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No Pictures

The last time I took him to the vet, Schubert’s numbers were not good. Not good at all. The vet said, “Well he is 16 years old… his kidneys are failing. When they give out, you will know. How is his behavior?” I reported that he was eating with vim and belligerently ruling over the dogs and sleeping on my feet and violently hating everything on the planet except me with his usual piratical vigor.

There is something wholly charming about an entity who loves ONLY you. Given an opportunity, Schubert would have cheerfully eaten the whole planet, pooped it out into a cosmic litterbox, and kicked sand on it without caring even half a fig for all the lost zillions of eaten and pooped out lifeforms, if only he and I could be evacced to Planet JustSchubert&Joshilyn first.

He was, shall we say, “a handful” if anyone tried to perform indignities upon his august person. Last time, I tried to tell the new vet tech that his body language was saying, QUITE clearly, that if anyone who was NOT ME laid a hand on him, that person would draw back a nub.

“He seems fine,” she said.

“He is not having it,” I said. “I know this cat. You better let me hold him while the doc draws blood.”

“Oh, Mrs. Jackson…” she began in a reassuring tone as she foolishly reached for him and laid her hands upon him, but whatever reassurances she was about to give devolved into agonized screams as her arterial blood arced up to splash the ceiling. In less than two minutes, she was dead. Or at any rate, gone off for some hydrogen peroxide and bandaids.
Then I held Schubert for the vet, and Botty tolerated it, because I asked him to.

His blood came back with very bad numbers indeed, but what cared we for numbers when he was still so exactly his awful and mighty self?

So I took him home. That time. But on the way home, I promised him something. I made an awful, secret promise. Just between us.

This week, he needed me to keep it. He stopped eating. He wouldn’t leave the water dish. He slept fitfully by it in a deflated rag, and when I went and sat by him and petted him, it took ages for him to start his soft old rumble-purr that he only ever made for me. He felt flaccid. Like a spent rubber band. No snap.

I took him back to the vet. No Scott, no kids. Just him and me. Exactly as I had promised. The vet examined him and failed to say, “Luckily I have a great new idea that will fix everything.” Instead, he affirmed that it was time, and he asked if I wanted to stay or go.

I stayed. Do you know why? Because I knew the tech would not hold him right. I knew she would not. No one could keep Schubert from wounding the world except me.

I was not going to help her though. I had another plan.

The tech controlled his head, and the vet had one of his arms, to put on the tourniquet. His other arm was free. And there was a long time, thirty seconds, while my good nice vet tied the tourniquet and got the needle in properly. I was right there, of course, one hand resting on him so he knew I was there. But I had my hand on him gentle, not restraining. I made sure he had that one arm free.

While my good nice vet went about his terrible business, I spoke to Schubert, very sweetly, saying what a good old Schu-bot Botty he was. I told him many nice things about himself, all of which he believed, very few of which were true. I told him how much I loved the fact that he only ever loved me, and I lied to him, too. I told him I had truly only ever loved him, too. I told him I just pretended to like those dogs to be polite. I told it was only him and me that had ever mattered. I was sweet and soothing, as reassuring as I could be.

But inside? I was saying very different, secret things to him. I bent low to look into his one lamp-lit, yellow eye, and what I told him with my eyes was this:

Don’t let them. Tear them open. Kill them all. Rend them, rend one of them, even rend just one the very tiniest little bit open, and I will kill them both the rest of the way FOR you, and rip that tourniquet off your arm and jerk the needle out and snatch you up and take you home, I swear it. Just kill them a little.

But he couldn’t. He was so tired. He didn’t even want to. He lay there under my hand and the needle went in and my vet pumped a horridly cheery-looking pink fluid into his arm. His already slack body loosened. His single yellow lamp-lit eye went out. I stopped saying sweet things because all at once, it was stupid to be talking to it. It was only a hunk of fur and meat, a dead cat on the table. Nothing to do with us.

That vibrant hum, that electric magic, it was gone out of the body; it wasn’t Shubert anymore. The live wire alchemical miracle that was Schubert is gone.

I want very badly to take the whole day back. To not have done it. To have made him stay, no matter how bad it was for him to lie there in his sick, damp rag of a body. To selfishly make him lie there peeing on himself and dying in inches so I would still have the smell of him, the greased feel of his old fur, the white-tipped paws that only ever stayed sheathed for me.

But I promised him. I was the only thing on this forsaken planet that he ever, ever loved. And I promised him I would take care of it for him, if the time came and he was too fierce and willful to let go on his own.

So. There it is.

But oh, dammitdammitdammit. I so wish he had killed them all.

84 comments to No Pictures

  • Oh, I am crying. I’m so sorry for your loss. You did the right thing, YOU KNOW YOU DID. It’s just that the right things are the hardest things. The wrong things are so easy.

