Seven is in her suitcase, her preferred bed for many years now. She is sleeping – and dying. She is 19 years old. My son brought her home from school when she was a kitten, and the whole family fell in love with this little black and white fireball. She’s dreaming cat dreams now, all the mice chased and caught, the sleuthing in the grass and the meowing in the kitchen. She’s very peaceful and has been so these past few days as her body fails. Constantly surprising me though, as she rises on unsteady feet to go to her litter box and then back to the suitcase.
Or she wanders to the open backdoor, falls into a lying position on the porch, and takes in the sights and sounds and scents. This morning, she watched my rainbow flag flapping in the wind. Fairies danced – little rainbow bits of light cast from crystals hanging from the porch chandelier. When she’d had enough, she rose but couldn’t quite manage the step up to come inside. I got down on her level and told her she could do it. And she did.
In the past three years she’s made some astounding comebacks from illnesses; this time I suspected she wouldn’t, yet I didn’t give up hope: if she has it in her to live I am here to help, likewise if she is going to die. The vet made her as comfortable as possible by fixing a few diagnosed problems. Now cuddled up sleeping, her tail flicks or her paws twitch, catching that mouse all over again perhaps.
As if she knows I’m writing this, she just wakened and raised her head to watch me – she’s always watched me, and others, as we go about our business, just keeping an eye on the busy humans, wondering if they have some good food or a scratch behind the ears to offer. I have both for her of late (and always) but now all she’ll eat is milk and eggs.
Through all this, she purrs. At night when all is quiet, her purr is so loud I get up to see if some motor has been left running. I fall back to sleep then wake towards dawn to find her asleep on the floor next to my bed. This is something she often likes to do, but now I am amazed at her tenacity to get here, a testament to the power of our connections with animals and their connection to us.
Our dog Nixie likes to groom her, especially her ears, and Seven welcomes the attention. Tonight she needed more help though, so I gave her a bath. She had egg under her chin and all down her beautiful white front. She was frail and lovely and compliant, floating in the warm water. How she used to fight and howl in the tub! And how she loved to howl in the wee hours too, often soothed by my youngest daughter and her partner as I slept, until she figured out to come right up to my bed and wake me with her persistence.
After her bath I wrapped her in a towel and blow-dried her fur. I made her a bed by the rad. She usually likes to keep her head up, alert, her jewel-green eyes following my movements, but she slept soundly. When she woke I placed her in her suitcase with a clean blanket and there she slept. My partner is the son of a doctor and his knowledge of how the body works (and stops working) was an invaluable comfort through this time, plus he loved her as much as the rest of us. This morning, my patting didn’t rouse her. She was breathing but she was on her way out.
Our pets teach us so much about loyalty and unconditional love. They teach us how to live. And how to die.
Seven, dubbed Sevy by my eldest daughter, was a most unusual and extraordinary cat.
photos by Aaron Schwartz and Marie Wilson