Tag Archives: in memoriam

Tibbs, 1999-2015

Yesterday, I had to put down my cat, Tibbs. He had been doing poorly for a few days and going rapidly downhill. It turned out to be a tumor in his abdomen, and there really wasn’t anything else to be done.

I adopted Tibbs when I was thirteen. I wasn’t supposed to get a cat that day. I had been researching cats–for some reason, I thought buying a purebred was a thing I should do???–and biding my time. I was definitely (especially according to my father) not supposed to go to the pet store for a rescue agency’s adoption day. I ended up with an armful of VERY ANXIOUS four-month-old cat. He was clinging, though, not trying to escape, so of course I said, oh, yes, this neurotic furball, this is the one for me.

Tibbs turned out to have a few health problems the rescue hadn’t noticed. Like the cold that made him sneeze so hard, he gave himself nosebleeds and sprayed a mist of blood on my bedroom walls. Or the raging case of ringworm. He gave that to me, which meant medicated baths for both of us for weeks. Baths were the first in a string of things that should have upset him and mostly just didn’t.

Tibbs was a grumpy old man since kittenhood. He picked fights with my pit bull. He hated my girlfriends, which he expressed by cornering them in hallways and shredding pictures of them. (Not at the same time, which would have been an impressive display of hostility and planning, even for him.) His calm disinterest in my best friend was a roaring success. He was a cat with opinions, almost all of them haughtily negative.

He enjoyed suffocating me in my sleep by draping himself over my head. He liked to wake me by gnawing on my jewelry and battering at the door. He liked dried lavender even more than catnip.

I thought I would lose him a year and a half ago when he got a serious UTI. I thought I would lose him when I hauled him 200 miles north to live in a tiny trailer for six months. I thought I would lose him when the summer temperatures reached 114 on a daily basis. He shrugged all that off. I got a year and half more than I had expected even in my wildest dreams.

He had a good life and a decent death. This, then, is the fabled good end I’ve wished for so many times before when writing here. I’m still just as sad, but it’s a clean sadness, untainted by rage and helplessness. This is as good as it can ever get in a mortal world.

Andrew, 1997-2012

(Once again, it has taken me several weeks to get to a head space where I can write this. This isn’t exactly the “Happy holidays and good luck in the new year” post I would have chosen, but life just loves to be a kick in the teeth.)

Andrew was a cockatiel, brightly colored and noisy. He was the first pet I went out and obtained for myself. He was also the only pet I ever bought. I was 11 and, at that point, the way my family obtained animals was either to buy them or to have them show up on our doorstep.

I wanted a cockatiel because my friend had one and, after pet sitting while her family went on vacation, I thought they seemed like swell pets. I spent weeks getting books on parrots from the library, making sure I was choosing the right pet for me and would know how to take care of one. This was how I would prove to my parents that I was responsible enough to deserve a new pet.

Research only goes so far. Living is the real test. I figured out, not long into my life with Andrew, that I am not, in fact, a bird person. I was as ill-suited to birds as I was naturally at ease with dogs. But a pet is forever and I would make the best of it. “The best” turned out to be as complicated as ever.

Andrew hated most people. He also hated sheets, towels, jackets, any large expanse of fabric. He hated loud noises and sudden movements and my father. He expressed his displeasure with screaming. Incessant, ear-splitting screaming. The hatred was often mutual.

He loved me, though. He loved corn chips and the first English version of the Pokemon theme song, with which he could sing along, and stealing my earrings while I wore them. He loved me and we made it work.

I keep hearing him. I’ve said it before: grief lurks in routine. He had a noise he would make throughout the day, like a bat’s chirp, like a vocal “?,” pinging the world around him. And I just keep hearing that sound and waiting for him either to bellow or to sing, depending on what the world answers back. I keep wanting to answer too, but he’s not here. A song has gone out of my world.

Victor, 1983-2012

This is a couple weeks after the fact. I sort of feel hollow, a little blank, whenever I think about it. I’m not sad, not exactly. I am grieving, which it turns out isn’t always the same thing.

Victor died because he was old and sick and, at last, just too tired to go on. He lived with Cushing’s Syndrome and foundered hooves that looked like they had been formed from slowly cooling waves of lava, rippled and misshapen. He lived that way for years because he was too ornery to die. So we kept him going, with supplements and special feed and not pain medication because his kidneys tried to fail. In the last couple years, he even improved, hooves growing true again and eating with gusto. Horrid looking, but not going anywhere. There was absolutely no reason why he should have stayed alive as long as he did, but he just kept hanging in there. Until he didn’t.

