More than 2 weeks have passed since the strange episode which marked the downward spiral of Eggnog's health. I have been in awe of that vital spark which has kept her alive and alert seemingly with no nourishment. She accepted strained meat [baby food] from me, a teaspoon or two at a time, during the last week. She was less interested in it on Friday evening, and when I went downstairs on Saturday morning I saw that she had vomited.
I sat by her for more than an hour on Saturday evening, lightly combed her matted fur. Her eyes had a bit of gummy residue at the corners; she objected slightly when I used a tissue to dab it away.
Each morning I have gone downstairs as my first duty of the new day. Each day I have been braced to find a still form on the well-padded storage bin which Eggnog chose as her special place when she became feeble. Incredibly, my little cat continued to greet me, indicating that she would welcome my attentions.
This morning I noted immediately the change which I have both anticipated and dreaded.
Eggnog raised her head when I spoke to her; her 'merouw' of acknowledgement was faint.
I lifted her and held her with one arm against my chest while I straightened the layers of soft towels and blankets on her bed.
Perching on my makeshift stool by the bin I cradled her in my lap.
After a moment she turned to curl up on her bed.
Her eyes were dull. For the first time she seemed not to enjoy even the lightest touch of the fine-tooth comb on her shabby fur, so I laid it aside.
Sitting there, touching her gently, crooning to her, I felt that the vital essence of her was gone.
Her eyes were closed, her breathing uneven.
She didn't seem to need me.
Jim came downstairs to tell me that we must go to the 'other house.' Storms were moving in and there was garden produce to pick.
He bent to pet Eggnog's head.
Alone with her for a last few moments, I curved my hand around her fragile sides.
"Go to sleep," I told her. "I love you, Eggnog--go to sleep."
We were away about 2 hours--the downpour caught us as Jim attempted to mow the lawn.
I stayed in the garden, drenched to the skin, picking green beans.
Jim had managed to gather cantaloupe and tomatoes before the deluge.
I changed into dry clothing while Jim loaded buckets and baskets of produce into the trunk of his car.
The trip from one house to the other is about 15 minutes.
It has become my routine in the past two weeks that when ever I have been out of the house for a bit, on returning I go directly downstairs to check on Eggnog.
I was not surprised to find that she had died while I was away.
I was distressed to see that she had slipped off her bed and was lying on the floor.
Common sense tells me that she could have fallen even had I been in the house--unless I had been sitting beside her.
I wish I had been there.
I can only hope that the final struggle for breath was quickly over.
Her little body had started to stiffen, but I was able to gently tuck her feet into the folds of the soft old T-shirt of Jim's which I used to wrap her.
I began to fall apart a bit when I realized that the 'grave' I had readied two weeks ago now held water from the night's rain.
'Where can I put her?" I asked Jim, feeling frantic.
He suggested the edge of the garden, but then went off to look at my spot behind the hay barn--the same place that I buried Mrs. Beasley two years ago.
Jim came back to assure me that he had dug the hole deeper, into dry soil.
I laid in the bunch of mint and nepeta that I had ready and returned to the house to carry my cat for the last time. Thunder muttered in the distance, the sky was lowering and a hot fretful wind fanned my
I could hear Jim walking behind me, but didn't turn.
I laid Eggnog in her soft wrappings on the layer of fragrant herbs.
Jim put his shovel into the pile of earth.
I turned away, voice breaking.
"I'll bring stones to cover the dirt."
I chose several of the large flat rocks that once edged Mr. Rogers' flower bed behind the garage.
I met Jim crossing the back yard, shovel over his shoulder, looking bleak.
"Imagine," I croaked, 'Those pioneers on the westward journey--a child or family member dead on the way and they could do no more than we have done for our cat!"
My heart is sore tonight. I know that the loss of a pet in no way compares with the death of a loved person.
It is a particular kind of sorrow, a loss of companionship, the breaking of a deep and special bond.
I ache with unshed tears.
I know from past painful experience that to open the floodgates of grief--any grief--is apt to have a devastating effect--that old sorrows, other loses, other partings, may all roll in compounding the
In time I will adjust to the knowledge that Eggnog's cherry "Merouw" will not greet me in the morning.
I won't be making room in my lap for her, moving my book to one side as she settles, purring, to keep me company. Winter will not find her stretched in blissful warmth on the hearthrug.
We were blessed to make a home for her for 16 years.
"Sleep well, my Eggnog, sleep well."