Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so.
Holy Sonnet #72
We rescued Mosie from a suitcase, literally, where someone had stuffed her, claiming she was “feral and violent and dangerous.” After my BF, who did animal control work at the time, donned protective clothing, including welder’s gloves to keep from being bitten and clawed, he unzipped the suitcase, and jumped back. He expected the worst. He waited. He thought the violent cat might have killed itself in a frenzy inside the closed suitcase in the locked bathroom. Either that, or she’d been suffocated. He took a step toward the case. Cautiously.
Up popped the most adorable black cat he’d ever seen, sitting there ever so calmly, wagging her tail, and meowing to him plaintively.
“That’s no feral cat,” he said as he removed his gloves and protective gear, so as not to frighten her, and motioned to her. “Come on, Kitty. Come on.”
She did, purring like a little motor-boat as he petted her, rubbing against his legs, going easily into the cage he’d brought. He covered the cage with a blanket, exited the bathroom, took the $100 fee for “capturing the dangerous and violent feral cat” from the woman who’d hired him, then yelled at the woman for shoving a cat into a suitcase and locking her in a bathroom.
He was supposed to take her to the Shelter to be euthanized, which is the law with dangerous feral animals who bite, scratch, or otherwise attack people in an unprovoked manner.
Instead, he opened up the can of cat food which he’d brought along as bait, lifted the cage door, and offered it to the cat. Purring, she stepped out of the cage, ate the food (“As if she hadn’t eaten in ages,” he later told me), curled up on the seat of the truck next to him, and went to sleep.
That is how Mosie came into our lives.
We named her Mosie, from the Navajo for “Cat”, because we were set to move West the following month. The vet pronounced her healthy, shaved her belly to find that she’d been spayed, and got her immunizations up to date. As soon as she got home with us, she promptly took a taste out of each of the bowls of dry food — our buffet — then came over and thanked us by purring and rubbing her forehead on our ankles. When she met the other cats, she stood patiently as each smelled her, then she kissed them. After that, the romp began: running, playing, chasing each other.
“Feral cat, my tuches,” said my BF. “More like a poor little Suitcase Cat.”
That became our nickname for her. Mosie, our little Suitcase Cat.
She was always one of the most delightful, affectionate, non-aggressive cats we had ever met. She was so good at the Vet’s that she would walk out of the carrier and onto the baby-scale for her weight. She knew the routine. She was as clever as she was sweet. And for the last, almost eight years that she’s been ours, she’s been completely healthy.
This January, she began experiencing some strange health problems. Her teeth were bleeding and there was a mass under her tongue. The Vet suspected cancer, but the biopsy came back “Benign.” Since the teeth on one side had exposed roots, the Vet extracted them, changing her diagnosis to FORLs, a dental disease — not cavities — where the enamel eats away at itself instead of rebuilding. Unless the teeth are extracted, the disease attacks the jaw and facial bones.
In February, her left eye looked strange. Its pupil was fixed. Open. I thought she’d had a stroke. The Vet thought she might have gotten Toxoplasmosis, a virus carried by rodents, to which cats are constantly exposed in their litter boxes, but which they rarely contract. (Though our cats do not roam — because we live on a mountain where there are wild animals — there is a roofed kennel attached to the house: they can go outside, but only into the kennel. A mouse could have gotten into the kennel and left feces there; the cats could have inhaled the virus, which would go through their systems and be excreted in the litter box.) Cats, even those who do not roam, are constantly exposed to the virus unless they never leave the house, but they rarely contract it themselves.
Unless their immune systems are compromised. She tested Mosie for Feline Leukemia, though we’d had her tested before we ever took her home and put her with our other cats, and for Feline Immuno-Deficiency Virus (FIV), the equivalent of HIV in humans. Both tests came back negative. The Vet feared that, though she had assumed that Mosie came through the teeth extraction surgery “like a trooper,” it may have weakened her immune system. She prescribed eye-drops and strong antibiotics. Mosie seemed fine thereafter, though her pupil was permanently open. If she were human, she would have been considered “legally blind” and would no longer be able to drive: she could see light, dark, shapes, movement, etc from her L eye, but had to turn her head to see details.
Like the corned beef we offered her every time we gave her a dose of those nasty antibiotics.
All this time, Mosie continued to slowly lose weight. However, as she was on a diet, and the weight loss was slow and steady, we were all proud of her, including the Vet.
Four years ago, when we first moved to this house on the mountain, which is surrounded by Juniper and Pinon trees, she began sneezing and got a sinus infection (as did two of our other cats). Mosie had never had any allergies after we moved to New Mexico. Until we moved to the house on the mountain. The Vet at that time (who is, no doubt, no longer a Vet due to her extreme incompetence and terrible bedside manner) decided Mosie has asthma and put her on steroids. Mosie’s weight went from 15 to 25 pounds in 3 months. Her “asthma” didn’t stop until the Juniper stopped blooming. Exactly the same time our own allergies stopped, and the other cats stopped sneezing. We took her off the steroids and changed Vets.
