Monday, July 17, 2017

A Fond Farewell, Abby Cohen

A Fond Farewell
by Abby Cohen

I want to start off by saying, I realize how wrong it is to have a funny story about a death of a beloved cat. Nevertheless, I have one. This cat, rechristened Loki after first being called Kitten, earned his name. Nobody tempted fate, naming a cat for the Scandinavian god of mischief just to see if he would live up to it. (Of course, all of this was way before Avengers movies and Loki being a villain in a black suit).
Loki grew into a middle-aged cat with digestive problems. We’d guessed he had eaten something bad like rubber bands and took him to the vet to get the bad thing out of there. The vet assumed there was a snarl in the intestines to snip out, and that after surgery the cat would go on to live nicely with a shorter set of guts. Surprise, everybody was wrong.
The cat had cancer. The disease was filling his stomach and spreading from there. I sat there sobbing in the vet’s office on the phone with my ex; the vet asking whether we wanted the cat put down right there or sewn back up and taken home. If we had known in advance what would happen we might have opted differently, and I still don’t know if we chose correctly.
The visit felt like a sucker punch. I took Loki home. Complete with cone of shame from pointless surgery. The vet prescribed a diet of baby food which the cat adored. Jars of beef, lamb, chicken. No vegetables allowed. If we’d known, Loki would’ve gotten baby food as an occasional treat all along. More guilt. Plus, thanks to baby food, I got endless coupons from the supermarket for baby stuff for years afterwards, instead of stuff I could actually use.
Loki got sicker and smellier, and we began to wonder if we should have to put him down after all. We cancelled our Passover celebration because the apartment reeked of sick cat, and yet the cat kept enjoying the heck out of his baby food and outlived  the vet’s prediction for his lifespan. I asked the vet for advice about Loki’s death at home, and he suggested a large cooler for transportation purposes, so Loki could be cremated. We were not planning to keep the “cremains”.
I prepared for Loki’s death and bought a large Styrofoam cooler, and even MORE baby food.  Then, we went away for my ex-sister-in-law‘s wedding for the weekend, a rollercoaster ride of material for a different story.  We did not leave the cat alone. A friend kept Loki company for most of the weekend. It wasn’t until she finally left. Loki seemed to have been waiting for her to go; for a little privacy to die in peace and quiet. It was then, that he crawled under the sideboard and died. It could have been worse, I guess. He could’ve died under the bed.
When we got home, we couldn’t find the cat. We finally spotted him under the sideboard and discovered something interesting. Most people who have read or watched at least one murder mystery know about rigor mortis. Guess what? I don’t know how long it takes for rigor mortis to set in a large cat as opposed to a person, or how long  it takes to wear off, but I can tell you it’s definitely a real thing.
Loki was stiff as the proverbial board and wedged behind the legs of the sideboard. For reasons I’m still not clear about, it was my job to extract Loki and put him in that styrofoam cooler. My ex-wife went and hid in the bedroom. Years later, when it got ugly and she accused me of taking, taking, and taking and never giving back--this is the thing I should have thrown back at her, “Hey! I extracted that stiff as a board cat from between the legs of the sideboard and made it fit into a box too small for a large cat in full rigor mortis.” Sadly, this did not occur to me at the time.
In any case, I did somehow succeed in making Loki fit in the box, thanking any powers above, that I had not bought the next size smaller. Afterward, we decided we did not wish to spend the night under the same roof as our cat’s corpse. We could have put him in the car. Or the storage locker. Or just out in the laundry room, where he might have been stolen by someone who would’ve gotten a surprise. Instead, we called the ASPCA.
Most branches closed early on Sundays, but we found one that was open longer and we could just make it. Stressing the whole way about the timing (and the days before GPS) only one of us knew where we were going. Guess what? That was me. My ex-wife refused to believe it, but I was right and we got there in time.  
When we arrived, I stayed in the car. I had done my bit for humanity and cats everywhere. She went in with the cooler and relayed what happened next. The clerk should have been working somewhere else, possibly a factory or something with very little human contact. The girl, I hesitate to use the word woman, insisted on filling out the in-take form as if the cat was still alive,
“What was the cat’s name? What gender?’ And, I mean this, “Is the cat was good with children?” Actually, he never was to be honest. Possibly better with children dead than alive. Then she wanted to know if the we wanted the styrofoam cooler back. No, we don’t want the cooler used to transport our dead cat. What would we have done with it? Is there anyone who would keep their picnic lunch or even cans of beer in the container that had held a dead cat?

On second thought, perhaps a factory might well have been the wrong place for this young lady. Possibly, garbage collector would be better. But I fear I am doing a disservice to those everywhere who serve that honorable profession. I am sure a decade or so of life’s bounces may have caused her to be a more sensitive soul. Or possibly not. But I do hope she stopped asking people if their dead cats and dogs were good with children.

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