It’s never good news, when the phone rings before 5 a.m. 

It was the doctor from the emergency veterinary clinic. Our 16 ½ year old Bengal cat, B.B.  was there for his second night, as the staff tried to figure out why he had stopped eating. Blood tests with our regular veterinary office indicated pancreatitis; supportive treatment and pain management hadn’t helped, and he was just wasting away in front of us. Multiple screenings were not particularly revelatory, and then an ultrasound   [1]   showed fluid collecting in his chest; they suggested draining it and doing cytology on the fluid.  B.B. briefly perked up after the draining, then the fluid began to return and he was entering respiratory distress….

Daughter Belle was back at college after spending her spring break with us. We woke up Son K to apprise him of the situation, and he chose to accompany MH and I to the clinic. The three of us went through the box of tissues in the room where the vet brought B.B. to us, to spend a few last minutes in the laps he so loved (“He’s not drooling,” MH noted, “So you know he’s really sick.”  [2]  ). When we were ready, the vet returned, added several syringe contents to B.B.’s IV catheter while I stroked his head, and he was gone.

It was at once peaceful and gut-ripping. And all before the new spring day’s dawn.

 

BBsun

*   *   *

Department Of A Brief History

You could consider me a hypocrite, in that one of our family cats is – was – an outdoor cat. For over eleven years I’ve volunteered for public (county animal shelter) and private animal adoption/rescue organizations, all of which educate/advise that cats must be indoor only pets (these organizations require adopters to sign a “contract”   [3]  stating they understand that they are agreeing to keep their cat indoors). I know all the reasons why it is better – for cats, for other animals, and for the neighborhood –  to have cats live indoors only. I agree with all the reasons.

And that was our intention when we got B.B. And he did fine for about 6 months, and we did everything right and on schedule.  [4] And then…something kicked in. And and and and and: He realized who and what he was:  he had to be the Bengal Boss. Of me, of you, of all cats, of the laundry….

 

 

BBsnow

B.B. The Snow King, Patrolling the ‘Hood

 

 

 

 

 

Re the latter: one of B.B.’d  many ways of trying to establish what he obviously thought was his Divine Right Of Household Dominance ®  (besides terrorizing our two other indoor cats) was to spray on just about anything, but in particular, on a pile of laundry. But not on any old pile of laundry – only MH’s.  An equally enticing pile of moiself’s laundry would be right there, next to MH’s, and B.B. would selectively piss on MH’s. It had to be A Guy Thing (i.e., testosterone thing), I figured.

Eventually, we converted our covered back porch to BBVille. MH and Belle constructed a box/platform (which Belle painted)…

 

 

topofBBhouse

 

 

…on top of which B.B. had his dining area outside of his covered bedroom, with a heated sleeping pad under his “winter” bed, which was inside the mini-condo with a flap opening. He preferred to sleep in his summer bed, on top of the condo, for the warm nights when he liked to sleep outside the condo and listen to the cricket serenade.

 

 

 

BBporchJPG

 

 

In B.B.’s younger days he was quite vigilant in defending his territory from the encroachment of squirrels, lizards, mice & rats  [5]  ) and…yes and unfortunately…any birds foolish enough to get within striking reach  (and some of those arrogant, taunting Scrub Jays would hop right up to him – they were practically asking for it).

Our cul-de-sac abuts a local creek, around which dwells a variety of urban-adapted wildlife, some of which roam the neighborhood after dark. The raccoons are champs at discovering and remembering which house has outdoor dogs and cats (and thus, an outdoor raccoon buffet, which I’m certain they view as their local food cart).

We always took B.B.’s food dish inside at night; nevertheless, we still had the occasional night visitors. B.B. was street-wise enough to give raccoons a wide berth; the nutria,  [6] while bothersome to neighbors further down the creek, rarely strayed into our part of the ‘hood  (but B.B. killed two who ventured here).  Possums B.B. seemed to regard with a placidity bordering on compassion – I think he thought they were some kind of deformed, mentally challenged feline. He never chased them away, but would stand by, looking on in mild surprise and pity (as if to say, Now, isn’t that pathetic?), when a possum managed to waddle up to his food bowl and take a few nibbles.

