Last Updated: 10/11/96 Written: 10/11/96
I killed my cat on September 29, 1996.
I took her to the vet, and petted her while the doctor gave her a fatal injection of anesthesia. She breathed out only 1 second after the injection. Her life vanished with that breath. I looked at my companion of 16 years, her eyes staring into nothing. I had promised to take care of her forever. I promised her that she would always be safe in my arms. I lied.
GreyGirl was around 16 years old. I should know exactly, because I was there when she was born. As I was there when she died. I kidnapped her mother, when she was pregnant. The kittens were born under my bed. I gave the others away, and kept my favorite. She looked like a Blue Russian, but her mother was a Tabby and her father, I think, looked like a Persian. She resembled her father, another neighborhood cat so much, that I think he must have been her father. I remember when I met him:
When I moved into the rented house, there was this Persian cat that was always around. But everytime I went to pet the cat, he ran away. Sometimes I left my door open, and when I came in, he would run out the back door. I couldn't understand why the cat would come to me and be so unfriendly. I decided that he was owned by the people who lived there before me. When they moved, they didn't take the cat. They abandoned him. I decided this when I found him on my chair one day. As I approached the cat, he didn't run away. I knew something was different. I saw that the cat was sick. Looked like he had been in a fight, long ago enough that the blood had dried and caked on his fur. His eyes were so swollen and filled with so much puss, that I didn't think he could see. He must have crawled home with his last energy. I brought him to the vet, and they asked for his name. I said he was a stray cat and he didn't have one. So they wrote down GreyBoy. They gave him a shot, cleaned the wound; I brought the cat home and nursed him to health, until he was healthy enough to run away. So GreyGirl was named after GreyBoy.
GreyGirl was different from other cats from the very beginning. She was more trusting and submission; more calm and serene; more loving and lovely. GreyGirl was born in Salt Lake City, while I was a graduate student at the University of Utah. She lived in Detroit when I worked for General Motors. She lived in Long Island, NY when I lived with my parents, she lived in New York City when I had an apartment. She lived in Manhattan Beach, California for a year, across the street from the beach. I took her to Harbin Hot Springs when I went camping for a few months, at different times. She drove from California to New York with me as I drove up to Canada, and down to Florida. The trip took a year, and we spend half of it in a tent. She would come by my tent during the night and keep me company for a while, and then leave and go hunting for whatever play she could find. I worried sometimes when she was late, but she always came back. The system was, she would always meet me where I left her. So I had to carry her to my campsite, and then I could let her run free. I used to carry her in a front baby sling. With my pack on my back, my walking stick in my right hand, my left hand cradling her in the sling.
One camping trip in New Mexico, I drove to a dead end, that only high clearance 4 wheel drive automobiles had been. It was the end of a logging road. Totally quiet, it seemed the perfect place. I walked far enough from the car that I was surrounded by trees and couldn't see the car, and set up camp there. We spend around a week there. I had brought fruit in a cooler, books, music, and a hammock. One day we took a walk along a very overgrown old road and found a clearing. I sent up my hammock and read my computer book, while the cat explored the area. It was the first time in 10 years that she had followed me so closely and completely. Toward the end of the afternoon, I folded the hammock and repacked my day pack and started back to camp. I didn't want to walk on the same path because it's nice to walk on softer ground. So I walked by the side of the road, but very close. And GreyGirl followed closely. Well, I don't know how it happened, I was by the road so closely, but I lost the road. And eventually we g ot to a semi-paved road, after walking through backcountry for a while. We walked along the road for a while and there were no cars. And I was lost. It was going to get dark soon. I had no water or food, and the nights were cold because we were high up. I started back on the road and hoped to find the spot where we had entered the road, and then to climb up the backcountry and try to retrace our steps. But I couldn't find where we entered the road. I was sure that GreyGirl knew but didn't know how to tell me. But now she was whining and I was getting very worried. I hadn't seen another car all week. Then there was a car. I grabbed GreyGirl in my arms and hailed the car. I explained that I was lost, and gave as much detail as I could about where my car was. I didn't think they would be able to find my car because I really had a poor description. Something like: I was on the main road, and then I came to a fork and I took the right fork and drove to a dead end. We drove around for a while, and we found my car around 3 miles away. I figured that the worst thing would have been that I would lose my car, and fly home. But it was much better than being stranded with my cat. People would say, "What happened to your car?" And I would reply, "I lost it." I wonder if GreyGirl knew how close we came to not coming. She couldn't have been too worried about having to sleep outside, but she would have noticed the absence of cat food. That was the last time she went hiking with me without being carried.
Well there was one more time that I didn't have to carry her. Around two years ago I was in Virginia, and we went exploring. I brought the baby sling, but I put her down, to see if she wanted to follow. And she tried. But she was getting winded and very out of breath. That was when I realized that she was getting old. I carried her the rest of the way.
Most nights, she slept on my bed, and part of every night she slept on me. She smelled nice. I trimmed her nails, and I brushed her.
Last year she had a change. Her heartbeat was fast. She wanted a lot of food. She pissed in the apartment. I brought her to the vet and said I thought she had a tumor. He said the thyroid was tumorous and surgically removed half of it. She came back very tired. Then a month or two ago, she seemed to get the problem again. The vet said the other half of the thyroid was tumorous, and he could only give her drugs to treat it. The drugs did not make her happy. I knew for a while that she was going to have to go; especially the last week. I tried to postpone it as long as I could. I held her tightly everyday, because I knew that they were our last ones.
I brought her to the vet on Sunday. Saturday night she pissed on my downstairs bed. I walked in the room as she was finishing. I smacked her snout. I hadn't done that before because I didn't think she would be able to connect the punishment with the crime. I didn't want to hurt her, but I wanted to give her a chance to live longer. Then she went upstairs and pissed on my upstairs bed. I tossed the cat in the bathtub and closed the bathroom door. I went to sleep. I woke up at 10:30 on Sunday morning and called the vet. They said they closed at noon, and asked if I could bring her in the next day. I said I would be there by noon. They said they would wait if I was late. I was on time.
There was sleep in GreyGirl's eyes when I took her from the bathroom in the morning; more than usual. Like she had been crying. If I could have moved out of New York City, she might have been able to function a little better a little longer. We both wanted to leave New York. I am still here, and she made it out.
GreyGirl was born when I was 25. And she died when I was 41. It's almost all my adult life; certainly most of it. She was born in a period when I was off drugs and first learning computer graphics. She was with me through my whole junky life. She was with me in my last eight years of recovery.
I wish I could hug her one more time. And this time, never let her go.
I am sorry GreyGirl, I love you.
I am Gretchen with Scientific Placement. You are working with one of my colleagues . She passed your URL address to me because of your story about Greygirl. She knows about my deep affection for felines. I just had to drop you a line because that story is one of the most touching pieces of prose I have read. I have 4 cats, and one of them is dying of Heart Disease. I am facing his inevitable death fairly soon, which will be by my hand. It is unlikely that Snoopy will just die before he suffers unbelievable pain. I dread the day I have to order his death.
I worked in Vet clinics throughout college, and saw many animals euthanized (the inert word vets use for killing), and I was sad just about every time. I never became used to it like most of my co workers. I can't imagine how I will feel when it is Snoopy. Thank you for writing the story. In some way reading it helped me. I did not think there were many people out there who feel the way I do about my feline companions.
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