Friday, July 13, 2007

Once was warrior

This post is about the death many years ago of a much loved cat.

Gingy came into our lives as a tiny ball of ginger fur and attitude. We'd been visiting the litter of kittens and their mum, chosen Gingy and planned to get him after we got back from our holidays in January. Then we got a call in late December - could we take our kitten early? He was beating up his mum. So he was an unexpectedly early Xmas present.

I grew up with him. I was 8 when he arrived. I rocked him as a kitten on the lazy boy and crooned Away in a Manger until he fell asleep. When I sing it to my daughters I always think of him. I cried my teenage angst into his fur and delighted in his exploits - skateboarding, chasing a dog, staring down buses and boyfriends. He loved me more than anyone and was the first male to share my bed.

I was the one who found him when he'd dragged himself with a dislocated pelvis down our long path to the house. I came home from school and found him shivering. I put him on my coat and went inside to ring a neighbour to help me. He dragged himself inside following me. Later he was determined to do everything as usual despite having one leg bound up to his body. Then for years afterwards he'd occasionally hop when he was feeling sorry for himself. The experience left him with a fear of vacuum cleaners although I presume he was hit by a car.

Eventually, like many old cats, his kidneys started to fail. For years he went to the vet every 6 weeks for an injection and took hormone pills. His fur became dreads and he spent his time in the sun. I moved out of home and got an affectionate welcome when I visited. You could still tell I was special to him.

His toilet training became erratic. He'd poo in the shower downstairs and pee on the floor sometimes. Fortunately it was lino. Then one day he peed at the edge of the lino in the living room and it soaked into the wood below.

My mother rang me and told me that they were going to have Gingy put down. I knew it would have been my father who had lost patience with him. I asked to talk to my father and my mother wouldn't let me. I cried and cried. I rang back and drew out all the stops. I pleaded for Gingy's life with all the emotional blackmail I could manage. It wasn't pretty. It worked.

A year or so later my parents were going away and they asked me to catsit. He had been going downhill. When I stayed I noticed he was only turning righthand corners and turning right every time the opportunity arose, like someone in a maze. He'd probably had a stroke. I woke one morning to what sounded like a cat fight. He was lying on the floor fitting and yowling. Eyes wide, claws out, fighting death. I rang the emergency vet. They said if he is still fitting in ten minutes ring back. I rang again. By now some of his joints were moving in ways they were never built to. They said bring him in. I put him in a large box (big enough for his battle to continue) and we drove to the vet.

The vet was wearing a heavy metal T-shirt and had an old ford parked at the back. He seemed a bit like Gingy, uncompromising and tough as nails but very kind.

The vet said it was a massive stroke. That he'd never recover. That if he was human they'd give him massive doses of muscle relaxants and then wait for him to die. The vet asked if I wanted him to have muscle relaxants before they put him to sleep so he would die calmly. I thought his battle was his way of going and told him no, just the final dose.

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