Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Of all the shelters in all the towns in all the world...

I've pondered the question over the years whether I would adopt other cats after my trio (or any of the trio) died. With Grendel's cancer and death, the question became more acute.

My trio, Grendel, Rhiannon, and Maebh, have been such an intimate part of my daily existence for 10 years (or 9½ considering that Maebh came six months after I adopted Rhiannon) that I could never imagine any other pet situation than them. I figured at first that I would wait until all had died before I reconsidered a new cat (or cats). Then, after Grendel died, I figured I would wait a few months at least.

But like the serendipity of adopting Grendel, it seems that destiny took a hand.

I adopted Grendel from PAWS Cat City in Seattle in 2006. I went to their website to look for information about sponsoring a cat kennel in Grendel's honor. While there, I looked at the adoptable cats (as one must). There I saw a familiar-ish face. One of the cats was a 2 year old cow cat name Onyx, Jr. The face was vaguely Grendeloid, as if he were a son or younger brother. I was intrigued, even if I wasn't ready.

I wanted to stick with my idea of waiting at least a few months (or not adopting at all). I thought the girls might bond better if there were just the two. I wondered too if my career as a standard-issue bipedal humanoid cat-minder unit was on the wane and I should just let it run out. (But then I'd have to rename my blog I Lived with Cats.)

I halfheartedly decided to go down to Seattle on Saturday and take a look at Onyx, Jr. He sounded nice from the description on the website and I wanted to see him, even though I figured he may not even be there when I came.

After mass on Saturday, I stopped by for a bite of breakfast at Alexa's Cafe in Bothell, WA. The shelter didn't open until 11:00 and I had time to kill. While there, a friend of mine from the parish showed up unexpectedly and we ate breakfast together. She commented on Grendel's death and mentioned  her own cats. I didn't know she was a cat person until then. I told her about my intentions and misgivings about adopting again so soon. She provided just enough encouragement to get me to the shelter.

I was not disappointed. Onyx, Jr. was there, but before I could visit with any cat, I had to fill out a form and be interviewed by a shelter volunteer. I told the volunteer about Grendel (and cried), and about my remaining two. Apparently, they found me worthy.

Onyx, Jr. turned out to be a sweet cat. I found him lounging comfortably with a few of his fellow felines in one of the small cat rooms. It was hard. I found myself wanting to take him home, but still conflicted. I wasn't sure how the girls would react to a newcomer, I wasn't sure if I was ready for a new cat, I felt that adopting so soon after Grendel's death might be either a betrayal of him or an impetuous action resulting from my grief (Onyx, Jr. looked so much like Grendel).

I asked if they would put a 24-hour hold on him while I made up my mind. They would and I arranged to return early Sunday afternoon.

I went home and started sort-of preparing my den to be where he'd be isolated from gen-pop while he acclimated to the new home. I was still just 80% sure about this. I also spent a lot of time thinking it through. I was afraid that Rhiannon would go ballistic, but I was also confident that Maebh would love a new pal. She'd been such good friends with Grendel.

After mass on Sunday, I headed back down to Seattle still in my Sunday-go-to-meetin' clothes. I went in to visit with Onyx, Jr. a bit more and all doubts were dispelled. He was a sweetheart and I figured that everything had come together so well that it was kismet. Just a short while later and I was headed home with a cat in a box.

I'd been sussing out a name for the new cat. I thought about sticking with a name from medieval literature. I thought about branching out to other sources and considered "Bonaparte" or "Charlemagne," but they sounded a bit hifalutin'. Finally, I decided on "Bogart." It took a few days to settle with me, but it fits him now, even if he still doesn't respond to it.

My fears about Rhiannon proved to be unfounded. While she didn't exactly welcome him, her reaction was more of cool indifference, i.e., no drama. My expectations about Maebh proved to be equally fallacious. She took one sniff of Bogart and deemed him unfit for feline companionship.

I kept him isolated for most of the first few days. Whenever he was out, Maebh would dog him growling and hissing. Her hostility made me wonder if I shouldn't have named him CĂș Chulainn. She's come down a bit and Bogart's out in gen-pop now whenever I'm home, but it can still be dodgy.

Otherwise, he's settling in. He's found some favorite places, but he has yet to get cuddly with me, even though he's very affectionate. When I work at my desk upstairs, he loves to sprawl right in front of me in classic Grendel fashion.

He took to the high ground right off and I've fixed him a bed up there.

He's made a pretty thorough inspection of the house. He approves the library.

He loves the big glass door (one of Grendel's favorite places).