He was watchful and cautious around dogs (and never tangled with them, to our knowledge, although he made a few passes at smaller ones that got too close when their owners walked them by).  Other cats…were an other matter.

He had what I can only describe as a friendship with the cat who lived in the house across the street, a long-haired gray male (the imaginatively named, “Fluffy,”), who was also neutered and who never showed any aggression (and thus was the only cat B.B. would allow in our yard). Several times I saw the two of them under one of our cedar trees out front, sitting side by side, as if shooting the breeze. One time I approached and saw that there was a (dead) mouse on the ground between the two of them, which made me assume they were telling the cat equivalent of fishing stories (You shoulda seen the one that got away.”)  When Fluffy died, I wondered if B.B. missed his buddy.

Over the years B.B. cost us…I don’t want to estimate how much…in vet bills. Mostly/seemingly (as the vets tried to reconstruct how he’d obtained certain injuries) due to fights with other cats, or the hazards of roaming (e.g., jumping up on a fence post and landing on a protruding nail) and hunting (cracking teeth while chewing on a squirrel femur). Here is a photographic souvenir of one of his more “creative” injuries, which resulted from a bite at the base of his tail which got infected , requiring the vet to construct an interesting draining apparatus. To help B.B. save face, we told everyone the device was intentional – that B.B. was trying out a potential Halloween costume, with his butt as an African elephant’s head:

 

 

BBtail

*   *   *

 

In his later years we would often bring B.B.  inside in the evening, for some playtime with us (and his favorite slobber toy. as per K’s video below – turn up your volume). We still had to watch him carefully – as in, MH would say to me will you watch him for a sec? while MH turned his back to do something or get some thing, because in that mere second of not being right there and looking at him, B.B. might take the opportunity to correct the fact that our family room was bereft of his scent and attempt to remedy that by peeing on anything within pee-reach.  [7]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As the weather warms it seems sad and strange, to not have him accompany me to and from the mail box (“like a dog,” as more than one neighbor has put it). B.B would scurry ahead of me, his tail upraised – the tip of it crooked always to the left, like a cane handle – and look back to make sure I was following him. Without warning he’d flop down in front of me, causing me to slam on my walking brakes and lean down to pet him as he rolled around on his back and commented  [8]   on the weather.

And in the coming summer, when I am out in the back and side yards, picking raspberries and blueberries, I know I will feel the absence of his presence by my side (and running commentary, which I always interpreted as, “you missed a bunch, back on the left….”

*   *   *

Department Of It Wasn’t A Uniformly Sad Week

There are usually opportunities for levity, even in bleak circumstances. To wit, I was able to bring a flit of amusement to the vet’s somber/compassionate visage as she described the euthanasia process to MH, K and moiself. When she said that she would begin by giving B.B. the anesthetic propofol, I felt a momentary relief of distraction, realizing the celebrity connection, and blurted out, Just like Michael Jackson!

And then, there was Monday. In the afternoon a UPS truck left a delivery on our front porch. It was a large box, addressed to MH, which presented me with the cherished opportunity to send him the following message:

You got a big package.

 

 

grannyshock

 

 

 

*   *   *

May you have the good fortune to have appreciated non-human companionship;
May your pangs of grief be assuaged by the depths of affection for what is lost;
May you find a ray of sunshine in a piss-storm
…and may the hijinks ensue.

Thanks for stopping by.  Au Vendredi!

*   *   *

 

 

[1] Translation: $$$

[2] Despite B.B.’s tough guy of the “hood appearance, he was always a sweetheart to the vets, and drooling was his almost immediate response to petting and lap time.

[3] Which is essentially unenforceable.

[4] As per how introductions to the other cats were facilitated, timing of B.B.’s neutering, etc.

[5] Our cul-de-sac abuts a local creek, home to many rodents, and we were grateful for B.B.’s pest contro several years back, when we didn’t have the mouse/rat problems common to other homes in the neighborhood.

[6] An invasive, destructive rodent of South American origins – smaller than a beaver but quite aggressive and known to take over a beaver family’s territory, decimate neighbor’s lawns and even attack small dogs – no one in the hood regretted their demise, and after neighbors made multiple calls to animal control…I haven’t seen any nutria in the creek for years.

[7] For B.B., everything was within pee reach.

[8] Bengals tend to be extremely vocal.