I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Poor Rum.

I just read Ana Veciana Suarez's article about her dead dog, Candy. It was really depressing, because it brought back the sting of loss of my retarded cat that died two-and-a-half years ago. When I was born, we had a cat named Pumpkin. We put Pumpkin down in August 1990, because she had feline leukemia. Pumpkin was sort of a bitchy cat. She used to bite me. I was 10 when she died. (Okay, nine), and didn't really care that she was put to sleep. My mom was upset, but I didn't really like Pumpkin. She was 13 and nasty.

That year, I got $100.00 for my birthday, in lieu of having a party.

I guess it must have been October of 1990, when we finally went cat shopping. We only buy Siamese cats, I don't know why, so buying cats is an exercise in visiting breeders and testing out the merchandise.

It was probably a Friday night in 1990 when we went to the Cat Breeder's house. I think it was in Reisterstown or Randallstown. Or Joppatowne? Who knows. The house was an ugly 1950s brick split level; or maybe it was a ranch with a basement-level garage? I was glad that I lived in a bigger, newer, nicer house, and remember thinking that I would be really ashamed to live in a brick ranch tract-house. I was a snob. Still am. Sue me.

It was cold outside that night.

We went in and downstairs to the "cattery." I think all the babies were in a playpen. My parents were interested in buying the sole Lynx Siamese in the litter. He was a little silvery kitten with grey tigerstripes down his back and rings on his tail.

He would grow up to look a lot like this guy, right down to the pink nose and dreamy expression:

My parents told me that if I wanted, I could get a cat of my very own, and use my birthday money. I was particularly enamored of a speedy little guy who instantly ran behind a couch after he was freed from the playpen. I, of course, I had to have him.

I don't remember paying for the cats, but we then made the forty-minute treck back home, with frightened kittens meowing and puking all over the car. The kitten we would later name Rum, pooped on my Mom's lap as we pulled into the garage.

The babies were immediately sequestered in my parents' room, their litterbox in my parents' bathroom. It was a good thing, too, because those cats had fleas, earmites, tapeworms - the works. The poor things got flea dipped every other day, it seemed, and my parents were constantly bombing their bedroom to kill the fleas, and spraying them with this delicious-smelling flea spray that made their fur hard and sticky like sprayed hair.

We were going to name them Rum and Coke, but my mother didn't like the idea of a cat named Coke, so Coke became Zeke. Rum stayed Rum. And in the end, it was a fitting name.

Zeke was skittish, but effusive with love. He would jump at the slightest noise, or on initial contact, but he would lick your hand for hours if you scratched him right. He would develop the worst breath ever... and would have awful breath until we pulled out most of his teeth.

Rum was always somewhat off. He was a sweet guy, and he was mine, but he'd run into walls, and he had sort of a crossed-eye, that always made him seem sort of retarded. I don't think he saw all that well. He was the cat that I would have to wrestle into my arms to hold, but he would do this thing where if you stood in front of him and patted yourself on the chest, he would leap up and give you a hug with his head on your shoulder.

And then, naturally, he would crawl onto your shoulders, digging his claws into you until you leaned forward to let him sit on your back. Where he would then make himself comfortable. And lie down.

So, I grew up with Rum and Zeke between 1990 through 2004. Once, Rum ran away for two days, sending the entire family into a meltdown, before casually reappearing on the deck, meowing to get in. He was punished by having to wear a red collar with his name and our phone number on it for the rest of his life, because he couldn't be trusted not to do that again.

Shortly before this happened, Rum developed encephalitis, and we were convinced he was going to die. He stopped eating, and, because his brain had swelled, got vertigo. We were warned to keep him away from stairs, because he would fall down them. He couldn't walk, and he'd tip over if he tried to stand up.

I force-fed him mushy catfood with a syringe until he got better, to make sure he didn't starve to death. After a week of hovering near death and warming the rug underneath a living room table, Rum got up, and recovered, and thereafter for the next five or six years of his life, never shut-the-fuck-up, and was always, ALWAYS underfoot, requiring attention. Rum then ran away. And then came back.

Zeke never had any problems, besides losing all of his teeth. Not until Summer 2004. He developed a terrible abscess in his throat, that stank, and he stopped eating. The vet treated it, but it was indicative of a greater problem - poor Zeke's kidneys were failing him, and he was barfing everywhere. My parents resorted to giving him IVs of saline to keep him hydrated enough, but then we were going to go to Hawaii, and they couldn't ask the neighbors to hold Zeke down while he got his IV, so Zeke went down. It was a hot stormy Sunday afternoon and Stephen and I were at the Raleigh at the pool when my parents told me they had put Zeke down. I got wasted. I was so hungover the next day at my Summer Associate's position, I had to leave work early, feigning sickness from Chinese Food.

When I went home for Rosh Hashannah that year, I snapped the phone pic above of Rum - who had already used up 9 of his lives, while Zeke should have had at least 8 left. I was thrilled to still have one of my guys, though, so Rum got my unadulterated attention while I was home.

A week after Rosh Hashannah, Rum's paw started bleeding, and didn't stop. He left a little trail of bloody pawprints behind him. My parents bandaged the foot, but eventually brought him to the Vet, who told them Rum had a carcinoma, and the Vet could amputate Rum's leg, and it would probably save the cat, as long as the cancer hadn't spread to the rest of him.

My parents couldn't stand the thought of poor, stupid Rum hobbling around on three legs, so the decision was made that Rum would be put down also. I begged my parents to take him home and bury him in the yard. I hated the idea that Zeke was an anonymous pile of ashes somewhere. I wanted, at very least, a place to go and visit Rum. They promised me they would. They didn't.

It made me all the more glad I snapped that picture of Rum, sitting in his favorite laundry basket looking at me with his stupid, crossed eyes.

On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, 2004, at 10:30 p.m., we drove to a gas station on Rt. 216 in Laurel just off 95. A minivan was headed North from North Carolina to New Jersey, carrying two Tonkinese Siamese brothers. Liger and Plato were loaded into Rum and Zeke's car carrier, and brought home. It was like a shady drug deal, but instead of bags of Blow, we were swapping kittens for cash.

Liger and Plato are beautiful cats. Liger is a Tonkinese Chocolate, with a dark face, and dark tail. He looks like a cartoon - sort of like a little zippy arrow. Plato is a silvery champagne colored cat. They both have terrible gas, and are sort of my cats, but not really.

I don't really know where this post is going at this point, save to make me into a Krazy Kat Lady like D... but.. oh well.