Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Goodnight, Neffy

Cats and cut flowers seem to last less long than you think they ought to. Our Neffy (Nefret, really. It's Egyptian for beautiful.) had a tumor in her mouth. It ultimately affected her tongue function enough that she couldn't bathe, or keep from drooling. Yuck. Then she couldn't eat easily, and eventually not at all. And she couldn't drink.

Sharon made the arrangements with the vet when it became clear that the last corner had been turned.

The kids all gathered round and said the sweetest loving goodbyes. I was especially proud of my children as they focused their affection on their pet.

So last Friday, I took Neffy to the vet for the very last time. The vets office team were all well prepared for our very sad morning...

She doesn't want to get out of the carrier. I tell her she never has to get back into the carrier. She is weak and very clearly near the end of her days catching moths and laying in the sun.

The table is covered in a fleece cloth with giraffes and other whimsical animals. I muse on the manufacturing process of the cloth; I think it is a dye printer that sprays the pattern on as the cloth rolls by. The edges of the shapes are indistinct, and the edges are unevenly cut off the bolt. It says most of the store name 'Jo Ann's' on the selvedge. It's cut to size for the table. I doubt it will be laundered and used again.

Neff lays down on her paws on the table as I hold my hand on her for her comfort and mine. The front desk person takes my credit card and has me sign for the bill. Neffy whines a bit but is calm. She'd lost several pounds the preceding week. Her bones poke out alarmingly and she couldn't have tolerated a bath that she really needed badly. Neffy murmurs now and again. The woman returns with the receipt and my card which she places on the cat carrier. I can barely speak. I take a tissue for the tears.

The doctor enters and explains. First the sedative. Then a few minutes wait. The doctor would excuse herself and return with the technician. Then the shot to stop her heart. The doctor is especially kind and calm. She focuses on me. I sense this is a very hard part of her job. Nevertheless...

"It's time." To me, in order to reassure me that this is indeed the most humane thing we can do for her. Quiet sweet words are murmured to Neffy.

"Shall I give her the sedative."

I nod. Words have left me momentarily except for a cry-choked whisper, "Yes."

A shot is given with the caution, "Just like a little bee sting."

The doctor excuses herself. I look into Neffy's eyes to comfort her as consciousness slips away. Two minutes pass as Neffy's head comes to rest on her paws.

The doctor and technician return. The only thing that catches my eye in the colorless next few minutes is the pet clippers with a yellow plastic part near the blades, and the turquoise nail polish on the technician's short nails.

"Do you want me to begin?" asks the doctor.

"Yes, please." I'm calmer but no less sad.

The tech holds Neffy's back as the doctor easily finds a vein in her back leg. I stand at Neff's head while the doctor is to my left. Neffy is still as the injection is started. I mentally note that the 5cc syringe is full, then empty.

The doctor moves her right hand to Neffy's chest to feel her heartbeat fade away. In a moment she says, with the slightest surprise, "She's already gone."

"Do you want us to take her now."

"Yes, thank you."

The doctor covers Neffy's body with a tiny blanket very much like the fleece one that covers the table. The technician scoops up the body and the two women leave quietly and close the door behind them.

I move to the bench holding the cat carrier, my receipt, and credit card. I sit and utter a few quite unmanly sobs. I get another tissue. I carefully replace my credit card in my wallet and fold the receipt to put it in my pocket. I take several minutes to compose myself.

Picking up the cat carrier, I open the door back to the lobby. I set the carrier on the floor of the adjacent bathroom without turning on the light. I wash my hands to remove the awful smell that has covered whatever Neffy has been touching for the last few weeks. Drying my hands I pick up the carrier, and thank the staff as I open the door to leave.

I pull to the driveway to exit. A middle-aged pedestrian woman approaches and I back up to clear the sidewalk for her to pass. She smiles and waves to thank me. I have the lucky feeling that I have plenty of time on my hands for that moment.


Unknown said...

It's been over 10 years since I had to put Franz down for a mouth tumor, but yes, it was exactly like this...
So sorry Bob.

Juliana said...

I'm so sorry, Bob. I know this scenario, oh-so-well... both personally, with my much loved kitty-children, and from dealing with countless clients at the Cat Clinic for the 6 years I worked there. It's NEVER easy. I've never seen anyone unmoved.
For the record, the Vets ARE affected. This IS one of the most difficult things that they have to do in their jobs. And it's not the "easing-out-of-life" part. It's the "watching the Pet Parent" fall apart, part. I can't tell you how often I saw Vets and Techs cry after a Euthanasia. I can't tell you how many times I had to comfort my coworkers. Even Dr. Birsbin, who is the kindest and gentlest with his patients and clients, but has the ability to remove himself emotionally, has walked out of a Euthanasia and straight out the back door. And driven away to have a few moments to compose himself.
And, how many, many times they sent me in to sit with Clients who came in alone. That feeling of being alone in those final moments... well, indescribable.... And how many times I cried with and consoled those clients in those final indescribable moments...
I know that you know that there is an "inevitability" to being a pet parent.. Cats, dogs, flowers... They don't last as long as we think they will or as long as they should.
I know that there is really not much one can say to console. It's a gentle hug, and a empathic look. It's knowing that, with time, it will get easier, and that, eventually, as with all grief, we can look back with love and laughter at the spirit of the individual, be they animal or human, that is gone.
Sending you a gentle hug, my friend...

Pamela said...

My thoughts are with you.