from today’s new yorker
ON THE DEATH OF A CAT
In life, death
to you: I am
willing to wager
my soul that it
simply never occurred
to your nightmareless
mind, while sleep
(see it raised
to an infinite
power and perfection) — no death
in you then, so now
how even less. Dear stealth
to an evil
milk fang, whiskered
— Franz Wright
if i had to guess what spike’s heaven will be like, i would imagine it would be somewhat similar to these last days. a constant supply high-fat wet catfood served in giant heaps, topped with an icing of high-calorie supplement and served dolloped upon an elevated, chilled platter — just like on a cruise ship, “the food never stops.” soft fleecy blankets next to a radiator always set on “warm” to mask the fact that it has been constantly cold and rainy outside. a pain patch on alternating hind-legs delivering measured doses of narcotics, good for five days at a time. bright flitty hummingbirds the mere window-width away. fluffy giant pigeons plump and preening in the rain. warm, familiar-smelling humans with opposable thumbs waiting at the door to allow him to exit or return should he so desire — while spike watches all of it, the whole thing, from just inside the deluge.
but of course there will be one big difference in spike’s heaven: no nasty tumor.
his trip to the vet saturday for a new pain patch was grim; i had to circle the busy block repeatedly to find parking in the rain, and he looked quite ill by the time we had arrived; he also smelled quite foul and they thought he had released his anal glands. in addition, without the pain patch, he clearly was much more uncomfortable, so leanne thinks we will keep it on until he can’t eat anymore or is clearly suffering. his tumor has apparently grown, and he is drooling constantly now. it is not always bloody. he has smelled a lot worse through this, but leanne gave him a sponge bath today and then combed lavendar essence through his silky black hair; now his tail is fluffy and soft again!
he still climbs up on our laps and crawls under our chins and purrs while we stroke him – only now we have to have a little drool bib on while he does this.
he’s been the only cat – the only being! – i’ve known who will leap up on your lap when you are upset and come purring to comfort.
spike just leapt onto my lap, and i am negotiating typing around him, his chin perched on my left forarm.
spike greeted me at the door of otivo tonight with the same squeaky cranky welcome, but leanne says he hasn’t been eating at all today. that’s not good.
calming the beast
it’s pretty clear to us now that those first pretty bad days were pretty bad mostly because of the biopsy. understandably, since essentially a piece of spike’s tongue was cut out and taken off to biopsy.
that doesn’t mean, however, that all is well now. though spike has seemed better in the last few days, eating a ton, attacking us like he loves us, sleeping warmly and soundly, leanne has spoken to the vet about all the (lack of) possibilities and dr. bloom has confirmed that the tumor is simply continuing to grow. spike’s even bleeding again more since his visit to the vet on saturday; i guess they cleaned his mouth out (he obviously swears too much).
at the vet, they removed his pain patch, and leanne has not put a new one on him yet. i think she’s just sort of waiting to see when he declines. in the meantime, he seems pretty happy (though obviously uncomfortable and bleeding…). the tumor’s only going one way…
at least, as of yesterday at last, the sun has been out after days of grey rain – so hopefully he has been able to get out onto the roof to enjoy the sun.
it seems like spike is adapting to the alien growing inside of him – or maybe the alien is calming down a bit. at any rate, last night, i caught him swishing furiously through the catnip, and later he attacked both leanne and me, which we took as a tremendous sign! he was even cleaning himself at one point. and the sun is out intermittently today, so perhaps he is able to take in some fresh air and sunshine.
so it seems we have ourselves a little respite of false security. though in reality, he can’t close his mouth because of the size (and general discomfort) of the tumor (and looks a little looney with his toungue lolling out), he keeps drooling blood, and we keep seeing this large nasty tumor when we go to stuff pills and pain liquids down his mouth. he is clearly uncomfortable, but he is super spike, and seems almost to be adapting.
spike curled up next to us all saturday night to sleep, then we went home sunday to spend the night with wanda. we were back at otivo again last night. spike was quite energetic before bedtime, rubbing up against my art project on the floor, purring like himself and eating LIKE A HORSE, enjoying a nice comb-through to try to clean up his coat (which he can’t clean), and even jumping on leanne’s lap — but not for long, certainly not able to cuddle like Our Spike.
then while we slept last night, he stayed distant, blending into the black fleece by the door. today he doesn’t seem to feel as well.
it was dreary and rainy yesterday, and it’s dreary and rainy today. usually i love the rain. yesterday, we went to look at houses and there was the unspoken difference now: we don’t need the outside access. there is a family member now missing from our plans.
neither leanne nor i feel much like working today. spike has been leanne’s steady companion for his entire 11 years. i wish i could fully be there for leanne but he’s been my companion for 6 years, and i feel this demise acutely. so many of us do; the whole otivo crowd. others who don’t even know his predicament yet will be touched by this. i think of kesin: to him, spike and wanda are a unit – just like leanne and moya – they don’t exist singly.
i know every cat owner in the entire universe thinks their cat is more unique, clever, and special than the rest, but in spike’s case it of course really is true. spike is the only cat i have ever known to go on walks with people. he used to walk leanne down the street and then wait all day for her to return to that spot when they lived on bainbridge island. he would walk me down the block in noe valley. he pants like a dog in the car. only he hasn’t struggled nearly as much with his recent trips to the vet. it’s as if he knows it’s different now.
it’s in the back of our minds, all the time, this horrible thing ahead.
yesterday, spike started eating again and he hasn’t stopped since. first, he chowed down on a leftover prawn, and then moved on to the leftover thanksgiving turkey. we figured he could eat these chunky things and not the turkey and tuna purees we concocted for him because he can bite and chew but not lick. the tumor gets in the way of any serious tongue action; but even the chewing did that and he gets all bloody and mucousy when he eats. eventually, leanne was able to get him to eat the a/d wet food sent home by the vet. in addition, she tops this with a high-calorie vitamin supplement and spike just eats and eats and eats. he’s got most of his voice back and can yowl and call with his gravelly voice again, and we even spotted him cleaning his drooly face off with his paws.
all of this, however, is bittersweet, since his is obviously in pain, and leanne just got the biopsy report and it confirmed squamous cell carcinoma. dr bloom has spoken with the expert in the area, dr jane torell in pacifica, and there doesn’t appear to be any option for treatment. now, it seems all about managing his pain and determining when it is time for him to go. she’s taken spike back to presidio way to get a patch put onto his leg that should measure out pain medicine for the next five days or so.
to pick ourselves up, leanne and i went to see “love actually” at amc van ness yesterday. a sappy feelgood love story. i left the theater bawling.