Typically narcissistic blogging.

On Facing the Mortality of Our Wee Beasties

This is Thumper:

thumper6

He has been my best buddy for fifteen years. In the last few days  of those fifteen years, I have watched Thumper go from older, but still moderately spry, to weak and wobbly. Or rather, it feels that way; it’s entirely possible that this has been creeping up and I’ve been willfully ignoring that motion in the corner of my eye. I don’t know.

Our last trip to the vet left me feeling optimistic. She couldn’t believe how old he was. His teeth, ears, coat, weight—everything suggested that he was several years younger than he is.

But, now.

Now he sits in front of me, swaying back and forth as he tries to maintain balance and not have his paws slip out from under him.

Now he’s lost significant weight, and the joke that he’s really all just fur and fluff is becoming less of a joke and more of a truth.

Now he doesn’t jump down from things so much as fall as strategically as he can, and it really makes a difference to him when I help him up to or down from my bed, which is less than two feet off the ground.

Now he feels almost impossibly fragile when I pick him up.

thumperAnd I am fucking wrecked over it.

I know that one of the things we sign up for when we bring home our four-legged friends is a life span that is far shorter than
ours. I get that, intellectually. I understand that we don’t get to have them forever, no matter how well bonded we are. But that doesn’t make the thought of losing the best friend I have had for almost 15 years any easier, as it turns out. That doesn’t make me feel any less like my world is going to fall apart a little bit when it is time for him to go.

Note: if any of you feel the need to tell me how lucky I am to have gotten so much time with him already, please shove it somewhere dark and mildly uncomfortable, okay? 

Thumper is the closest thing to one of Philip Pullman’s dæmons I will ever find in this world. While he may not be the metaphorical embodiment of any soul I may or may not have, he still knows me better than any creature on this earth and has been there for me through more heartbreak, tragedy, loss, depression, loves, victories, and achievements than anybody else in my life.

thumper2He knows when I am hurting, or sad. He knows when to walk up to me and shove his head against my side until I drag him onto my lap, or when to rest a giant mitten paw on my leg to tell me he’s right here. He knows when I need him to butt his head against my chin and purr for me, endlessly. He knows that when he walks up to me and yells at me that I know exactly what he is yelling about even if I pretend not to. He knows that if he catches my eyes, we will spend minutes just gazing at each other. He knows that if thumper5I walk through or out of a room, and I see him reach out for me with one of his massive paws, I will be unable to resist giving him the cuddles he is requesting. I know that when I put my face in his face, I will be rewarded with a kiss or nuzzle to my forehead. I know I can bury my face in his big white soft belly and all he will do is purr.

In human years, Thumper is about 80 years old. I don’t know how much more time I have with him. Might be a while, yet. Hell, we’ve been expecting each Christmas to be my friend’s cat Elliot’s last Christmas for years, but he has clearly made a deal with Death or made friends with a voodoo priest because that fucking cat is apparently not going anywhere until he is damn good and ready. So it’s possible that I have years left with my cranky old beast of a cat.

I have spent the last 15 years telling him he has to live forever, like I was casting a spell on him through sheer force of love and will. But I’m no magician.

I’m pretty sure Thumper got all the magic.

10 responses

  1. jenneviere

    And with that, you have me in tears, and hugging my own fur baby that much tighter. All the loves. <3

    July 9, 2014 at 9:52 pm

  2. <3

    July 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

  3. Sending so much love to you and Thumper. When it’s the right time, I’ll tell you about me and my now departed, crotchety and creaky old horse Mika. Until then, nothing but hugs to you both.

    July 9, 2014 at 10:24 pm

  4. Omg. Such a heart breaking story.

    July 10, 2014 at 12:44 am

  5. In a good way that is!

    July 10, 2014 at 12:44 am

  6. Laura

    I had my boo for 16 years, and he was, at the time of his death, the only constant in my entire adult life. I lost him a few years back. I’d like to say we had as special a bond as you and Thumper do, but to tell the truth, he was kind of a slut and loved everybody the same way he loved me. It was definitely difficult, and even though I don’t believe in better places, I like to pretend he’s in a better place, on occasion, just because it makes me smile to think he’s somewhere where nobody’s forcing him to shadow box and he gets all the petting he wants (which is ALL of it, thank you very much).

    July 10, 2014 at 12:56 am

  7. Charity V

    I’m so sorry. Our four legged friends become so much a part of our family. My sister went through something very similar with her dog, whom she got as a puppy when she was 18, and literally took him with her everywhere. Bear was always at her side, for fifteen years. There is just no easy way to lose the ones we love, and sometimes when it is as close a bond as I know you and Thumper share, it is particularly hard. Love to you both.

