Friday, December 29, 2006

Animals, part 2

When Francis died, he died twice. He had lost half his body weight -- 13 pounds down to 7 pounds -- and he had lost the hair on the sides of his body due to renal failure. He had made a trip to the hospital just a few weeks before that and had regained half a pound after a feline version of dialysis. He weighed 10 pounds again within a few days back at home, then boom, his bottom suddenly fell out; his weight plummeted and his hair fell out. On his final day, he ate, drank water, visited the litter box and even went outdoors.

Fran was an outdoorsman cat and used to hunt each day as if he were on pest patrol; he headed out each morning like a fireman. The last day was no exception, even though his walking was weak and impaired. We were very fortunate in Francis that he was never attacked outdoors or hit by a car, even though he shared the woods with deer, raccoons, foxes, owls, hawks, and later a coyote. He survived a scare with neighbor dogs once in Houston, and that is the lesson that taught him to stay in his own territory and not stray. He led an adventurous life without injury.

On his last day, we lay in bed together looking into each other's eyes, something we liked to do anyway, and suddenly his eyes glazed over, and he wasn't there anymore, even though he was still breathing. I got up, called the vet, and we made an immediate appointment to bring him in. Emergency resuscitation would keep him alive over the weekend, she said when I got there. She estimated he could live one month more with constant dialysis. Since I wasn't paying the vet bill myself, I estimated what it might cost. The weekend alone would cost $750. I asked the vet about euthanasia. We began to discuss it. She asked whether I was satisfied with the time I had spent with him until recently.

Yes, I said.

Since Fran had the chronic rather than acute type of renal failure, we had managed to have a lot of quality time together, to the point of literally falling in love with each other after my other cat, Lucy, had died in 2001, also of chronic renal failure, a common condition in older cats. I reluctantly agreed to have what was left of Francis put to sleep, as much as I wished he might die naturally on his own. His body was still too strong otherwise, and he might go on breathing, his heart beating, but never return to consciousness.

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