He was born here, three years before I was, and he, like most of our horses, would have gone to the track to try his luck there. Except my mother started training him and saw how he could jump and claimed him for her own. He was spectacularly talented and revoltingly intelligent. The stories about him primarily center around smart-ass trainers, giving lessons to my mother, trying to get Victor in trouble–higher jumps, more complicated lines. No human ever outsmarted him. His partnership with her was like what you see in fiction–two people (detectives, twins, things that come in pairs or not at all) so totally in tune with each other, it’s like they’re one mind.

He was not the first horse I sat on, but he was the first horse I learned to ride, flopping around on a saddle with Victor on a lunge line. Horses are one of those rare animals that you can spend all of your adult life with. Twenty-nine years for my mother. All of my life. There was never a day when he wasn’t there.

Now I can’t figure out how to mourn for him because I just don’t recognize life without him. Routine is where grief waits: the hundred moments in a day when you think of someone and remember. You remember they won’t be where you look for them, they won’t need you to take care of them, they won’t happen this day or any other.

If there is such a thing as a good death, Victor’s was one. He died because it was time, because all things do, eventually. After losing so many young horses in the past few years to sudden, horrific illnesses, I thought, let there just be one who is old and done. That will be easier.

It isn’t.

Natsu (2003-2010)

Natsu was our rabbit and he died yesterday. At seven years old, he was the most grizzled, surly old guy you could hope to meet. He was thoroughly set in his ways and brooked no sass from anyone. He was also fearless and the only rabbit I’ve known to have an undying affection for climbing up furniture. He had a flat-footed vertical jump of, I swear, four feet. He favored the dining room table, if at all possible. He wasn’t much of one for petting, though he did like a nice rub around the ears. He spent his afternoons lounging on a round cat-furniture thing in the sun and probably sharing secret rabbit knowledge with my equally old, equally lazy, sun-basking cat.

Natsu-bunny came to us when he was accidentally hit with a weed-eater as a baby (long story, not worth retelling, full of dubious legality). He had cuts to his face and a hind leg; he subsequently lost sight in one eye. His name was originally Natsuko, until he matured and we found out he was male. Oops. (Rabbits being notoriously difficult to sex when young, I probably should have picked a more neutral name.) Apart from the eye, which deteriorated over time, his wounds healed and he had full mobility and function all his life.

Natsu died quietly and with no signs of a specific illness. The recent heat had been hard on him and, for the past year or two, he had been obviously showing his age, but all indications are that he simply died of old age, which is a comfort. We’ve had such a rash of untimely and horrible deaths the past couple years, it was almost nice to have someone who just lived out their allotted time.

Reason to Sing (2005-2009)

Reason to Sing, known as Jazz, died Wednesday, November 25, 2009, at the equine hospital. I wish I could write an obituary for him like I did for Peggy, his sister. But what would I say? Peggy had children and accomplishments; Jazz had barely begun to live. So I’m just going to talk about him for a while.

Jazz’s mom was Blithe Song, one of our primary broodmares. He was her last baby, as she developed health problems and would not have survived another pregnancy. Like all but a couple of her children, he was named for music. As a baby, he had a sweet temper and loved being with people. But as he grew up, hitting the equine equivalent of being a teenager, he developed an attitude problem. He was so hard to break — perfectly behaved one day and dangerously flighty the next — that we resorted to sending him out.

The trainer we sent him to was one we had worked with before, but had quit using when his popularity went to his head and he started shirking his work.  But he did break Jazz to the saddle. But he might have broken his spirit too. As we slowly realized, the trainer and the people caring for him were depriving him of adequate food, most likely to keep him subdued and easier to work with. Then he cut his lip and required stitches. The people charged with caring for all the horses at that ranch watched him rub the stitches out, doing nothing. So we brought him home within hours. We got his weight up and his lip healed. But Jazz was never quite the same.

In time, he went to the track to start his training there. But he got sick with a seasonal bug and struggled to get over it. Once he was healthy, it became clear that he had no desire to run. So he came home. But Jazz could have had another life with us. He was a talented jumper and an attractive mover, so he was slated to become a show horse. After everyone took the winter off, he would have started back to work.

But then he got a cut on his leg, which spiraled into an infection, despite treatment at the hospital, and finally into an unexpected and ultimately fatal intolerance for the antibiotics. He died for stupid, meaningless reasons. The Universe is spitting in our eye type reasons. He had a hard life, never quite getting a break, and then he died. And I don’t know what to say any more. I can’t find the good memories, something to immortalize him with that would be fitting.

I did not like him much, but I loved him. He was one of mine. And now, all I can think of are the things he won’t get to do. The potential that never got realized. Peggy only lived nine years, but she did so much. She got a life. Where was Jazz’s life? What did he get?

Sorry, everyone. That’s all I’ve got. Good night.