Friday, August 17, 2012

Remembering Mrs. Beasley

My friend Jennie, viewing this photo several years ago, responded, "Daft as a brush!"

'Daft' isn't an adjective used much in America, but it suited Mrs. Beasley.
Her notably crossed-eyes gave her the look of a simpleton, but she seldom missed a trick.
Many a time I have heard her making an 'announcement' sort of meow, only to come into the room and find that she was staring at a spider--or wasp--or a beetle, as the case might be, high on the ceiling or afixed to the top of a picture frame, something that I had to strain to see.
Daft she was, but never a stupid cat.

I forget just what uproar was going on here-- it might have been the day a mouse came unwisely into the Wyoming house and went witlessly under the bed, cats in pursuit.

Mrs Beasley came to me in 2002 from a Wyoming salvage yard.  J. stopped there on an errand, and while waiting in the truck I noticed three cats.
That was enough to have me attempting to make friends.
"You won't get near those cats," called the junkyard owner; "They don't take much to people."
Unable to resist the challenge, I crouched on the gravel and made encouraging noises.  Within minutes, the tortie cat was on my lap, purring.
I collected her and brought her home 3 days later.

She was between 6 and 9 months old when she came to live with us.
I took her immediately for spaying and her shots.
She was well-mannered, clean in her habits.
The older cats looked down on her, kept her in her place, which was at the bottom of the pecking order.
That never changed. 
There were few spats or confrontations, but Mrs. Beasley remained something of a loner.
She was a one person cat--my cat.
She was quick to notice if I sat with a book--quick to appropriate my lap.
I have spent hours over the past decade reading or typing around her furry bulk.
NIghts have found her snoring [literally] in her favorite basket or tucked up against my back in bed.

None of the cats were pleased when two feral kittens appeared last summer.
J. insists that we made the mistake of keeping the kittens sequestered in this small room for nearly two months.  They were so skittish that I felt to turn them loose in the house would be to have them disappear somewhere in the woodwork, never to be retrieved.
There was no real trouble when I finally integrated them with the rest of the cat tribe.
A few hissy-fits, nothing major.
At some point during the winter months, Mrs Beasley began a determined stalking of the two tabbies.
Wilbur eventually moved outside as he had his own issues about litter boxes.
That left Willow as a prime target for an increasingly belligerant Mrs. Beasley.
Night after night we woke to screeches, thumps and wails in a high keening register---the sounds of all out feline warfare.

During the daytime, the sight of Willow asleep on the hearth rug or
walking quietly toward the water dispenser has moved Mrs. Beasley to attack.
Ears flattened, growling, she has sailed into Willow, swiping and clawing.
I coped with this, after a fashion, by 'separating' the cats, much as one might do
with small children on a playground.
Willow has never been daunted by the fence around the cat yard.  She vaults lightly in and out, going off to explore the garden. take a nap in the hay barn, chase butterflies.
In the past few weeks Mrs. B. began to 'patrol' the fence.
Willow was not allowed to come back in--on pain of fierce attack.

Sometime in April, Mrs Beasley astonished me by rushing in as I sat at my desk; she proceded to  squat and poop on the carpet a few feet away from me. This happened a number of  times.
This out-of character behavior occured several times in the kitchen before she settled on the bathtub as the most desirable place for these smelly deposits.
I learned to recognize a frenzied sort of behavior in the moments before she headed into the bathroom hallway, tried to divert her to the litter box.
All too many times I've been cleaning up cat poo in the wee hours.

