Pets are hard, sister.

The general maintenance isn’t, on the whole, so terrible – it can be work for sure (housebreaking, for example. Walking the dog in the blizzard. The ubiquitous cat vomit), but that’s part of living with another person.* It’s what you do in exchange for close companionship – we meet each others needs: Your kid needs sneakers for spring soccer, your shaggy doggie needs a haircut for warmer weather. Your spouse likes meatloaf, your cat (who also likes meatloaf) needs good kibble. You prefer to sleep in soft sheets, your rats like to dig snoozy spots in that grainy cage fluff  that looks like Dippin’ Dots gone weird.  You prefer the ultra-soft quilted 2-ply in the bathroom, your ferrets prefer the comfort of corner (any corner, but especially if it has a rug under it). You and your luvvy like sexytiemz together, your cats like to watch the show. It’s how we live with each other, and that’s where the delight of being together dwells. And sometimes a houseplant or two suffers in the process, but I try not to ruminate on it too much.**

It’s the end part that just dismantles me. There is no elder care or reliable palliative treatment for this – it’s all hands-on, you and your pet, and there are no last words. If it’s ok to say, I will admit that I get more attached to my pets than I do to most people. No one humors my fuck-ups and foibles like my pets. And very few others sit on my lap for extended periods of time making happy noises about just the fact of being there. Humans I struggle with regularly, pets much much less.

And so, the part where that pet is departing, and there’s nothing to be done but watch, wait, comfort, and curse the fact that they don’t live as long as we do, is just awful for me. This last week was much of that. Our most elderly cat has been winding down over the last year, getting slow, and skinny, and vocal. Despite the fact that he was rail thin, he started eating any human food that he could get into, and was aggressive about it – dude would stick his face in your plate and walk off with a meatball if you weren’t watching (sometimes even if you were watching),*** after marching around and howling at you while you made attempts to eat in peace. But then he started having trouble eating his own canned food, and we knew he was getting close to the end. On Tuesday he stopped eating altogether, and all we could do was wait and cuddle and be there for him. Yesterday morning, a couple hours after Man Cub opened his present for his 14th birthday and left for school, Serge slipped away in his sleep, in his most recent favorite spot under the end of the bed.

I’m not good with this. I’m terrible with the part where it happened on Man Cub’s birthday; all my signals got crossed between the need to celebrate and the need to mourn. As it turned out, Man Cub took it better than we expected,† and he and his birthday were still celebrated with cake and movies, and things were all right. Ok, so I cried a little more during the movie,†† but that’s ok, too. Over the week we will share the rest of the cake that Dearest Will baked (that man can bake a seriously good birthday cake, in case you were wondering), and be together in loss and celebration both. We will celebrate both Man Cub’s birthday and Serge’s life with us.

We buried Serge in the garden, beside his brother Salvador, who passed away a year and a half ago. In the spring their resting spots will be covered in the mint that grows wild there, and the cats in the neighborhood will come to visit and roll around (because, zomg mint). We will remember him always as part of our family, as one of our two first children, as slightly cantankerous and sweetly amusing. My right hand partner in the papasan chair, threshold haunter, singer of mournful songs at three am, cheese eater, and body heat glommer. Good and beloved companion.

Sleep well, sweet Serge, we’ll miss you.

***

*Yes, they are definitely people. Aren’t you glad tho’ that your human roommate has the decency to puke in the tub instead of on the rug?
**Altho’ I will note, it is a comforting mix of irate and hilariously amused that occurs every time I find the littlest cat tail-end up in the pepper plant, attempting to dig his way to China. Less comforting while I’m sweeping up potting soil and wet-wiping his muddy paws, but still…
***Some of the more interesting things he ate in the last few months include: half a bowl of spaghetti with sauce (usually he just ate the sauce), most of a bowl of pork fried rice, a good cup of raw pumpkin from the Halloween carving, a couple jelly munchkins from Dunkin Donuts (he broke into the closed box, btw), lettuce (without dressing, even), and apple sauce at the Thanksgiving table. He also escaped, only to be apprehended, with various chicken and turkey bones (which we stripped, and then gave him the meat – no boneses for kitties!), and leaves/vines from the houseplants within cat reach (don’t worry, nothing toxic).
†Obviously, “Happy birthday, the cat died,” is nothing that you ever want to hear. I spent the whole day while Man Cub was at school wringing my hands about how to do this. I almost went and picked him up and had him dismissed from classes, but Dearest Will talked me out of it.
††Holy crap, Wreck It Ralph – that one part in the middle brought me to completely lose my shit for a moment there.

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