I hadn’t written anything in a couple days, yet I found myself in an odd ongoing mood of wanting to write without having a focus to write about. And then, of course, last Saturday happened. I don’t want what follows to be taken as any kind of pity party or a rant or anything of that nature. Truth be told, I’m not certain I know exactly what it is, myself. I guess I’ll just start typing and we’ll see where this mess goes.
A handful of weeks ago, I learned that my wife’s daughter was moving into an apartment where she could not keep her cats, and could we take them in? I was not horribly enthusiastic about the proposition, being that we already have three cats as it is. The addition of two more would add unwanted expense to my wallet, never mind feline drama which we already see too often. On a trip to her new digs, I met her two kitties: nearly identical butterscotch males named Garfield and Odie. They were young, probably no more than 2½ months or so, good-natured and playful … and ultimately, I guess I just figured the usual, “what the heck.” After getting fully scoped out by our veterinarian, Garfield joined the gang something over two weeks ago and Odie a week after that.
The reaction of our long-time residents to the new arrivals was fairly predictable, knowing them. Boo was mostly indifferent, hissing initially but mostly ignoring the newcomers. Sadie took them as a personal affront, making her vocal displeasure well known and having nothing whatever to do with them. Morris started out not much different from Boo, but evolved over a march of three or four days into a combination of either benign neglect or semi-curious willingness to go nose-to-nose with Garfield or Odie, with a look toward eventually, possibly being a playmate. Meantime, the new two took to their new locale like a fish takes to water, exploring all over, attempting to make friends with the oldsters, and playing and wrestling with each other much as they had at the old place. It also seemed as though each of our now-five cats had found their own pied-a-terre to call their own, so cat confrontations were thankfully infrequent.
Garfield was perhaps the more reserved of the two, exploring but not too aggressively, while Odie was clearly the more extroverted of the pair. Not quite a week ago, I watched Odie follow Morris, our big Maine Coon, up onto the office windowsill, a fairly decent jump from my desk. He was also seen chasing Morris around here and there, despite being roughly a third of the larger cat’s size and weight. Odie was also the less “buzzy” of the newcomers. Pick up Garfield and an instant purr was very nearly guaranteed. Do the same with Odie and maybe he would buzz and maybe he wouldn’t. Ultimately his body language would say, “Hey, I got places to go, people to see, things to do, ya know?”, whereupon I would set him down and he would go about his business. So far so good, or so I thought.
This past Saturday afternoon, I was watching football in the family room when, to my considerable surprise, I was joined by Odie. This wasn’t his usual behavior, though I was flattered that he would deign to spend some time with me. I remember noting that his mouth fur was wet and remembered that I had caught him vomiting earlier that day. What he had expelled was nothing more than white fluid, no solid matter, and I had figured he was dealing with a worming pill he had been given the day before. Odie perched on my shoulder for a while, then sat in my lap, still not buzzing much (if at all) as I petted him and gave him chin-chucks. Eventually, he went on his way as he always did, though something in his manner told me that he was OFF somehow.
It was much later that evening when the whole matter hit the fan. I was in the kitchen when my stepdaughter came in with Odie in her hands. He was almost a rag doll, next to no movement, no purr, barely breathing. My wife and I exchanged some discussion about whether to try to do something about the little guy, and being that we were a 10-minute drive from a 24-hour pet emergency room, I offered to take Odie there and see what they could do. Odie was wrapped in a towel, and off we went, our small patient cradled in my wife’s arms.
I’ll say this much for the Vet Emergency Room: they didn’t screw around when they saw they had an emergent case on their hands. Odie went straight back to their treatment area almost immediately upon presentation. Perhaps half an hour later, the news was confusing. First Odie hadn’t been responding, and did we want to proceed with euthanasia? Not much later, we were told he had responded, and the doctors wanted to know if we wished to proceed with a considerable (and expensive!) regimen of care.
We were invited back to see our little guy. It wasn’t horrid, but it wasn’t pretty, either. Odie was on a low table, under a blanket with a warming bottle next to his belly. He was intubated through his mouth. Both front legs were partially shaved, an I/V feeding him an aqueous solution of some description, and alligator clips, one on each leg, were feeding a signal to a heart monitor. One of the attending vets told us he had stopped breathing at some point, thus the intubation, and that his temperature was low at 92°, Fahrenheit. There was some discussion about how we wanted to proceed from this point. I was hardly sanguine about a course of treatment which would strain an already complaining bank account … but at the same time, I wanted Odie to live, darn it ... and for Garfield NOT to lose his playmate. I told the docs to extubate Odie, figuring that if he could breathe on his own, maybe it was worth the effort and expense. Son of a gun, they removed the tube and Odie continued breathing, even occasionally moving his head around and blinking on his own. His temp was coming up, too – 93 degrees, then 94 and still rising. I swallowed hard and signed on the dotted line to continue his care overnight, and my wife and I returned home around midnight. It was something short of 2 AM as I half-slept through an episode of House that the call came in: Odie had arrested again and was estimated to be in multiple organ failure and did we want to call it? I blearily sighed and said yes and attempted somewhat successfully to go back to sleep.
So why am I telling you all of this? Good question, one which I could stand an answer to, myself. Maybe it’s to let you know what can happen with a beloved pet when you least expect it, or to let you know that something little can blow up into something not so little. It could also be to inform you that emergency pet care is seriously pricey, and in places more than a little manipulative of furry friend owners.
And maybe it’s just for me to talk out the sadness I feel at the loss of Odie. The hell of it is, I seem to be the only one feeling it that much around here at the moment. I know my wife shed a few tears, but she’s pretty much over it. My stepdaughter, Odie and Garfield’s original owner, hasn’t yet said boo about the entire incident. Even Garfield has shown no signs of missing his brother and still does his best impression of a V-12 at idle when picked up. Doubtless, I’m attaching too much emotion to an all too common circumstance. Keep in mind, this is coming from the same person who gets occasionally misty-eyed listening to Steely Dan’s Dr. Wu, for reasons he himself isn’t sure of.
For the moment, all I know is I wanted Odie to live … and I’m going to miss him.
As I am sorry for yours, Don. That must have been painful as hell. Thank you, my friend.
No disrespect to the topic of the thread, but your loss of Thomas (what a cutie) must haunt you. I cannot imagine....very sorry for what both of you had to endure and hope the happy memories of him are still readily remembered.
I suppose I should state what may be obvious by now: this was the first such loss in a very long time. Fifty years ago, my family had a beautiful Hungarian Vizla - Miska - who was my close companion as I grew into puberty. Coming back from what was probably my freshman year at college, I learned that Miska had been put down sometime during my absence. Being insulated by my parents' lack of communication and the intensity of my studies, I suppose my reaction to the news back then was pretty muted. Since then, there have been other dogs and cats, and literally in each case, the animal was removed from my view and/or responsibility long before their death.
Odie, by contrast, was about as up-close and personal as you can get, though as more than one of you has observed, repeated incidences do NOT lighten the blow, and I thank you all for the input you have given this piece.
Loren, this is the first I read your piece on Odie and Garfield. This sounds trite, but I am very sorry for your loss. Your writing about it reflects tenderness even as you recall humor blended with compassion. Looking at your pictures again made clear how affectionate you are with your feline family. Thank you for sharing this with us.