Several times over the past two months I have declared, "This cat is having a nervous breakdown!'
We managed nights of relative calm by turning Mrs. B. with Charlie for companionship, into the cat yard for the night.  Sometimes two or three days and nights went by without poo accidents, but Willow was under constant siege.
Mrs. B. continued to enjoy her food.  Her need to be with me seemed to intensify over the past hot weeks when I've spent much time at my desk.
She has often been curled at my feet, or sprawled on the bed behind me, purring.
Still, the nasty messes and the unprovoked attacks on Willow continued.
Our other cats became nervous and testy.
"How long," I've wondered, "Before they too go into battle mode, or even feel the need to
'mark' territory?"
For two months I considered whether I should have Mrs. Beasley put down.
Other than the recent demented behaviors, she has seemed a healthy cat, one who should have enjoyed  more years ahead.
Wednesday morning, cleaning up a particularly vile mess just before daylight, I came to a decision.
This stress couldn't continue.
This morning I called our vet--a friend from our church--and made the appointment.
Even as I spent extra time with Mrs. Beasley today, I questioned whether I could and should go through with this final act.
D. insisted on driving me to the vet's office, a 20 minute journey.
In the examining room, Dr. Les listened as I described the changes in Mrs. B.'s behavior.
He examined her, taking her temperature as I talked.  He mentioned behavior modification therapy.
"It doesn't often work with cats," he admitted.
Removing the thermometer, he noted that her temperature was normal.
Turning her gently, he took her head in his hands.
"Look at her eyes," he exclaimed.
"Yes, I know--she's cross-eyed."
"No," he replied, "There's something going on here.  See how her eyes roll, how she swivels her head."
I thought back, realized that I had several times recently watched her turning her head in that odd bobbing manner. I had supposed that with aging her crossed eyes were starting to affect her sight.

"I can't be positive without an MRI," our good vet explained, "But considering what you've outlined about behavior changes and noting the movements of her eyes and head,  I suspect a brain tumor. As a tumor  grew, putting pressure on her brain, her behavior and her personality would change, consistent with what you've seen happening."
"Are you suggesting brain surgery?"
"I'm not recommending it, No," Les gave a small sigh. "If you want to be one hundred percent certain of the diagnosis, we could do testing.  I have to give you that option."

I think we both knew it wasn't a realistic option.  Something in me, some weary, guilty hesitation, even at the 11th hour, was settled. I had scolded Mrs. Beasley several times, tired of the constant need for  watchfulness, disgusted with cleaning nasty smelling messes.
Perhaps worse than the mis-placed poo, has been witnessing a basically mild-mannered pet become ferocious, seeing Willow so besieged and tormented as Mrs. Beasley attacked her repeatedly.
I'm also seeing, in retrospect, that recent strange motion of eyes and head; shouldn't I have
recognized an abnormality?

My favorite photo of Mrs Beasley taken when she had been with me only a few months.
It is over.
The vet's assistant and I stroked Mrs. Beasley, spoke loving words to her, as Les prepared his needles.
The sedative he administers prior to the lethal injection was slow to work.  She took perhaps 5 minutes to grow calm under our gentle hands.
We buried Mrs. Beasley, Devin and I, in the rich yellow loam on the west side of the hay barn.
I dug the grave there this morning, after realizing that my favored spot at the edge of the upper garden was so dry and matted with tree roots that excavation was impossible.
Devin wanted the bury-hole a bit wider and deeper, so he accomplished that while I chose several flat stones from the rubble of the former raised bed to fit on top of the smoothed earth.
I feel badly that the last months of my cat's life were marred by the bizarre changes in her personality.
They were changes that caused my affection for her to become tinged with a guilty annoyance.
My other cats are uneasily aware tonight of change in their ranks.
I had to coax Willow inside after dark.
She walked warily through the house, expecting attack.
I hope that the cat tribe will settle now, that both feline and human nerves can relax.
I miss the furry form at my feet as I type. How many nights will pass before I relinquish the habit of making room for Mrs. Beasley on the side of the bed?
As the days shorten into autumn and then winter, will another cat purr in my lap as I read?
I wish I could have done more for Mrs. Beasley.
I wish I had, in kindness to her, taken today's step weeks ago.
I miss Mrs. Beasley--as she used to be.


