Truly Sad Tidings.
I had to have Bodacious put to sleep late Friday afternoon, on 1 February, Imbolc, traditionally known as the first day of spring in Ireland. This day is more commonly known as Saint Bridget’s day.
These past 3 weeks, he had been under the weather. We had been to his vet several times. Bodacious even stayed over night on several occasions to receive intravenous antibiotics to combat a high white blood cell count from possible infection.
He seemed to have rallied and was headed towards recovery. When I took him for his check up Friday afternoon, I hoped we would have an all clear blood test with his seemingly good road to recovery. Everything on the surface looked fine. Bodacious was relatively chipper. He had enjoyed a great healthy and unusually posh diet of roast chicken with diced raw liver and heart. He demanded his egg whenever our refrigerator door opened.
The vet questioned me about him. I said that Bodacious seemed to have improved and was eating well. But I was concerned about how his belly had swollen. He seemed better because his appetite had returned and he must be eating well and perhaps had gained weight. But I also explained how his tummy made an unusually loud grumbling sound when he lay down after a good meal.
As I held him the vet felt his abdomen and started to shake his head.
“Not good. Not good. This is not good news.”
He had felt a growth which had not been obvious before or was much less noticeable, when he had assessed Bodacious two weeks earlier. At that time he had taken bloods for analysis and also had prescribed stronger antibiotics when his high white blood cell count was discovered. All other tests had been normal for kidneys, liver, leukemia, feline aids, etc. Even his calcium was at a good level which is, I understand now, usually a flag for any possible cancerous tumor.
I helped hold Bodacious while the vet did an x-ray of his abdomen in hopes to distinguish the tumor mass. The vet couldn’t see the mass clearly but the x-ray did show a section of his intestine full of gas.
I was given 3 options.
1. Take him for second opinion to Dublin on Monday.
2. Agree to surgery to see if the extent of the tumor was operable, but if it was bad they would put him down on the surgery table.
3. Take him home and think about it.
I opted to ‘take him home and think about it’, as it was late Friday afternoon.
Just as I got home the vet phoned and asked asked me to bring him right back again. The vet practice group had met, reviewed his x-ray and thought maybe he had an obstruction in his intestines. They proposed to do an ultrasound on his belly and maybe surgery to remove said obstruction.
I recaught Bodacious who protested as I put him back in his hateful cat carry crate. Inca escaped as I went to the car so came with me.
I can never leave Inca locked in my car because she knows how to set off the car alarm. This wasn’t the moment for a noisy disruption. I tucked her into the front of my coat as I carried Bodacious in his cat crate back into the veterinary surgery.
As I entered the building I was met by four of the practice vets. We brought Bodacious into a room equipped with an ultrasound apparatus. As one vet and myself held Bodacious, Inca, still tucked inside my coat, trembled uncontrollably in her own fear of a potential sting of needle or humiliation of a thermometer stuck up her bum. I helped hold Bodacious as his belly was clipped of all his glorious hair. Two vets held Bodacious while two others took turns to press the ultrasound detector over his belly. Neither could say conclusively whether it was a tumor or a blockage.
I was given 3 options.
1. surgery – A Laparotomy to open him up see if they could do anything and fix things especially if there was a blockage.
2. surgery – If tumor is found see its extent. Then sew him up and bring him home for however a short a time he might have left.
3. surgery – find the tumor and if it’s inoperable put him to sleep while he was still pain free under the anesthetic.
I left him there for his immediate surgery.
As I headed out of the practice to drive the 15 minutes home, the car radio happened to be tuned to RTE Radio One. Ray Darcy was on the air. A group of musicians were in studio with him to sing.
As I swung out of the village onto the road home the young woman, Sibéal, started to sing “The Parting Glass”.
It was a most beautiful rendition of this song I had ever heard, maybe because I was in such a heightened state of emotion. I instinctively knew then as I listened to this song that I had left Bodacious alive but that would be the last time I would see him as such and that we were about to face the worst case scenario.
I realise this song was Bodacious parting gift to me. I wept as this stunning rendition of “The Parting Glass” was sung all the way home. It couldn’t have been a more beautifully timed tribute to our friendship.
I got home and started to feed sheep their evening meal when the vet phoned me. They had opened Bodacious belly on the surgery table and had discovered a massive tumor in his intestine at the junction of the large and small intestines. The tumor had almost completely closed his intestinal passage. He would have lasted at most no more than a few days. He would’ve suffered incredible abdominal pain before he died. So when I was asked if they could put him to sleep then and there for his own comfort, I could only say yes. And so it was the end of life of a most amazing cat. A cat I had the honour to have known and lived with for 12 years.
As I spoke with the vet on the phone I leaned against the laneway wall as overwhelming grief struck me. I just managed to breathe out enough to ask in a faint voice if the vet could please stitch him back up and place him curled up in his much hated carry box.
As I hung up the phone I collapsed against the wall and wept uncontrollably. I gave myself those few minutes to weep only as I knew I had to finish feeding sheep before going to retrieve his body. I knew I would never be able to finish evening jobs after I had picked his body up.
I phoned a close by friend who lives close by to drive me to the veterinary practice to retrieve his body. At this stage I was incapable of safely doing so.
Once home, his body still warm, I curled him up in one of his Zwartbles wool cat blankets and then placed him in one of the boxes I use to post my Zwartbles Travel rugs around the world.
With his box open I placed him on one of his favorite places, the corner of the Aga. I then put the kettle on to make a mug of tea laced with whiskey. My friend and I drank a parting glass to Bodacious.
After my friend had left, I sat at the kitchen table and wrote an email to family and close friends to tell them of the days recent events. As I finished the letter all the dogs and I heard a loud scratching at the back door. It sounded like Bodacious’s traditional request to be let inside. Unusually all the dogs began to bark uproariously and raced for the door. I opened it to find no great handsome woolly cat with his usual polite, grateful meow at being let inside but only the essence of his ghost as the dogs roared off into the night.
The next day a grave was dug.
He had his last ride on the Quad.
His grave gifts were:
Fresh spring flowers picked from our garden.
A Saint Bridget’s cross, as he had died on that day. I made it with fresh straw from the sheep’s bedding.
A nest made of Zwartbles wool in which lay 3 eggs with a few found chicken feathers.
Two photographs, one of his beautiful all seeing eye, the other of him overseeing his flock of sheep from atop gate his post perch.
In attendance were Ovenmitt, Inca, Pepper, Bear, Bramble, The Big Fellow and my Sister and Brother-in-law.
In tribute to my feline friend:
Imbolc though it be, frost bones lie lacy in patterns reflective of still leafless winter trees.
Bodacious’ fire of life never left, just wained slightly with illness, his pain muffled by quiet enjoyment of companionship.
My heart breaks with the loss of my feline friend.
He walked by my side through wind, rain, sleet and snow.
He followed where no normal feline would dare to go.
He chose to walk with me across flooded muddy fields, through the Beast from the East’s deepest blizzard snow.
He kept me company as long nights lambing stretched into daybreak.
He would sit with me to watch the gloaming indigo sky turn into dawn, then day.
On hot days enjoyed a spin on the Quad, head lifted into the cooling breeze.
Life has gone from Bodacious, his strident demanding yowl no longer heard.
He is buried now where wild flowers grow.
He remains where each day’s rising sun first strikes to thaw the frozen wintery ground.
He rests forever on a hill top with views across fields, the river and to the distant Blackstair mountains beyond.
From his place of eternal rest he overlooks fields where his flock of Zwartbles sheep graze.