  • I am so, so sorry. It’s just such an awful thing, to have to make that decision for the ones we love. I’m here crying with you.

  • Cathi

    Oh Joshilyn! I am so sorry!! That is the hardest thing ever to do! You are so brave!

  • I’m so sorry. You had a precious, twisted, and complex relationship with him. (I say that with a tone of appreciation.) No one forgets that kind of animal.

  • Mit

    The perfect way to honor your friendship with Schubert.

  • Kaye

    Tears. Prayers. As I read this I was reminded of a line from Six Feet Under. To paraphrase: Why do kitties have to die? To make life important.

  • Erin

    Thinking of you, Joshilyn. Our family cat passed away January 1, 2011, and I still miss her. This was a beautiful tribute to Schubert.

  • Jill S. in B'ham

    I am sobbing with memories of several cats that I have held in the same way – I am so sorry for your loss – and loss it is. If we didn’t have the complicated love relationships with creatures, life would be so empty – and the loss would not hurt. Take care of yourself.

  • Beth R

    He KNEW you loved him, madly and passionately. And he loved you the same way. He trusted you to do what was best for him, as only those of us with the thumbs can do. You did exactly the right thing at the right time and both of you know it. All of which is too many words to say “Cry. The right thing hurts sometimes.”

  • Making the right decision can be the hardest thing you ever do, but you can go on, loving him and knowing that you loved him enough. Enough to do what he needed you to do. What no one else would have been able to do for him. He wouldn’t have wanted it to be anyone else. I cried into my shirt for you having to make this decision. I cried because, I too, have loved enough to make that choice.

  • Jennifer in NC

    I am so, so sorry. I had to make that terrible secret promise to my kitty several years ago. My vet was wonderful, but it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I cried buckets. I still miss my Callie-cat. This post was a wonderful, moving tribute to your beloved kitty. Take care.

  • So painful to have to hold a sweet cat when the lights go out. I’ll never forget the terrible awful doing that with ours. I cried for days leading up to it because I knew it was up to me. I am so sorry.

  • Oh boy. Well I have had to usher my sweet baby kitties to the land of catnip and sunshine and it is so so hard. And I do have a Schubert in my life right now. It is the freakazoid white kitty at the top of my blog, Casper. He is Momma’s Kitten. Only mine. He shreds and bites and draws blood from others but he is Momma’s Kitten. I really don’t want to think about the day I’ll have to keep my promise to him. I’m so sorry Joshilyn. They never leave our hearts.

  • I’m so sorry. After I went through this with my cat Dempsey, I didn’t want to love another pet because it hurts so damn bad when they go away. But now I have Buttercup and Ru, and it will rip my heart out all over again when they die. Which will be approximately 42 years from now.

  • You made me laugh and cry all at once, do you know what kind of snot snort that is! I am so very sorry for your loss Joshilyn, it’s a consideration I have with my 19 year old Medusa and I hope I’m as strong as you. I hope when I let Medusa go she takes a swipe at them for Shubert and you too. Lots of love and hugs to you.

  • Dammit, woman, you just made me sob over a cat I never met who would certainly have hated and tried to injure me had we ever met. Sometimes life just SUCKS. Rest in wild, devilish, piratic peace, Schubert.

  • elizabeth

    I’m so sorry. I still dream about and miss the standard poodle we loved like that. It hurts. I’m sorry.

  • Els

    Oh, Joshilyn, I am sorry. It’s hard. I’ve never felt so much like a grownup in such an awful way as the dark day last December when I took our cat to the vet for that last time.

    And Schubert was such a…well, such a *person* is what I want to say, but…well, I wish he had killed them just a little bit.

  • brigitte

    I’m sure he is gleefully rending them all to shreds in kitty-heaven. While (as mine would) simultaneously purring up a storm.

    But I’m still crying for you.

  • So so sorry, Joshilyn. My heart hurts for you as I have had to make the very same decision and it just plain stinks.

  • Ray

    ::snifflehugs from Eleanor and me::

  • Chrissie

    I’m so sorry, Joshilyn, I really am.

  • Michelle-who-is-Shelley

    That is the worst kind of promise in the world to keep. I am so sorry you are missing Schubert and my prayers are with you in your missing-him-and-wishing-that-he-killed-them-all. I had a cat named Magoo who disdained everyone except me. She wasn’t like Shubert in any other way than that. And I cried and bawled and sobbed when I had to let her go. I am not a crying person. Not at movies, not at weddings, funerals, etc. where normal people shed tears. But when I am keeping one of those promises to a beloved pet (3 now), I lose it. It is that relationship that we have with them. That super-extra-love-you-best that only our animals can do.