    July 10, 2014 at 8:59 am

  8. Cat

    I remember meeting Thumper, he is the sweetest cat! with those toes! :) Losing them is never easy. I had Spark for 17 years. Bumper is 13 and I often have thoughts similar to yours.. Mauser is 4 but almost passed just this last week. It is heart wrenching when they go, but sharing our life with them is so worth it, despite the inevitable, terrible heartbreak. Keep writing about him like you just did! You will love reading this many years from now, when the details of your memories with him aren’t as crisp, and the heartache has finally turned into a warm, fond and fuzzy feeling inside you. I wish I had written about Niki and Spark. I should write about Bumper and Mauser. heck, I wish I knew how to write as well as you do :)

    July 10, 2014 at 9:15 am

  9. Auros

    All my sympathies. Losing my Tsuki, who was so exceptionally smart and funny, was one of the hardest things I’ve lived through.

    July 10, 2014 at 11:17 am

  10. Laura

    Once upon a time a kitten wandered up to my door. I called her Kitty because I was never quite sure whether she would stick around. Giving things a name seems to open our hearts and I have a particularly annoying habit of not opening my heart to things that don’t stick around. She looked like me: disheveled, skinny, dirty…possibly hungover. I never seemed to manage to stick around either.
    But she did stay. 15 years of it. She moved into my bed and it became a little awkward to randomly assign her a new name. She slept every goddamn night with her paw on my heart.
    It seems like the years between 18 and 30 are when we get knocked, kicked, bitten, bruised, dragged down from the lofty heights of almost love…almost success…almost making it…almost there. These furry ones seem to find a way of showing up during those times, armed with duct tape and string, piecing us together as best they can. Enough to fight another day.
    Needless to say Kitty passed from this world with her paw on my heart, staring straight into my eyes. All of the string and duct tape unraveled.
    I guess we all unravel when love blows away. All of the wounds they nurse quietly seem to blaze open. After my girl left, I drove around for hours. 2 full gas tanks…to the ocean, the city, east bay, up and down the highway. A friend told me that all passings are a sign that we are ready for new doors to open. New adventures to be lived. I throw a bullsh&t flag on that. It would be better to set up detonators around the building and keep everything inside alive and safe and forever.
    But I guess that wouldn’t be life. We wouldn’t grow and shift and break apart. How we survive shows us who we are. I’m very sorry for the both of you. I don’t imagine he is any more excited about that new door than you are. I hope you are able to write down every memory you have and read it to him. May both of you find peace and grace in your silent moments until you agree that it is time for life to look differently.

    You may know this Bukowski poem…the way you write, it seems only appropriate that you would. Reading your words flashed it into my thoughts

    The History of One Tough Motherfucker

    he came to the door one night wet thin beaten and
    terrorized
    a white cross-eyed tailless cat
    I took him in and fed him and he stayed
    grew to trust me until a friend drove up the driveway
    and ran him over
    I took what was left to a vet who said,”not much
    chance…give him these pills…his backbone
    is crushed, but it was crushed before and somehow
    mended, if he lives he’ll never walk, look at
    these x-rays, he’s been shot, look here, the pellets
    are still there…also, he once had a tail, somebody
    cut it off…”
    I took the cat back, it was a hot summer, one of the
    hottest in decades, I put him on the bathroom
    floor, gave him water and pills, he wouldn’t eat, he
    wouldn’t touch the water, I dipped my finger into it
    and wet his mouth and I talked to him, I didn’t go any-
    where, I put in a lot of bathroom time and talked to
    him and gently touched him and he looked back at
    me with those pale blue crossed eyes and as the days went
    by he made his first move
    dragging himself forward by his front legs
    (the rear ones wouldn’t work)
    he made it to the litter box
    crawled over and in,
    it was like the trumpet of possible victory
    blowing in that bathroom and into the city, I
    related to that cat-I’d had it bad, not that
    bad but bad enough
    one morning he got up, stood up, fell back down and
    just looked at me.
    “you can make it,” I said to him.
    he kept trying, getting up falling down, finally
    he walked a few steps, he was like a drunk, the
    rear legs just didn’t want to do it and he fell again, rested,
    then got up.
    you know the rest: now he’s better than ever, cross-eyed
    almost toothless, but the grace is back, and that look in
    his eyes never left…
    and now sometimes I’m interviewed, they want to hear about
    life and literature and I get drunk and hold up my cross-eyed,
    shot, runover de-tailed cat and I say,”look, look
    at this!”
    but they don’t understand, they say something like,”you
    say you’ve been influenced by Celine?”
    “no,” I hold the cat up,”by what happens, by
    things like this, by this, by this!”
    I shake the cat, hold him up in
    the smoky and drunken light, he’s relaxed he knows…
    it’s then that the interviews end
    although I am proud sometimes when I see the pictures
    later and there I am and there is the cat and we are photo-
    graphed together.
    he too knows it’s bullshit but that somehow it all helps.

    July 10, 2014 at 12:53 pm

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