Sunday, January 08, 2006

Back and forth

I'm sad to relate that Buttons[^] passed away today. Not a sudden demise nor yet a long slow decline; she came down with the symptoms of FIP[^] a little over a week ago and a prompt series of visits to the vet was unable to help her.

A few days of trying to coax her into eating or drinking; one or two sessions trying to force an unwilling and obviously distressed cat to take her medicine; achieved by holding her down and forcing the blunt end of a needleless syringe between her teeth.

When we came home tonight from dining out (at Boston Market, hardly the most upmarket of eateries) and as I walked through the door one glance was sufficient; she was stretched out on the hearth and clearly no longer of this world. My wife glanced at me and we both tried to hurry Andrew past but we didn't manage that feat. He took it better than I expected though; I'd been anticipating wailing and gnashing of teeth. Instead he said 'oh' and went on upstairs. And then my wife asked me what we should do.

It was at this moment that I had one of those thoughts, you know the ones, the ones you're not supposed to have. You see, the way we used to dispose of a dead cat when I was a kid was to dump the poor bugger in a rubbish bin and forget it. The pragmatic approach. We had a garden and we could have picked out a spot for the cat but it never seemed to occur to my folks to do that and so it never occurred to me or my sisters. And that, I'm ashamed to say, is the first thing that ran through my head.

In 1965 when I lived in Seddon a dead cat appeared in the laneway at the back of the house. To be quite clear about the meaning of that word let me explain that in Seddon a lane is a very narrow thoroughfare that runs between rows of houses and they were originally intended for use by the night cart before sewers were installed at the end of the 19th century. The British meaning of the word could hardly be farther from the truth; we're not talking country lanes lined with shady elms here; we're talking back fences. By 1965 the two major uses of backlanes were for small boys such as myself and my friends for smoking away from the sight of adults and as a way to get ones car into the backyard.

So a dead cat appeared and, as my stepfather was one of the few who undertook the difficult maneuvre of parking in the back yard via the laneway aforesaid, I was directed to pick up this cat and dump it at the other end of the lane. Which I did, reluctantly.

The next night the cat was back at our end of the lane. And once again I had to move it to the other end. It's probably an unintentional exaggeration to say that this went on for a week but it sure feels like it did. I have vivid memories of holding that poor dead cat at arms length, on arms as stiff as the cat, as I carried it to the far end of the lane. I even, in a desperate attempt to hide it, covered the cat with a length of old carpet, to no avail. Like a boomerang that cat returned.

I was the one who caved in; when it had returned yet again I took it back to the end of the lane as ordered and sneaked back just after dark to reclaim it and sneak it into our rubbish bin, covered with old newspaper so Mum wouldn't notice. It seemed, at the time, the only way to end the nightmare.

What did we do tonight? We took the cat to the vet one last time to pay for disposal. It made the rest of the family feel better though I suspect the eventual solution is similar to the one my parents chose.

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