  • Christine in Los Angeles

    Big hugs, sweetie – I’ve been there, with our little dog, who knew we’d do the right thing for her – but why does the right thing have to hurt so much. Can’t proofread, because I’m still crying, for you, for Scubert, and for my little Girl Puppy.
    God bless, Christine

  • Jessica

    You’ve brought too, too many memories right now, and I am crying for my own. I held her, because she never trusted anyone until me. Never (she didn’t have a reason to, as she had been horribly abused). It was the hardest promise to keep in my entire life.

    It was almost six years ago, and I still wish I could take that day back…I know it was for her, but…

  • Katherine

    Rest in peace Schubert. You will be missed. Hugs to you Josh, I know it’s hard.

  • Amy

    Crying tears for you both. I am so, so sorry.

  • I am so, so sorry. I have lost many important cats in my life and I know how much it hurts. Hugs to you.

  • Elizabeth

    I’m so sorry Joshilyn. You are brave and good and I believe Schubert knew you were the right person to trust. Hugs, wine and chocolate (appropriate treats for the four leggeds) are in order.

  • Cyndi

    I am so sorry for your loss. He was so blessed to have had you.

  • jennamom

    Oh, sugar, I am so sorry. Read this, I just saw it this week and sent it to another friend who lost her best friend: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-k-moore/when-a-pet-dies-whats-the_b_1270448.html?ref=women&ncid=edlinkusaolp00000009

  • gillian

    As hard as it was it was the only choice that you could and should have made to show your love to and for him.
    Achingly hard, but a necessary task.
    He is at peace now and you have his love in your heat and the memories of that brave brave warrior.

  • Jennifer in Durham

    I am so sorry. He was a ferocious beast.

  • Lots of love your way.

  • Lora in Florida

    I’m so sorry, Joshilyn. I would find it very hard to do what you did, but I’m glad for Schubert that you were there.

    My Bambi only loves me. There’s 6 people in this house, with 2 little boys that would love to love Bambi. She swats at them.

  • Mir

    Oh, honey. I am sorry. Also, I am CERTAIN that Schubert is in kitty heaven, fully disdaining everyone who is not you.

  • DebR

    I’m so sorry. Crying now.

  • Oh, Joss, I am so sorry. My heart hurts for you right now. Schubert was indeed a lucky pirate cat to have been loved by you. And how he blessed you with his undivided devotion!

  • ebethnyc

    I wish I could Like (v.) all the previous comments b/c so many have said it before me… but I’ll say it again, so, so sorry. Loved your stories about Schubert, even this one, ultimately. You did the right thing and that hurts so much more b/c it means letting go.
    Sorry sorry sorry. RIP Schubert. Even though you hated everyone but Joss, others will miss you too.

  • Kristen

    Dear Joshilyn, I’m so so sorry. I wish I had the magic words that would somehow fill that Schubert sized hole even just a little. Instead, just know that I am sending love to you.

  • Linda J

    I came today to wish you a happy birthday but I see that you are grieving. For those of us who knew him through you we know he will live on through Ape House.

    So sorry for your loss.

    Happy Birthday *sniff

  • Jill W.

    I am so sorry. It is a hard thing to let go of a pet.

  • sillyme

    oh no! I am so sorry.

  • Andrea

    I am so sorry. My dog is 15.5 years old and I have long-feared that this same day is coming for me. Hugs.

  • Aimee

    Oh, noooo. I am so sorry.

  • Kathy

    That is one of the hardest things to do. So very sorry.

  • Michelle

    Dammit,dammit,dammit. I’m so, so, so sorry for you. Both of you.

  • JMixx

    When I had to give the same terrible gift to my first Beloved Four-Legged Soulmate, my prayer that day was this:

    Dear God, please please make a place for him that looks just like home, and send angels who look and smell and pet him just like his people did, so that he will be happy and not even realize that he has Gone. Amen.

    I have repeated that prayer each time I have had to make the decision. Today it is for Schubert. May he kill them all a little (except his Joshilyn-angel) forever.

    I am sorry for your hurt, and I am glad you had the deep love for him that makes the hurt necessary.

  • Angie

    I’m so very sorry but so glad you were able to keep your promise. I know condolences don’t take the pain away, but I hope they are of some comfort.

  • Lysette Lillian

    I sit here leaking tears, despite the glory of the perfect summers day newly arrived, soft light on verdant treetops an arms length distant from the graduate’s rooftop lounge. You will see each other again in heaven I am sure, because I do not believe God would be so cruel to have a sign on the pearly gates ‘”no pets allowed”. That and I have heard much about your cat, who never had the slightst interest in whether your character would be in peril if you did not instantly attend to him. And attend to him you always did – I have no doubt that he loved you every bit as much as you did he, and that even if someone had hung a sign on the gates, he would get in anyway, just to be with you. *hugs*

  • I am so sorry for your loss. I’ll be keeping you all in my thoughts.

