A friend called me on Sunday, worried about his cat, Sweetie. After describing her condition to me, I told her I thought she needed to go to the emergency clinic, the sooner the better. He hesitated, and I offered to go with him; he immediately accepted. I knew he was frightened, and though I held to the most positive thoughts for Sweetie, I knew the situation may not have the best ending.
This friend supported me through the loss of my four oldest cats, Moses, Cream, Sophie and Stanley, and then of Lucy at 15 months. Right after I lost Lucy, my cardiac patient, Namir, went into congestive heart failure, and I had no hesitation asking this friend to drive me to the same emergency clinic because another potential loss was just too much for me. Namir made it through, and so did I, glad for the conversation of a good friend while I waited for the news. This is what friends do for each other, and our animal companions are another member of our group.
As it turns out, Sweetie was completely blind, and the veterinarians could find no immediately apparent reason for her blindness. According to my friend, Sweetie had jumped off the bed and raced down the stairs to the kitchen the previous morning and seemed completely normal until later in the day when she seemed a little confused. The next day, she didn’t eat, and stumbled over a door step, her pupils completely dilated, then laid down and seemed unresponsive.
Sweetie was indeed a sweet cat. I used to check in on her when my friend was away, and I would have walked off with her in a minute if I thought I could get away with it. A pleasantly plump tortoiseshell with round eyes and a mischievous attitude, she always played a game with me when I stopped there, either hiding somewhere and not even moving until I found her—and I’m pretty good at looking for cats—or thundering from room to room and up and down the steps as if she was being chased. She was 13, and in the years she had been with her person he had spent a few years out of town five days a week for business, but she did fine in the house alone on those days and never developed any bad habits as a result of being left alone. Later, after retirement, he went away for weeks at a time to help family members, and this was when I checked in on her, always pleasant and happy, ready for play or hide and seek. But she was devoted to her person, and when he was around, she was on his lap or under his feet or inspecting what he was doing.
She was one sweet cat.
Although she was in excellent health otherwise, the condition that caused her blindness was apparently acute. Animals can often adapt to these changes, much easier than we do, but the testing to find out what was wrong would probably have shown a stroke or brain tumor, likely to only get worse. My friend decided not to put her through the rigors of discovery, and she even seem resigned to her fate, so he decided to let her go and have her put to sleep.
He still goes away for several weeks at a time, and what are the chances another Sweetie will come along, ready to go along with the plan? Not much. Each of them is an individual, just the same as we humans are, and I’ll remember Sweetie for a good long time. The photo at the top is one I took of her rolling around on her rug, intending to do a little painting someday. Perhaps it’s time.