It was a hard night. If I hardly slept, I don’t think Noko did at all. She laid in her cozy box beside my bed, essentially immobile. I tossed and turned. I dozed on and off. There were a few times when she meowed, and each time I reached over immediately and, in the dark, gave her pats. I don’t know if she wondered where I was or if she knew and just wanted to connect.
By morning I felt that I had the answer to what we should do, and I didn’t like it.
Sometime during the night, she had peed. No surprise really. I don’t know how long she might have been lying there that way, but she usually went to the box about an hour before we got up. Perhaps one of her meows was asking for help, or maybe it just happened the way it did when she had a bladder infection, i.e. the “dribbles”, though there was nothing wrong with her bladder and it must have been full. The cozy box arrangement had worked well at least and only the top towel was wet, so I lifted her out, changed the towel and had her back in and as cozy as possible pretty quickly. Whenever we had to pick her up, we put her back down on her other side, hoping that this would help ease her discomfort.
The box made it easy to keep her nearby as we moved about in the house. Mark sat with her while I got up and had my breakfast. Afterward, I sat facing sideways on the couch with my legs up to create her favourite kind of lap, and she spent about an hour and a half lying on me.
I’m sure she hadn’t slept all night, and she didn’t close her eyes all day either. Her eyes were wide open and the pupils quite dilated (they were open the day before too, but not so dilated). I took this to mean that she wasn’t doing as well and was probably uncomfortable.
From after lunch to mid afternoon, I had her on my lap again, stroking her head and face. I got her to purr finally – what a feeling of accomplishment! She closed her eyes every time I touched her face, so I’d run my finger lightly over her eyebrow or even over her closed eye, which she seemed to like. I kept stroking, and then gradually slowed down the touch. Her eyes remained closed and she finally looked fully relaxed. Mark kept an eye on both of us throughout; he figured that she actually slept for about 20 minutes. She must have been exhausted from lack of sleep. While she napped, I leaned sideways against the back of the couch and had a little nap myself. There was no way that I was going to move and disturb her rest.
Eventually she woke up again, and the inexorable countdown began. Really, it had begun when we got up in the morning, but now we were nearing the conclusion. There was nothing else for it but to start getting ready to go to the vet.
Mark was sitting on a Japanese chair (zaisu) on the living room floor with Noko was beside him. I wanted to feed her again. When she saw me bring the bowl, she perked up, her eyes opened wide and she tried to crane her neck forward. She was lying on her left side; I held the bowl while Mark put his hand under her shoulder and lifted her so she had a better angle. She had less control and strength than before, but was happy to eat and drink. Then we tried again with the litterbox, now also located in the living room. Her back remained curved, her limbs straight, and her front paws behind the rear ones, so Mark had difficulty holding her over the box and she seemed uncomfortable at best. Nothing came of it anyway, so he put her back down, this time on her right side. She remained quite still and it seemed like perhaps she was in some pain.
I’m sure I wasted as much time as I could, but I don’t really remember what else I did. I think I phoned the vet to see how busy it was, seeing as how they don’t do appointments for anything except surgery. It was somewhere around 4pm on a beautiful sunny day. Hot actually, but with the leaves starting to turn and the sun getting lower in the sky, you know that even though the heat feels summery, it’s not truly summer. Not anymore.
Mark carried Noko outside in her cozy box. I got into the car and put the box on my lap. The space felt oddly open because her box was low and flat and unenclosed, while her regular carrier is narrow and tall. The drive to the vet took just a few minutes – it’s right around the corner but awkward to walk. Taking the car also meant having a private place to wait outside of the waiting room. Mark stayed in the car with Noko, and I went inside.
The assistant at the desk asked what it was about. I said it was a follow-up from the previous day and that I wanted to see the same vet. There was a room open, so I went out and collected Mark and Noko and in we went. The vet came in and asked how it had gone overnight. About the same, I told her; in retrospect, that wasn’t accurate, but it seemed true at the time. She asked what we had decided, and I said, “I think you know” or something equally oblique. But I couldn’t say it any more clearly.
She began by gently asking whether we had gone through this before. Not sure what exactly she was getting at, I explained that I had lost pets as a child, but had never been the one responsible for them. She then explained the process – that she would administer some sedation (like what she has had to get an ultrasound, for example) in her scruff, and then when that took full effect, it would be an overdose of anaesthetic to a vein in her left arm where it was already shaved from yesterday’s blood test. She explained what the options were for the remains: cremation; cremation and remains returned; remains intact for burial outside the city. I didn’t want anything tangible as I felt that the important part would be gone and I didn’t want to have physical remains: I couldn’t see how that would make me feel anything other than sad and heavy. She went and got a form for me to fill in and sign.
Noko, still on her right side, laid in her cozy box at the left end of the examination table, farthest from the door. I must have given her lots of pats. I don’t really remember.
The vet knew I didn’t like needles and did her best to keep me from seeing. I stood in front of Noko while Mark sat an the old-fashioned orangey oak chair. (He was careful not to watch any of this because his visual memory is so vivid.) I don’t think I was watching when she got the first needle; I think she hissed, but she hisses easily and didn’t seem that upset. I immediately started touching her head and face, and especially her left eyebrow, hoping that it would help her relax as it had before. She got drowsy quite quickly but it was hard to tell if she was asleep because her left eye remained open a crack. It would take a few minutes before the sedation took full effect. The vet left us alone in the room with instructions that we could take as long as we wanted and not to feel rushed, and to let her know when we were ready by opening the door a crack.
Eventually it was time. The vet came in and gave her some gentle taps on the face and other little tests to see if she was out, and I guess she was. I saw the needle – I didn’t want to, but I saw it. I didn’t watch. After that, it was a matter of seconds. The vet told me when – I couldn’t tell.
The vet left, and we stayed with Noko a bit longer. I don’t know how long we stayed. I guess not that long. Already, I could see her ears starting to look waxy. I stroked her tail, picking it up gently to let it fall. It should have uncurled slowly and gracefully. But it felt light and just fell loosely.
We left after that. Straight out the door, not looking at anyone. Drove down the block and around the corner. Parked. Into the house. The quiet house. Wept. I guess. I know I cried a lot, this must have been when. I don’t really remember.
We had supper. I think it was leftover takeout from the day before. We went for a walk in the evening; it was a nice night. I think I was kinda numb.
When I was getting ready for bed, I left my nightshirt in a pile on the end of the bed and then took my contacts out. Noko is – was – predominantly light grey, and the shirt is dark grey. When I came back to the bedroom, in the haze, it looked like she was curled up on my bed.
I’ll not leave my shirt there again.