  1. You have done the right thing. You weren't to know that what you thought was unreasonable behaviour from Mrs B was in actual fact due to a brain tumour - or where did one problem start and another end? She had 10 wonderful happy years with you which had to be a distinct improvement on being a junk yard cat, that's for sure.

    The others will all settle down now and your life will be a lot easier. I hope that the medical facts have eased any guilt you may have felt at having made your initial decision based on behavioural ones. TBH, there ARE limits which even the most dedicated and loving cat owner should not be pushed beyond.

    "Daft as a brush" BTW, come's from Keith's side of the family and I think it is a very apt expression on occasion! Not, as you pointed out, that Mrs B was ever daft!!

  2. The same thing happened to my MIL's cat, there is no way forward from this diagnosis.
    I'm sad that you are missing your girl, it's never easy is it.

  3. My heart goes out to you with this loss of Mrs. Beasley.

    I'm hoping one of your other feline family members will soon be purring in your lap, to help soothe your heartache.

    Love and hugs to you ~ FlowerLady

  4. You did the right thing. Poor Mrs. Beasley probably didn't understand what was going on with her and was as alarmed as you were. You gave her a good life, so don't feel guilty. Imagine what her life would have been living in the junk yard. Perhaps one of your new found "drop offs" will become your next lap buddy.

  5. My heart goes out to you. I am so, so sorry.
    I have had changes to cat's behavior and did not recognize the changes until too late. I still greive over these issues to this day, if I could of done more, or had meds to help.
    Sending healing thoughts to you, it is not easy nor do words help the void we feel.

  6. How sad, I've often wished my cat could talk so she could tell me when something was wrong. She had a good life with you and you had many good years together, in time that's all you'll remember.

  7. I read this earlier and could not comment ...your words touched me and there were tears in my eyes.
    You did the only thing you could gave her a wonderful life. I am sure another will snuggle up to you and try to take her place but it never is quite the same ...she will stay in your heart always I know.
    So many non cat people think that as one has so many the pain is less such luck. thinking of you xx

  8. What a sad end to Mrs Beasley's life. You've nothing to reproach yourself with though, you gave her 10 happy years and a far better and almost certainly longer life than she would have had in the salvage yard. RIP Mrs Beasley.

  9. What a sad tale MM. Sorry to hear you've lost one of your wee gang. I'm sure in time he others will settle and hopefully you'll be comforted to know she was loved and cared for till the end. You can't do more.

  10. Sharon, I am so sorry, consumed by grief for my own beloved pet lost this week, i have not visited other blogs and i am late commenting here. As someone also experienced the huge pain of loss, i send you an understanding hug. Losing a pet rips our heart out, please be gentle on yourself, you werent to know Mrs Beasley was poorly.

    Leanne x

  11. I'm so sorry for your loss, but wasn't it wonderful that you were able to take her from a junkyard and give her 10 beautiful years with you.

  12. Mrs Beasley had such a good life with you. A dear feline friend and I`m sure you must miss her very much. You were absolutely right to make that hard, final decision, but that doesn`t make losing her any easier.xx

  13. I'm very sorry to hear of your loss. A rather similar thing happened with us. One of our cats was hit by a car when we moved to a new house. After that he became more and more vicious and would attack us. It was terrible, especially with two children. We had some very near misses with him going after our 5-year-old, and a bad injury to my husband's arm. We tried behaviour modification, but to no avail. Finally the vet said that when it comes to choosing between humans and animals, we must choose humans. We took poor Selkie to be put down. He knew and was so good on the way to the vet, almost asking forgiveness and forgiving us in advance. We couldn't bear to stay, and went listlessly grocery shopping. Right in the vegetable aisle my husband felt a terrible pain in his heart, and we felt Selkie must have gone on at that moment.

    Our relationships with animals are so much deeper and more complex than a lot of people think. Bless Mrs. Beasley (and Selkie). And bless you.