His full personality has yet to appear. So far, he's sweet and gentle, but Maebh's hostility has him a bit apprehensive. He loves to play. He tries to make nice with the girls, but so far without luck. He has a quiet little squeak for a meow. Once Maebh has settled down and accepted him, things will move forward. I'm looking forward to how things turn out.

And then there were two...

Grendel died on September 6.

In the six weeks from when his sickness started to his death, my life was in turmoil. Multiple vet visits and attempts at cancer-fighting supplements didn't slow anything down. It was hard to get him to take anything other than his prednisolone, which he eagerly downed in a pill pocket. He wouldn't touch food that had anything added to it and the capsules were too big to make him swallow. In the last days, he wouldn't even take the prednisolone. I had to crush it, liquefy it, and fight to give it to him orally with a syringe.

Grendel was a fighter. The cancer was already terminal before it was discovered. He'd suffered with it for a while without ever giving on that he was sick. Even in his final days, he seemed so determined to carry on as if nothing was wrong. He so wanted to be back to normal, but his body wouldn't cooperate. I thought he'd fade away until nothing remained but a shell, but it was the opposite. Indomitable to the end, Grendel remained strongly present; it was the shell that faded away.

He was terribly bloated from the cancer. He could walk only in short spurts. He lost nearly all of his prodigious appetite; by the end he would only lap a bit of milk from a saucer.

I'd resolved to let him die naturally at home, but by the afternoon of Labor Day, he was hunkered down just under my bed, where he'd been all day. I knew he was in pain. I lay there next to him weeping and praying and found myself crying out to God, "I don't want him to suffer any more." Later that evening I found someone who could come to my home in the morning and put him to sleep. I couldn't bear the idea of taking him away to die on a cold table at the vet's. It was the first time I admitted to myself that he could die.

I awoke Tuesday morning with foreboding. Grendel had gone downstairs during the night. I'd been unsure that he would even live through it. The morning was a bit rainy - weeping like me - and cold. I made a fire and to my surprise Grendel lay down by it for a bit. Maebh came and sat with him for a while. I'm glad they had a chance to say goodbye. She loved him and they often snuggled by the fire.

When the vet, Sarah, came, Grendel had gone down to sit in the foyer. I wept as I carried him upstairs. Sarah asked where I wanted us to be; I wasn't sure. I brought him to the couch where we used to sit together so often, but Grendel crawled back to the fire. I think he chose the place. He loved being by the fire. I have so many pictures of him there.

I wept and held him when Sarah gave him the sedative. I told him how much I loved him. I thanked him for choosing me. I thanked him for all the joy (and trouble) he'd given me for 10 years. When he was out, Sarah gave him the drugs and I held him until his heart stopped.

I can't begin to describe all that he meant to me or the desolation his death has been. I never realized how much he filled the house until he was gone from it. There are memories of him in every room, every nook and cranny. It's no consolation that I can now eat unmolested.

Grendel loved me as much as I loved him. My ex-GF Lorrin told me how he would watch me as I moved around the house and how he'd sit and stare at me while I wasn't looking. When I sat on the couch with my left elbow propped up on some cushions, he would come and curl up in my left arm and purr unceasingly. Those were moments of bliss I'll never forget.

He was always excited to see me come home. He knew the sound of my car and I would often be driving up and see him pop into the window of the den upstairs, stare at me wide-eyed, and then pop down and be at the door three floors below by the time I opened it. Even if I took him by surprise, I'd no sooner step in the door than he'd be running downstairs going, "Wah wah wah wah wah!"

We'd play hide 'n' seek. I'd see him peering at me from around a corner and I'd slowly move towards him until I got close when he'd run off to another corner to hide and peer. I'd do the same with him. When he saw me peering around a corner at him, he'd come running at me.

He gave me presents. I have two cat toys that are long, snaky fabric thingies on a wand. They were the first cat toys I got for him. He'd lost interest in actually playing with them years ago, but he used to carry them around and place them near where I was or where I would be. I could hear him coming to me through the house meowing with one in his mouth. It was a strange, muffled wa-AUUUGH sound that he'd make. All through the years I would come home to find them left at the top of the stairs or I'd get up to find them at the bedroom door or they'd appear outside my den while I was there working.

There was never a cat like Grendel. There never will be again. My world is diminished by his loss.

Goodbye Grendel. Goodbye old friend. You were gone too soon from my life, but you will always be in my heart even as the memories of you grow more distant.


We are again three. Much to my own surprise, I adopted a new cat a week after Grendel died. But that's a story for another blog post.