Edgar was my second cat. My first cat, Lucy, died when she was only a year old of unexplained liver failure. A couple of weeks after she died, I took her food to the Humane Society to donate, and when I turned around, there was a young cat staring at me from a cage at eye level. He so clearly wanted the hell out, so I took him home. That was November 1996.
Edgar was an attack cat. Ankles, knees, anything that moved was fair game. He was also and often simultaneously a snuggler. He's the only cat I've ever known who never got tired of being petted. He never got up and walked away. When his tail started switching back and forth, you knew it was time to stop moving your hand around, but you were not supposed to stop touching him. This made getting work done challenging.
When I called the Humane Society this morning to ask about euthanasia and cremation (our vet is closed for the holiday weekend), his tail suddenly started switching again. He'd been perfectly still all morning, and you would've sworn that he understood what I was doing and was objecting. But I spent the whole day with him, just sitting with him, and it wasn't a mistake. His back legs stopped working yesterday, and at first he could pull himself around, but he also didn't want to eat, hadn't eaten since Wednesday in fact, so today he was too weak to move on his own at all. Every once in a while he would struggle and I would sit him up so he could roll over onto his other side. That was all he seemed to want. He never purred today at all. I'm pretty sure this was the first day of his life when he never purred.
We spent the morning on the sun porch, and then when it got too hot I carried him in to my bed, and turned on the fans and opened the windows so he could keep smelling the fresh air, at the same time that I shut all the other windows in the house and turned on the AC to try to keep him cool.
My sister was supposed to pick us up at 4:30, and when I saw that the clock said 4:08, I thought I was going to throw up. I took a Pepto just in case. I still don't know how I did that, got Edgar into his crate, carried him into the car, and answered "yes" when the veterinarian asked if I was ready. I don't know how anybody ever does that because clearly I am NOT FUCKING READY. But Edgar was. He was mad as hell because he couldn't move, was mad as hell at being in an exam room, and he needed out. It was my job to get him out of that cage 16 years ago, and it was my job to get him out today.
I'm so glad I asked my sister to go with me. Seriously, the next time you have to put a pet to sleep, take my sister with you. She'll cry right along with you so you don't feel stupid. My arms were busy holding onto Edgar, so she couldn't hold my hand, so she held my leg instead. The most comforting thing that happened all day was my sister's hand wrapped around my shin while I had my arms wrapped around Edgar. I don't think she realized that.
The hardest part in any death for me is finally leaving the person behind. (Yes, person. I dare you to tell Edgar that he's not a person.) I was taken by surprise by that when my grandfather died when I was 12. He'd been sick for a while, and we'd spent a week in the hospital with him, and then at the funeral home and the church, and when the graveside was over and I realized that we were just going to walk away and leave his coffin, that's when I got really upset.
So today before it was time to go, I realized that was going to be hard, but I found a solution. I got the towel out of his crate and laid him on it. It made it okay to leave. I told the staff that I had left the towel, and they assumed I wanted it kept with him, but I told them they could wash it and use it. (The Humane Society can always use towels.) I just needed it to be there when I left the room, so he wouldn't be alone. And now I'm toting the towel he's slept on all day around with me. This is the towel that's been in his crate most of his life. At some point recently there was a laundry switch, and another old towel was the one that went to the Humane Society today and that I left with him. This is the one that's ridden in his crate for years, and is snagged and partly shredded. It's the one I think of as "Edgar's Towel." I can't make myself put it down yet. If anyone comes to my door tonight, they will find a red-eyed, red-nosed woman carrying around a ratty old towel.
The fact that it's Towel Day is not lost on me. I know where my towel is, and Edgar has his, too, so we're all going to be all right.