  • kimberlyHdM

    What a strong and beautiful and terrible thing to have to do. I’m so glad you kept your promise.

  • Carrie (in MN)

    Sleep well, Schubert the piratecat.

    I’ve had to make that terrible promise to a beloved beastie and it is awful – part of the bargain, but awful. Big (((hugs))) to you.

  • Oh, I don’t even have the words. So, so sorry for your loss. I, too, have a cat who loves only me, and while I dread the day when I will have to make the same promise to her, and it is so, so hard, you did well by your Schubert. And he loves you for it, still. I don’t know what happens after the end for any of us, but I do know for sure that love stays. Thinking of you and your fiercely loving kitty.

  • Karen

    Insert very bad word, another bad word, and a final bad word. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  • ailo

    Farewell, Schubert.

  • So very very sorry. Such a moving tribute to a wonderful cat.

  • Oh, I am so sorry – but you did the exact right thing for him. Big hugs and birthday wishes too.

  • Aparatchick

    As my vet told me after going through this with my Moose (aka Smoose, Mooser-boy, Best Kitty Ever), we suffer so that they don’t have to. You stood by him, and that’s what counts. Sigh….

  • jeaneva

    So sorry. Sobbing. You are brave, and strong, and true to your word. I salute you.

  • Oh Sweetie, I am so sorry and I’m crying like mad for you. No one should ever dismiss the depth with which we love our pets, and the depth with which they love us. Letting Schubert go was so brave, and so very grown-up. I’m proud of you.

    But. . .I can’t help but picture all your guardian angels (and you have lots!) leaping out of the way as one baleful eye glares and wickedly sharp claws swat at them so he can be the first one to watch over you.

  • erinanne

    Oh, hon. *hugs*

    I like the picture that Fran paints of your one eyed guardian angel.

  • Lulu

    Oh, Miss Joshilyn, deepest condolences on your loss. But thank you for sharing that viceral, searing portrait of his passing. It is a heart-breaking, terrible thing we have to do sometimes to help our friends.

  • oh Jess. I am so so so so sorry. i know there aren’t words. :hugs:

  • Oh doubledamit. I’m so so sorry. I wish he’d killed them, too.

  • I’m so, so sorry. Hugs.

  • Kacie

    So sorry about the pirate kitty. Thanks for sharing all your stories about him. Sending you lots of hugs…

  • Nicole

    I am so sorry – I am sobbing….many hugs.

  • dgm

    Oh, I am sorry! You did right by him, you really did. And you are still the only thing on the planet that he loves, he just can’t purr it to you anymore.

  • Julie G

    Oh, Joss. My heart goes out to you. I’m crying, too. It’s so hard, what love makes us do.

  • Gail

    Oh I am so sad for you. I too have an ancient cat who, ever since my daughter (whose cat he was since we got him at 6 weeks) abandoned him to get married (the nerve), has loved only me. He tolerates my husband on occasion, but pretty much disdains everyone else. He has ruined several pieces of furniture with his cat pee that cannot be removed with any substance known to man. He is particular and I have to keep moving his litter boxes when he changes his mind about where he wants to go. He would rather have treats than food so I give him treats, because until I do he yowls insistently at me. And yet, when he curls up in my lap and turns on the motor (which he does anytime I am sitting anywhere), I feel the peace and pleasure that comes from a purring cat on my person. He has hyperthyroidism and probably some other issues (he is nearly 16) and I know his days are numbered. And I PRAY with all my heart that he will simply go to sleep one day and I won’t have to keep that very promise to him. But I know that this is rarely the case, and that sadly we humans must more often than not make that dark and sad promise to our pets that we love and who are a part of our family, no matter how crazy or vicious or unfriendly to the world or destructive to our home they may be. My heart goes out to you. I’ve enjoyed so reading about Shubert the Pirate Cat and I totally love how much you love your animals, as I love mine. The sad fact is that any pet we get will likely go before we do. But it doesn’t keep us from wanting them in our lives.

  • Jen H.

    I knew I had to go out and should have stopped reading at the first sentence but I too was hoping for a magical happy ending. Hugs to you and the family. You did the right thing, as terrible, horrible, awful as it was. He will thank you when you are reunited in the after-this. Hugs!

  • Becky

    I don’t know if it’s because it was so beautifully written or because of this cursed sinus infection, but I cried. I’m so sorry.

  • Les in az

    I am so sorry for you. I held on to my Bassett in a weepy snotty mess when I had to put her down, but it was the best thing to do for her and for The Schu.

  • i’m so sorry for your loss. i, too, have had a cat like that, so i know the charm of being The One for an otherwise incorrigible creature. i also worked as a vet tech for a number of years and the times when people had to put their animals to sleep were always the worst. it’s wrenching and terrible, but of course you know you did the right thing. best wishes.