I keep falling off the internet because . . . we’re only a little bit sick. We’re in and out of the plague-ridden life just enough that everyone can keep the momentum on the flesh-and-blood obligations, at least for the highest priorities, but not so sick that we get to stay home in bed and play the internet all day. Yes, that’s right: If only I were sicker, I’d blog more.
(Hush your mouth, we aren’t praying for that. Bad reader! No biscuit!)
If anyone can read my mind, circa early-December, and remember what my brilliant idea for my next New Evangelizers column was, please speak up. It’s due tomorrow, so I’m counting on you reminding me by mid-afternoon. Thanks!
The next bit of this update tells a story that includes a death scene. A real one, not fiction. You might want to go ahead and click elsewhere now. Especially if thinking about dead cats bothers you.
Morbid Dead Cat Story, with handy funerary tips.
So last Thursday night the testosterone wing was safely away at hunt camp, two little girls were in bed, and my little singer was up enjoying the fire and the Advent Tree, and generally getting her internal clock adjusted per the midnight-Mass situation. Fifi the cat wisely chose this time, when all was quiet and peaceful, to drop dead.
This surprised us.
She was just a middle-aged cat. Looking back, Ev recalls that Fifi had not quite been her usual self that week, but there was no particular lead up. One minute, Fifi is sitting at her usual spot by the fire, doing her cat-by-the-fire routine; next thing I knew, she wasn’t.
Note: If a cat were to just slip off into eternal bliss while sitting by the fire, you would not notice. It would probably be a few days before your realized that your cat hadn’t moved lately. Fifi did not do this.
Instead, some time after she was last spotted in her Queen Cat location, she was no longer there. In place of a cat, I noted that mild stench, which those of you who have been around dying creatures know about, coming from under the coffee table. The rest of you can be surprised later.
We fished the Fifi out from her hiding place, and made a bed in a cardboard box with an old dog towel. We have a dishpan in the linen closet labeled “dog towels”, but they can be used for other pets, too. Every now and then, they make a good burial shroud — more on that later.
Ev extracted a promise from me that we could take the cat to the vet in the morning. I did not break the news to her right away, but once the rapid shallow breathing starts, you have to at least give your child a head’s up that this is probably the end. I cleaned up the minor mess under the coffee table, and we sat around watching the cat in her box. She mostly just lay there panting, but sometimes not.
The dog jumped over her dog gate and came to investigate. I sent her back to bed. The last thing I needed was for the dog to catch cat-plague, and have Mr. Boy come home to a dead pet, too.
Having been a delinquent auxillary member of the LOM that day, I started into my rosary under my breath, and made it through the first decade before we could no longer see fur moving. It was the first time I’d ever been praying that “and at the hour of our death” line during someone’s actual death, even if it was only a cat.
Black and white fur, thick for winter, by the light of an Advent tree, plays tricks on your eyes. You can only watch it go up and down so many times before you think you see it moving even when it’s not. Ev fetched her stethoscope, and we listened for breath sounds and a heart beat, just like they do on TV.
We made that face that the pioneer doctor makes right before the last commercial break.
It was midnight by now. After a suitable period of mourning, Ev extracted a new promise from me: Yes, we can get a kitten.
It was not only midnight, it was cold and dark. Not the time for a burial service. I sent Ev to bed, and told her I’d sleep out in the living room with the cat-corpse, since I did not want to wake up in the morning and discover that the dog had taken an unusual interest in dead things in the small hours of the night.
The handy pet undertaker’s tip: If you are not going to bury your pet until morning, go ahead and curl up the body in a cute and compact sleeping-cat pose right away. And get the
dog towel cat burial shroud all wrapped around the body, with just a tiny bit of sleeping-cat head visible, but easily covered when the time comes. You will be glad in the morning, because: Rigor Mortis.
FYI – I was glad in the morning. Got up, made myself go out and bury the cat before I took a shower (because: Co-op — still had a very long day ahead). On a frosty December morning, you will be happy that you posed the cat in the most compact suitable-for-viewing position possible, because: Smaller hole.
(You do know, don’t you, to fully wrap your child’s pet before you start shoveling dirt? They are going to watch. Even though they know exactly what’s inside the towel, it’s better to see dirt landing on just a towel.)
That’s my dead cat story. We told Ev to research the easiest, least-hassle way to obtain a fresh re-supply of cats, and she’s been comparing policies at all the various shelters around town. Meanwhile, yes we were agressive about washing hands and disinfecting. Also, I told the kids that if anyone developed acute abdominal pain, I was taking them to the ER ASAP. But it has not come to that, so I think we’re safe.