a half and one day ago, my father passed away. Tonight, Spaz goes to join him, together again. They were inseparable while Dad was alive. It seems only fitting that they are now reunited.

It is particularly hard to accept this, especially coming after yesterday’s high, remembering the first anniversary of the CBC 50th Anniversary Train. To come from a high to a low in such a period certainly does not help one’s happiness quotia. That’s probably why I’ve had too much to drink for one night, in a vain attempt to kill the pain.

Spaz was born in either 1989 or 1991, depending on who you ask. I believe it is the former, but her medical records suggest the latter. She was a gift from my Aunt Ruth to my grandmother, who named her Yum-Yum, after one of the characters in Gilbert & Sullivan’s “Mikado”. My grandmother wasn’t one for names, though, and soon was calling her “Puss”, as she had every other cat. I was the only one who called her “Spaz”, referring to her spastic behaviour as a kitten.

Over the years, Spaz became an absolutely personable cat. She would immediately warm up to whomever was in the room, usually beelining for the person most allergic to her. She rarely bit anyone, and if she did it was because they weren’t giving her enough seafood. After Grandma moved into a retirement apartment, Dad took in Spaz, where they became fast friends. Spaz saw much of North America travelling with my parents. When Dad died last year, I took Spaz into my home, as Mom has never really been a huge fan of pets. Spaz and I enjoyed over a year together, sleeping in the same bed, often under the same covers.

(I should note that when I spoke with Mom earlier this evening, she was almost as upset as I was. Mom might have not been a big fan of pets, but Spaz was such a great cat that she grew on everyone around her.)

Over the last two months, I saw a change in Spaz, though I wasn’t fully willing to accept it. Mom was the one to finally bring it to light when she was out visiting. Spaz was underweight. She was not as responsive as in her glory. I think I refused to believe that perhaps the end was in sight.

Yesterday, as Tamara and I returned from a matinee, I found Spaz coughing in a way I’d never seen her before, and spitting up material I’d never seen. Fearing the worst, I immediately took her to the Calgary North Animal Hospital (on a recommendation from Scott and Tara, whose cats have visited probably more times than they care to wish). Spaz was immediately admitted and almost immediately transferred to an oxygen tent. Blue at admitting, she was soon able to breathe.

I waited in Exam Room 1 for the doctor, reading the poster for anatomy on ferrets. Outside, I could hear a boy, no more than five years old, crying desperately to his mother about never seeing his pet again. Inside, I felt like that five year old. Somehow, I knew that Spaz would never be coming home again.

Over the next 18 hours, Spaz was checked, prodded, poked, and tested. At about 16:45, I received a call from Dr. Henderson, who began to explain to me the seriousness of Spaz’s condition. Although she didn’t say it outright, I knew what she was telling me. Spaz’s life was at an end, and there was likely little veterinary science could do to save her. I had known Spaz for almost half my life, and while I wasn’t willing to let her go, I wasn’t willing to let her suffer for my own selfish needs.

I don’t know what exactly Spaz was suffering from, neither did Dr. Henderson. But suffering, she was. Blood tests were inconclusive, but Dr. Henderson was confident that the problems weren’t from asthma, which Spaz had dealt with for many years. This was far more serious. My conversation with the vet only seemed to conclude that tests would only show what would ultimately kill Spaz, not what could cure her.

It was raining when Tamara and I drove up to the hospital. Spaz was in an incubator — the kind used for premature babies. She was warm, as I’d always hoped she’d be at the end. But she was unresponsive. She seemed to only vaguely know that we were there. There was no purring. Although she was lying upright (not on her side), she didn’t really respond the way she had less than two days before.

We left the hospital, passing by the front clerk. She asked if we were sure that we didn’t want to be there with her. I barely choked out a “no, thanks” as we passed by. I nearly lost control twice on my way out the door. I couldn’t be there, although it broke my heart not to be with her at the end.

It helped having Tamara with me as we drove home. Without her, I would not have been able to focus on the road. I was numb. When Dad passed away, I was saddened, but knew that his end was coming. Spaz’s death I was not prepared for, though I knew that by bringing her to Alberta, I might have only extended her life by a year. I just wasn’t ready for it.

The best part about driving in the rain is that no-one can see you crying.

Farewell, dear Spaz. May you, Dad, and Grandma be reunited again.

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