As much as I try not to self-indulge in my weekly column, I am aware that I don't always succeed. It seems I can only write about what I feel, what I see and what I hear, be it personal, professional or public. To that end — which justifies my means, I have often involved you regular readers in my cancer life, as well as a few other "privacies" I've been comfortable sharing: family (including pets), friends, finances and the occasional faux pas (if I am anything, I am open, perhaps too open, if certain other familial opinions are to be considered).
This meandering start is meant to explain, indirectly, how when something is preoccupying my mind, it is difficult/near impossible for me to write about something that's not. At present my preoccupation is with one of my cats: Chino. He is not doing well, at all. After multiple emergency room visits and follow-up appointments with veterinarians over the past few weeks, it appears his diabetes has finally gotten the best of him, leading to the worst possible outcome: death, with some dignity, hopefully.
In two of our most recent visits to the veterinarian, we have had preliminary discussions about euthanizing Chino. We have resisted so far, and have continued, especially my wife Dina, to give him as much t.l.c. as we can. However, his quality of life, as described by our primary veterinarian on Friday, is "not good." To invoke/rework a phrase commonly associated with some human beings in early childhood: Chino is failing to thrive, though he turned 13 in late September. Other than engaging with us when we call his name or pet him, Chino is not able to do nearly enough (eating, drinking, grooming, using the litter box) to give us much hope. Nevertheless, he is home and curled up in his favorite spot in the kitchen, though barely able to get around.
I wouldn't characterize our activity as a vigil, but neither Dina nor myself are planning to leave the house (or one of us will be at home if the other needs to go out) anytime soon. With this weekend of inactivity, our focus is exclusively on Chino. Yet here I sit, a literary task at hand, attempting to navigate emotionally the prospect of his passing and the significance of such a loss.
It's been 10 years or so since we've had to consider euthanizing a pet. It was either Bailey, our second golden retriever or Chester, our second dwarf rabbit. I can't remember exactly, as it was around this time that I was diagnosed with lung cancer and began heavy-duty chemotherapy. But we've all survived since then and even added a few critters: Chino's brother, Biscuit; Twinkle, our white cat with an attitude, and two more rescues, "The Blackies," as we call them: Andrew and Sloane, black, domestic short hair siblings. As longtime animal owners, we knew this day would come, but given my cancer diagnosis: "13 months to two years," I think we figured I'd be the first to go. So it's both upsetting and distracting in a way, our normal pursuits, because what's happening — both good (me still being alive) and bad (Chino succumbing to his illness) — is not what we anticipated happening. As a result, I am self-indulging you in my preoccupation because I'm unable to think/write outside the box. A figurative box on which Chino sits front and center, mostly down but not quite out.
Still, we're not exactly sitting and staring blankly into space, but neither are we entertaining too many other thoughts. We are here for Chino, so with a column to write, it is being written with Chino as the subject, and excuse, for what is written in this space. For 13-plus years Chino has been my companion. We have rubbed noses too many times to remember. He has my scent and as such, I have belonged to him. Soon I fear he'll belong to no one and I'll have lost his loving feeling. He was a sweet and affectionate cat. We will miss him terribly.