It was our deepest hope that she would end her life quietly at home. It was her misfortune to have the body of a frail, elderly, indoor cat with the metabolism of the Eveready Bunny. We got to calling her "Bunny" for that reason. She just kept getting more frail and rough looking but she kept eating and drinking and hauling herself around the house. She went blind in her right eye. She stopped cleaning herself. She started sleeping under the wood stove. Every week we'd think that she'd gone off to find a place to drift away. A few hours later she'd come back crying for food. She would go outside in the rain and we'd think "OK, this is it!" and five hours later she'd come back in. Zombie jokes abounded but they weren't really funny.
Last night - as Carolyn and I sat with our glasses of wine and watched in horror as she stumbled into the living room, around the ottoman, stopped, fell over, got up, tried to turn around and then sort of dragged herself back to the library, all the while making these grunting sounds - it finally hit home that we had let our fantasy of how we wanted her life to end outstrip the reality that she was way past anything that could be understood as a good life.
She was a good, gentle cat who mothered all the strays that now call this place home. And she fought hard to hang on to life. I thought about her fight as we drove to the vet. At first I felt like I was cheating her out of time she was fighting to hang on to. But then I got thinking about why we fight to live.
We fight for life because it's worth fighting for.
We fight for life because there's so much to experience. There's a sunset you haven't seen yet. A friend you haven't met or a magnificent dinner you haven't eaten. There's a mountain you haven't climbed - it's right out your window! There is so much waiting to be felt and known.
We fight for life because we are loved, or want to be loved.
And we fight for life because that's all we've ever done and it's a really hard habit to let go. The animals we care for won't end their lives for our convenience. But like it or not, we have a roll in that end. When they can't feed or clean themselves or they can't walk or see, they are done. We can keep them going by bringing them food and spreading newspaper everywhere and letting them follow the sounds of our voices so they know where they are. But in doing so we've consigned them to a sort of null space between life and death. Maytag tricked us a bit by looking so rough. We really figured she would go any moment. As a result, she got stuck in that space. So did we.
So this morning the good folks at West Valley Veterinary Clinic eased her on to the conclusion of her life. Carolyn held her and I blew on her face and she purred until the sedative kicked in. We're both pretty sad but we both feel a weight has lifted. I hope at the last, Maytag felt that way too.