I spent tonight with the top half of my torso in a metal cage and my elbows resting in pate. I was a “patient visitor” at the veterinary hospital, and I was visiting my 11-year-old brachycephalic cat who decided a week ago that he was done eating. Leading up to his hospitalization Ira didn’t seem to lose interest in anything else in life; he hovered on the threshold of my bedroom each morning for a madrigal face rub; requested an escort for a romp around the garden; stretched out next to me in bed and attacked my bun like a jungle cat disemboweling a kill. But after five or six days, Ira’s haunches started to poke through, like cattle bones in the country after a winter thaw. Domestic cats can develop hepatic lipidosis, a fatal liver condition, after only two or three days of missed meals, a fact I had inconveniently suppressed or forgotten, and his condition indeed had become critical.
Seeing his miniature front paw, soft as rabbit fur and white as snow, encased in a teeny tiny cast and swaddling a Lilliputian IV, was almost more than I could take. I padded his kennel with a pair of my sweatpants, a scarf, a headband, a catnip cigar, an old sweatshirt covered in cat fur and a cat vomit stains. I leaned in and rubbed the spot above his nose, only a cm in length, his head tilted backwards orgasmically. His pupils were enormous, the amber iris barely visible. His eyes were ringed with raw pink skin. I thought he looked like a shift worker, walking through the parking lot at 6am as the sun was coming up. Or maybe like someone coming off a long weekend of popping Adderall and cleaning their bathtub with bleach. My poor baby. The vet tells me that if he doesn’t start eating they will have to insert a feeding tube
In graduate school a literary agent told us that at least half of her job consisted of trying to talk writers out of writing about their pets. Writing about pets is sentimental and maudlin and not for serious writers. At least this is what we were told. But life with pets is a microcosm of life and it is also life on fast forward. You get such a short time on this earth in this first place, and your time with your pets is that much shorter. I’ve only had Ira three years. Our life together is only just beginning. It’s a cruel trick of nature that has our lifespan’s so unevenly matched. One human year=seven dog years? What kind of crazy God thought that one up? You get just enough time to fall in love and then it’s already time to say goodbye.
Before I left the hospital, Ira stood up and hobbled to the edge of his cage, the clear plastic tubing in his arm filled with blood near its insertion point. He bent over his bowl of kibble and lowered his head, this time, for the first time in seven days, chewing and swallowing. This is good news but Ira is nowhere near out of the woods. And I’m nowhere near ready to say goodbye. Ira, my proud little watchful one.