Posted on September 7, 2008
Filed Under English
Miepje, my cat of twenty-two years, is no more. On Saturday, her health deteriorated rapidly, and it became so bad during the night that I decided to ring up a vet to have her put to sleep. I have just returned from there. Miepje died Sunday morning, at 3:30.
(picture taken in Leiden, around 1993)
I’m not exactly sure when Miepje came into my life. It must have been around 1986. There was a stray pussycat roaming around my neighbourhood, and I sometimes gave her some scraps and leftovers. I guess that qualified me as a foster parent, because this pussycat, who was pregnant most of the time, put one of her young inside my house one day. I noticed some strange sounds coming from a rolled-up carpet at the back of the house, and when I looked inside, I found that very tiny kitten, eyes barely open, covered in dirt and fleas, and making a lot of noise. That was Miepje. I raised her on bread and milk at first, and the rest is history. She moved with me many times, and I’m happy to say that she’s had a comfortable life for the most part. Especially in the house I’m living in now she was well at ease. She had her own place, her own routine, and she liked it here.
Like I said in my previous post, I’d always hoped for her end to be uneventful and peaceful. Unfortunately, life sometimes hands you lemons. She was okay for most of the day, but during the evening it went downhill very, very quickly. When she started having continuous convulsions and seizures I just had to do something to end it. Luckily, in a city as big as Rotterdam, there’s always a vet on night duty somewhere. I found a telephone number for an emergency service, and the phone was answered by a woman vet, a few miles from here. I explained what was going on, that my cat was very, very old, and that I wasn’t looking for a treatment or a cure, just for the suffering to end.
Fifteen minutes later I got there (Miepje had several seizures in her travelbox on the way over), and without further ado, the vet (who was very sweet and compassionate) gave her a sedative to calm her down (she was unconscious anyway, but twitching and moaning a lot). I couldn’t do much more than stroke her and look at her. The vet told me that Miepje looked dehydrated. That didn’t really surprise me. Miepje never drank much, which is why I gave her ‘wet food’ most of the time, just to get some liquid in there. My guess is that her kidneys gave up after a prolonged period of dehydration (Miepje had been getting very skinny in the last few months), causing toxics to enter the bloodstream and the brain, leading to convulsions and seizures in the end.
After a few minutes, the vet took out another syringe and delivered the final injection, straight into the heart. All quiet, all of a sudden. And that was it. Here is a picture of what she looked like. Morbid maybe, but I’m glad I had the presence of mind to take that last peaceful picture of her.
I managed to get through the administrative side of things without breaking down, but as soon as I got into the car, I cried my eyes out. I decided to drive away as soon as I could to get a grip, but I broke down again when I came home and saw the remnants of Miepje’s life. Her sheep skin, her litterbox, her food bowl. Her smell. Her history. Her absence. The utter silence.
She may have been a bit of a handful and a fussy madam, but I’m going to miss here very, very much around the house, especially tomorrow morning when she won’t be on my tail clamouring for food.
Bye bye, Miepje. I hope I made as much of a difference in your life as you did in mine.
(picture taken around 2005)
Sunday update: it is now ‘the day after the night before’, and it’s bloody awful, just as I’d expected. I feel like a vital organ’s been ripped from my body. I have a very physical sense of loss, of grieving. I find my gaze wandering off to the sheep skin over and over again. I now realise how often I checked up on Miepje every single day, how important it was to me to look over and find that she was comfortable and okay. Getting out of bed and not being followed around by a cat hoping to get food and a pat on the head feels very alien and empty. The house is absolutely silent and, well, dead. I realise that time will heal all wounds, but they are some magnificent wounds right now.
(thank you to Sara for this picture, taken December 2007)
Update Monday: this will probably be my last update, because I will have to move on at one point or another. Tough, tough day. I’d thought about skipping a day from work, but the prospect of spending another miserable, silent day at home was more daunting than facing my colleagues. I could do with a bit of distraction. I just created some work for myself to concentrate on.
Come lunchtime, I managed to broach the subject, albeit in a halting, breaking voice, with tears burning in my eyes constantly. My stories were met with sympathy, and everyone has their own pet stories, so the focus wasn’t solely on me all of the time. No coarse jokes to break an uneasy silence, as is so often the case when guys get drawn into an emotional setting. Thanks for that, guys, much appreciated.
As the day progressed, the prospect of returning home to that empty apartment became increasingly unappealing. I bought some time doing some grocery shopping, but passing the aisle with the pet food wasn’t pleasant. I found myself staring at the brand I always bought for Miepje, and really had to pull myself together and walk away. When I finally got home, I put down my stuff, sat on the sofa, and cried away all of the bottled-up emotions of the day.
The sheep skin is still empty, the meowing (which used to drive me nuts most of the time; I miss it like crazy now, of course) is absent, the litterbox, with Miepje’s last pee still in it, is still in the back room, the food and water bowls have been washed up and are on the sink, the travel box is still in the exact same place where I left it when I came back from the vet. All useless now. Tough. Very tough. Better luck tomorrow, I hope. Maybe I will find the courage to clear everything away and concentrate on the good memories instead of on those awful hours of Sunday morning.
A special thanks goes out to Sara, Arthur, Harold, Suzanne, Anne-Marie and Christian for their support. It means a lot to me.