by Robert Leone
It only cost an extra $50 and the process certainly sounded more genteel. When you hear the term mass cremation it’s very hard not to conjure up hastily dug pits filled with smoking ashes. While private cremation brings to mind genteel widows sniffling into white lacy hankies—so much more palatable don’t you think? And you get to keep the ashes. But who knows what really goes on once that iron door clangs shut and the gas jets are fired up. In the end we went with the budget alternative and tried not to think of all the corners that could be cut and the indignities that could be visited on our beloved post mortem.
He was just a cat you might say, not worthy of much thought. But Cosmo was so much more than just an orange and white cat with a star on his back. He knew things about you. Deep things. His golden eyes held your gaze and reached into your soul, or whatever spiritual mechanism resides in the human body, absorbing everything worth knowing. Your most intimate urges, your most shameful thoughts, the most fragile and delicate lies you tell yourself every day just to keep going. But did he mock you? Did he judge? No, of course not. For him the seemingly endless cycle of death and rebirth was coming to an end. On most days there were no petty thoughts in his small round head, only infinite understanding—Buddha-like he had already reached Nirvana.
In his final weeks, Cosmo’s territory shrank. There was the bed, sometimes burrowing under the covers when it was cold, the window in the living room when the morning sun came in, his food and water bowls and his litter box. His gait was no longer graceful as he made his was down the hall, swaying unsteadily from side to side. His legs were stiff and his leap onto the bed wasn’t always successful on the first try. There was little interest in food, his weight dropped, but still he held your gaze and you could tell him anything. Long, complicated conversations were not Cosmo’s strong point, but his growls and deep throated purrs usually got right to the heart of things.
Even now, two weeks later, I expect him to greet me when I come home. I think about feeding him when I wake up in the morning. Giving him his medicine. Brushing his fur and scratching him under the chin which was his favorite form of human contact. He had a way of burrowing his head into your hand then just sitting still until he had had enough.
That last visit to the vet sealed the deal; by that time he couldn’t walk and he had stopped eating. Worst of all he wouldn’t look you in the eye, his mind was already somewhere else. According to the blood tests, Cosmo’s kidney functions had dropped, he had pancreatitis and possibly lymphoma but you couldn’t know for sure without an ultrasound. There were some possible medical interventions but they were of dubious value and financially out of range. So the decision was made. A soft blanket was laid on the cold stainless steel examining table. A box of tissues appeared nearby in case of hysterics. I spent a few minutes alone with him before the doctor arrived with the one two punch. First, an injection of extra strength tranquilizer—Propofol—the same one that did in Michael Jackson, then a second injection of a heavy duty anesthetic. It was over so fast. Even before the second injection, Cosmo’s head dropped down and that was that. I spent a few more minutes with him, slobbered a little and kissed him on the head. His front legs were splayed out at odd angles so I arranged them in a way that looked more like him.
Then I went out to the waiting room and paid the bill—Euthanasia: $170, Disposition Cat: $50 the receipt said. The receptionist had a suitably sorrowful look on her face when she said how sorry she was for my loss. Several days later a card came in the mail from the vets. On the front was a drawing of a cat and a dog looking out over green and purple hills under a rainbow. Inside, each of the staff had written a little note of condolence.
About the Author
Robert Leone has work published in the Hawaii Pacific Review, Spank the Carp, Tuliptree Story of the Week, Imprints, Rosebud, The Evergreen Chronicles, HGMLQ and other publications. He co-wrote, along with his husband Ed Decker, “Rights of Passage” a full-length play focusing on international LGBT human rights that was produced by the New Conservatory Theatre Center in San Francisco and published by Samuel French, Inc. in Spring 2018.