Monday, January 9, 2012


This phrase "ill-equipped" is how I'm trying to understand (forgive myself for? reconcile with?) our second animal loss in as many months. The guilt of giving Sawyer up continues to linger, and now there is the death of little Miss Frizzle. "Mistakes were made" is another phrase, although different mistakes in different ways with different repercussions entirely. We picked up the cats from their caretakers barely 24 hours after their spay/neuter surgery, and were told that she had "a little cold." I can now figure out that our little girl cat was already severely dehydrated, had already stopped eating and drinking and was in really bad shape. She should have never been handed off to us, she should have never left the animal hospital, she probably shouldn't even have been operated upon (she was just 2 pounds, said her chart), especially if she had a cold (of any size). She needed critical care.

We were ill-equipped.

But we knew enough to know that something was wrong. So we coaxed her all the first night, went to our local vet (as opposed to the butchers where she had her operation) and picked up anti-biotics and food that I could give her through a syringe, and we fed her every two hours, then every hour, then towards the end, we were giving her water every 15 minutes. She died in Mac's arms while the kids were watching a movie and I was upstairs crying really hard because I knew she wasn't going to make it. I had just looked at her, her pupils enormously dilated, and knew. And the presence of death, that awful secret knowledge that death has, is just so terrible. Even in a small animal that had only been in our home for 24 hours. Again my children wailed, again we held them and said things. Mac concluded at one point that she was already very far gone when we picked her up, that we were actually her hospice care. And she was loved up all day long: Iris held her and held her, and Oliver and Eleanor talked to her, and Oliver's best friend spending the week-end with us reassured her. She was surrounded, this tiny little creature, as she faded. I get the comfort of that idea (and it's helping the kids a lot), but Mac and I agree it's not a role or a burden we'd seek out for our children to bear. Mistakes were made: these lovely cat ladies take shelter overflow kittens and have them fixed and then find owners for them. But they're not veterinarians. They have a lot of love, and there's quite a bit of God in the e-mails back and forth, but they didn't see it either. Our vet is frustrated with them as I found out Saturday morning when I went by for the medicine. Now I wonder: has this happened before? None of that really matters, does it? Miss Frizzle is gone, death was here and it felt present and I'm having a hard time shaking that presence, and I don't know that writing is making any sense of this at all at this point.

But there is also Darwin - the little boy cat that we adopted from the same ladies. He is thriving and tearing through the dining room as Mac and I sit here and write. He is lively and wonderful and affectionate and very social and he purrs and purrs and he is here and present, too. He eats heartily and shows tiny balls with bells inside no mercy and he makes us very glad. Something went very wrong with Miss Frizzle and we were ill-equipped to deal with it. But something is very right about little Darwin. No jokes yet about the survival of the fittest - I want him big and strong first.

There is also Mac and Iris on their way to Paris and Berlin as of 9 a.m. tomorrow. I'm not sure why I take very great comfort in knowing that they're going to meet up with our most wonderful friends from Brittany for lunch one day at the end of the week, but I do: I find myself daydreaming of Iris talking to David about goodness knows what by then, and all being right with the world as it always is when we're with them. Memories of the garden have always been a haven, but I now realize that their friendship is just that as well.

I'm looking at Darwin and thinking of my 17 years with Tiki, my cat who saw me through graduate school and all three children's infancies and everything in between, and all of the haven that she provided. Losing little Miss Frizzle, thinking about huge Sawyer, looking at little (really little these kittens) Darwin, I know that I'm seeking that haven again, but this time with more at stake because of the kids. It's not the Irish monk and his cat, it's something else - Darwin will show us what it is.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about Miss Frizzle, and your reaction is totally, totally understandable. May Darwin live a long and healthy life!

    And on another note, I can't begin to tell you how much I am looking forward to lunch in Paris with Mac, and especially, IRIS! I only wish that you and Oliver and Eleanor could join us too. I promise a full report as soon as I get home.

  2. rrrrrrrrrrrrrrr - ok, that was actually Darwin on the keyboard, but I'm keeping it because it sounds like a purr. Things are much more right with the world today. They're settling into Paris and have an amazing week lined up. You guys won't be far from Berthillon when you meet up... :-)