Some of you may have noticed that I posted a quote from Reaper Man on my FB wall earlier this week. If you’ve been following my updates about Pratchettathon 2015, you might wonder why I posted that quote when I’m 20 or more books past Reaper Man.
I had a decision to make this week. It was not a pleasant decision, but it seems to be necessary. I am euthanizing Voodoo today.
Voodoo, whose full name is Voodoo Child, and whom I called Voodz, Voodlebees, Splotchface, and Fuzzbutt, has been suffering from an undiagnosed gastrointestinal problem for about 13 months now. After multiple expensive trips to the vet, I thought we had it under control; she’d only lost a pound between April and September. By December her disease had taken a turn for the worse; she was down a couple more pounds and she had been vomiting up blood with increasing frequency. I took her to the vet again, but there wasn’t much they could do.
Finally, at the end of March, after another incident involving blood, Allyson took Voodoo in and the vet put her on palliative care. To my surprise and relief, she improved a great deal for the first couple of weeks, but that didn’t last. Voodoo has been uncomfortable, but not, as far as I can tell, in pain since March. She was only six pounds (down from 11 in 2014) at the time of that last vet visit, and she has continued to lose weight.
I made the decision to put her to sleep after a conversation with the vet. Allyson and I are leaving to get married in a couple of weeks, and, assuming that Voodoo lived until then, I didn’t want to pass the burden of her death to our friends who have agreed to feed the cats. I also didn’t want her to die essentially alone.
I have been assured that I’ve made the right choice, but as a cultural/genetic Jew, guilt is my superpower. When I was younger, I really wanted a dog. My parents eventually capitulated, and my Uncle Bart gave me one of his dogs. Colt had been getting the worst of it from my Uncle’s other dogs, so all of the adults agreed that giving him to me had solved two problems. Only, I wanted a dog that could come inside and my mom had finally been able to decorate a house in white and blue. Colt was an outside only dog, and, frankly, I was kind of terrible to him. I ignored him, but but didn’t seem to mind though. After numerous health issues, culminating in two years of diabetes, my Dad made the decision to euthanize Colt. Dad took him to the vet. I stayed on the couch.
Some years later, I was moving out of my parents’ house back to Springfield, and I had to make a choice about my cats. At the time I had Voodoo and her sister, Zombie. Voodoo was the neurotic, sweet, needy one. Zombie loved me, but had no fear of peeing on everything to display her displeasure. She would also swipe at Voodoo if Voodoo tried to come to me for affection. My roommate at the time, Thayer, had a lot of expensive electronics, and I couldn’t afford to pay for them if Zombie did what Zombie usually did. I had a theory that Zombie wanted to be the only cat, but it didn’t feel right to send sweet, neurotic, needy Voodoo away because her sister had developed a bad habit.
After several unsuccessful attempts to contact a cat haven in Southern Virginia, I found a shelter in Arlington that advertised themselves as “not ‘no kill’, but ‘kill only in the case of aggressive behavior'”. What they did not mention was that excessive peeing constituted ‘aggressive behavior’. So, when I called about a week after surrendering Zombie, I was told that she had been killed.
I could have done more for Colt. I could have treated him like a pet rather than an unwanted responsibility. I could at least have held him as he died. I could have tried harder to find Zombie a home or at least a better shelter. And I can’t help feeling that I could have done more for Voodoo. I don’t know. I didn’t have an extra $3000 to pay for the endoscopy, nor another $3000 after that to pay for exploratory surgery, and God knows what her treatment would have cost. But I made my choices, and here we are. The song that has been stuck in my head for most of this last week is “My Son David”, which is a Child Ballad, possibly better known as “Edward”. In whatever version, a mother asks her son to explain the blood on his sword, and he tells her that he’s had to kill two or three prized animals before confessing to killing his father or brother. I can at least say that I haven’t done that, but it is very hard for me to ignore the idea that I have failed another pet, or the idea that Voodoo’s blood is now on my hands.
But I think I’ve beaten my breast enough for right now.
Voodoo, or Voodz, Voodlebees, Splotchface, or Fuzzbutt, came to me as a kitten almost 10 years ago. She immediately bonded with our older cat, Alchemy, and they were best friends until his untimely death of congestive heart failure. Voodoo went through a lot with me. She accompanied me through a divorce, grad school, and five moves. She has had to share her space with other animals, including a dog, her sister, my parents’ cat Riley (in two different houses on two different occasions), Allyson’s cat, Ayo, and our cat, Memphis. Several of those other pets (Zombie, Lana [The Dog], and Ayo) have been disrespectful of Voodoo and her space, but she never lashed out, she never hurt any of them, and she never peed all over the place to show her discomfort. Voodoo was sweet, gentle, and loving. Her signature move was to come up on to my chest, put her face as close to mine as possible, and then flop on her side so that she could cuddle me and get belly rubs simultaneously. She was, in fact, on my chest, when I began this entry.
She was incredibly needy. She was very talkative, and did not give up when she wanted affection or food. She did not scruple to disturb my sleep, or indeed, anyone else’s sleep when she wanted something. Voodoo was a keen kneader of stomachs, and restless when it came to choosing a position to sleep. I’m not sure whether this was worse for me during grad school or when I had a regular job, but it was annoying as hell. She was neurotic about my absence, but always very, very glad to see me when I returned home. She never got used to curling up by my side, she much preferred lying down on my chest.
Allyson and I were worried when we first moved in together, because Ayo wanted to play and Voodoo never did. Thankfully, Memphis provided a much needed buffer between them, and Voodoo’s last few months have been much more peaceful.
She was uncomfortable in large groups of people, but if she had time to approach a person one-on-one, she was very friendly. She was not, thankfully, jealous of any of my girlfriends. I don’t know exactly what I was to her- her mom, her dad, this big weird cat who fed and cuddled her- but I know that she loved me, and that I loved her. She didn’t deserve this illness, whatever it is, and she didn’t deserve to die before her 10th birthday. But, to steal another quote from Death, there’s no justice, there’s just me, and I tried to do right by her.