When Nat gets old enough to go into heat, it’s bad. With tomcats you have to have them cut as soon as you can but if there’s not an unneutered tomcat in the house you can wait awhile with the females.
But this one yowls horribly and since we are living in a duplex in town she has to be cut immediately. The vet tells me later that her female organs were in bad shape and she really needed to be spayed. I thought we were done with the yowling but she seems to go right back into heat even though it’s impossible. The vet decides her adrenals are making too much estrogen so he gives me a steroid pill to give Nat half of, then the other half the next day and Nat stops yowling.
Nat looks at me stoically. Hey, Ma Petite, I say.
She opens her mouth to say something but nothing comes out. I guess she must be tired after all that.
So i’m glad we got her from the pet store. She would have otherwise had a miserable life.
Dana needs to change jobs because the hospital superintendent has had some kind of psychotic break and decides people at work are after him and makes a shit list and persecutes everybody on it. Once Dana had unintentionally embarrassed him and she’d ended up on the list. She finds a job that she has to travel for but it pays twice what she’s making now. IDK why she thinks she has to work at all since she’s worth five mil liquid and has a 100 acre farm free and clear. I guess it’s just anything to get away from me.
But she does need to leave this place. The people she works with are dangerous.
The transition is hard on these two cats. This apartment has been their home and now they have to be uprooted and moved to a farmhouse full of resentful, territorial cats. Sparky decides as soon as she hits the floor to go after the two toughest cats in the house. That approach doesnt seem very smart but it works. The others leave her alone.
Nat gets on the refrigerator and hides. I feed her sliced ham and turkey and she growls as she eats, which is funny. Such a little cat being so ferocious. She looks so hapless and vulnerable and I guess that’s why she’s special. When the other cats are asleep Nat will come down from the refrigerator and sit in my lap and sleep. I finally just put Nat and Sparky in a room by themselves and they’re a lot happier.
This time every year Dana’s family has its reunion at a state park outside Dillsburg. For a week every April they stay out there and when they’re good and tanked they cruise by, find fault, and criticize. Words are spoken, mighty oaths sworn, and then goodbye till next year. They make Dana as nuts as they are and in the process important things don’t get noticed. Maybe that’s why I dont see it. Or maybe I wouldn’t have anyway. I don’t notice that I haven’t seen Nat for nearly 24 hours until I hear a soft yowl.
She’s crawled up underneath a dresser and I reach under it and pull her out. She’s so reclusive in this house that she’s easy to miss but that’s no excuse. Nat looks awful. In fact she looks almost dead. Just a day ago she was fine.
Dana’s face has gone white. We look at each other until I put Ma Petit on the bed on her side. She does not move. When I listen to her chest with a stethoscope I hear rales-a wispy, whistling sound. Her lungs have some kind of fluid in them.
The vet says she has pneumonia and gives her a big-ass shot of some antibiotic and sends her home. I feel a little better. If it’s bacterial she’ll be better tomorrow.
I wake the next morning groggy and irritable. When I look at Dana I see that she’s been crying.
Nat’s dead, she says with horrible simplicity.
Dead? I say. She cant be. She was just…she should be…
Dana looks at the floor and says, I put her in the big bathroom with Sparky last night. At two o’clock I got up to check on Nat. She was even worse. Then she has some kind of seizure and died.
Where is Nat now? She still in the bathroom?
In the bathroom in a tupperwear bowl with a lid on it.
I cant believe any of this. I open the bathroom door. Sparky was asleep and looks at me crossly. I want to open the lid and see Nat one last time but I cant bear it. I take her to the vet and give him the bowl and ask him to find out what killed her.
The waiting room is empty. I look out the picture window at the wickerwork of a copse of bare trees that front a sluggish stream called the Blue River that runs a jagged line thru this county like a knife wound. Dead trees and bracken and a kennel of pissed off dogs in back of this place.
Presently the vet comes out and solemnly hands me the bowl with Nat in it. It was fungal, he says.
What killed her?
Massive pulmonary hemorrhage, he says. Looks like she threw a big clot and just…i’m sorry, Erik.
I nod and say thank you.
A lot of people die of fungal pneumonia. It presents pretty much like bacterial so they usually give antibiotics like the vet did. By the time they realize the patient isn’t getting better it’s too late. Antifungals are slow anyway.
I take what is left of Nat and get out of there before I start sniveling and embarrass myself. I go to an army surplus and get a container that looks watertight and that you can actually seal. I put the Tupperware with Nat in it and seal the container. A neighbor is good enough to bring his bulldozer and dig a six foot hole in the front yard. Dana and I put Ma Petite in the ground and the man fills the hole with dirt and moves some limestone boulders that look to weigh a ton or more so no scavenger will dig her up.
Nat was the last one of our animals to be buried. The dogs and cats that die later will be cremated. I just cannot stand putting another one in the ground like that. It’s still early in the year so we plant flowers along the boulders that will bloom every Spring. I get a wooden placard that reads “Nat Memorial Garden” and place it in the middle of the stones.
We weep together and in respective solitudes. Sparky does not act visibly different. Do they grieve, I wonder, and if so how? Our anthropocentric biases insist they are lesser beings. If that’s so do they not require grief as we do? Or do they know something about acceptance our grassland ancestors forgot or never knew? Is grief part of the price we pay for language and culture?
Sparky jumps on the arm of my chair and flicks her tail and warbles at me. I nuzzle her and say, I know, Sparky. I miss her, too.