Sunday, September 11, 2022

Farewell, Shadow

Back in July, you may recall I mentioned Shadow wasn't the athlete he was when he was younger. 

My concerns turned out to be well founded. His age wasn't really the cause. This became clear this past week or so, when Shadow fairly abruptly stopped grooming himself, practically stopped eating, and started drooling. A lot.

We were hoping this would prove to be a dental issue. Old cats have them, but on close examination by the vet, he had no dental issues visible, and no gag reflex, and his pupils weren't reactive, although he could see. On careful examination, and only the second time in our awesome vet's 20some years of experience, the diagnosis was myasthenia gravis. 

Shadow wasn't the easiest cat we've had. (That would be Oreo, who's been gone for some years now.) He was not the brightest cat we've had. (Also Oreo). In fact, Shadow was kind of dumb, and didn't like being picked up or held as an adult.  He was soft, with a shiny black almost-long-haired cat with little white spots on his belly. He was big, a 14-16 pounder with truly enormous paws. Not as big as the aforementioned Oreo, who was as long but much broader and at least two pounds heavier, but still, a substantial cat. He was gentle, and he loved to be near us and to cadge pets and scratches, until he'd had his fill. Even then, he wouldn't go far. He loved to talk, in his Siamese voice, and would answer when spoken to.  He loved to supervise contractors when he was younger. We have infrared photos from when we had our house scanned to find out where all the cold air was coming in. One image has a cat-shaped hotspot and is titled "Shadow, inspecting the window."

 I'm writing a new book, so I was spending a lot of time at my desk where his cat bed still is, and in the last couple months, his favorite thing in the world, after being plied with Temptations cat treat paste, was to lie in his cat bed and wrap his arms my foot while I petted him very lightly with my toes. I had misgivings about his health since July, so I was more than happy to indulge him and spend time with my little furry buddy.

The treatment for myasthenia gravis in cats can arrest the progression of the disease, but not undo the effects. Also, despite decades of experience with cats, we had never successfully pilled Shadow or given him any medication of any kind. We were certain this would shorten his life. Ultimately it didn't. We both agreed that keeping Shadow alive in the state he was in was not good quality of life, so we had him put down on Friday.

I held him while he was being put down, and once the tranquilizers took effect, he seemed to like that. There was no clear point where his life ended, really. He was on a big dose of tranquilizer, so his tongue was hanging out and he'd lost consciousness before the vet gave him the surgical anesthetic. He quietly stopped breathing, and his heart eventually also stopped. 

I miss the cat. I miss the conversations I miss having a cat nearby at all times. I miss this cat. Sunny, our remaining cat, is mixed between wondering where her brother has gotten to and taking full advantage of the fact that he's not around, but she's a very different cat, and she's M's, not mine. Although she likes me just fine.

 We've been talking about taking on a kitten. It won't be the same, of course. Shadow was more than a generic cat, and can't be replaced, but whoever the new cat turns out to be will fill the generic cat-shaped hole presently in my life. There are aspects of Shadow's personality I truly won't miss, but he was a good kitty, and he was my boy, and I was his human.

So farewell, Shadow. I hope you're in a better place, and I hope you'll still remember who I am when I reach the end of my own time. There are some really nice people there, your buddy Oreo is there, lots of other cats, and even a dog. You'll fit right in.

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