In the last two years, Mosie has lost 8 pounds. Good work for a cat. Especially since we refuse to restrict food for any of our cats. They’re all Rescues, many had been found, starving, by the side of the road, and we simply will not feed them only once or twice a day. Their food is always available. None has an eating disorder. The Vet suggested more canned food, which Mosie really didn’t like, since that would help her lose weight (higher carbohydrates in the dry food).
So the fact that Mosie continued to lose a little weight over these last three months was cause for celebration, not alarm. The Vet wanted her back at her original 15 pounds, and she was down to 16 pounds, 11 ounces. She was doing better than most people who try to lose weight.
However, even at 15 pounds, Mosie’s face was always round. Now, though, her face seemed to be getting gaunt, while her belly seemed to be ballooning. But her weight was still going down. I pointed these things out to the Vet during one of Mosie’s follow-up eye exams, asking if she thought Mosie was “bloated.” She laughed. “Mosie’s just fat and needs to lose that last bit of weight,” she said, patting Mosie on the head, then bending over and kissing her.
Last Tuesday, at a follow-up exam for Mosie’s eye, to see if we could take her off the eye-drops, the Vet asked, “How long has Mosie been breathing like this?”
Since the night before. She was sneezing, too, so we’d assumed that allergy season had started.
The Vet took an X-ray. Mosie’s heart was slightly enlarged and moved to the right side of her chest. Very odd, even if a cat is in heart failure. Furthermore, her trachea was curved to the left. Odder still. She gave her heart medications and a diuretic, to eliminate excess fluid from her chest cavity. Mosie did not improve. In fact, she seemed to worsen.
By the weekend, we were convinced she was going to die. She seemed dazed, disoriented, and very confused. She couldn’t breathe, despite the medications, and we had to carry her to the litter box and put her in it to prevent her from having accidents. She stopped eating and drinking.
That is always a bad sign.
On Monday we took her in, though her follow-up appointment wasn’t till Tuesday with our Vet, and after a Partner-Vet listened to her breathing, he said he agreed with our Vet’s revised diagnosis on Friday: that Mosie might have some lung inflammation that was causing the heart failure, not vice versa. He gave her two shots of fast-acting steroids, to make it easier for her to breathe, and told us to keep Tuesday’s appointment with our regular Vet.
Mosie improved dramatically. By late that afternoon, she could breathe relatively easily. She ate, drank, purred, talked, came to my BF when he called her name, when he held out his hand and wiggled his fingers (a signal we’ve taught them to come get pets). We were so relieved and excited, I foolishly tweeted about it all over the place. On inhaled-steroids, Mosie might have another year. We were deleriously happy.
Then, it all just stopped. No eating. No drinking. But, strangely, no hard breathing.
I couldn’t sleep. I was awake all night. I decided to write a blog about revision, which people have been requesting, so I wouldn’t cry all night. Mosie was beside me most of the time. She was breathing so quietly that several times I put my hand on her to make sure that she was still alive. She was, but she was noticeably cool to the touch. Around 3 a.m., she got off the bed and went to the litter box. On her own. When she didn’t come back, I woke my BF and asked his help getting her out (my back had become sore from carrying her back and forth all weekend).
There was blood on the floor.
When he took off the lid of the covered litter box, we found Mosie inside, lying there. I lifted her out. My BF released a string of obscenities, an attempt, I think, to articulate his extreme distress and confusion, since he kept repeating “poor Mosie” throughout.
The litter box was filled with blood.
Mosie was covered with it. Crying and very confused, we cleaned her up. She never once protested. Her breathing was fine. We lined the bottom half of the cat carrier with soft warm towels and laid her in it, like a little clubhouse, so she’d feel slightly confined and safe. Her breathing was still steady, easy, and good.
But Mosie didn’t answer when we talked to her. She didn’t even look at us. She was completely unresponsive.
And so she remained.
Until she died.
The Vet was shocked. After she heard about the blood, she said she believed that the original pathology report on the mass under Mosie’s tongue, though it had gone away with antibiotic treatment and teeth-extraction, had been wrong. She believed now that it had been cancer, and that Mosie had at least one mass in her chest, which had moved her heart to the right, curved her trachea into a C-chape, and was causing her breathing difficulties (though, after the two steroid shots, her breathing was easy and quiet until the end). She also believed that her distended belly, which her Partner-Vet had commented on the day before, was a sign that Mosie had more than one tumor. The blood was either from a burst tumor or because Mosie’s bowel had ruptured; she was guessing it was the latter.
That accounted for Mosie’s increasingly cold body temperature. Internal hemorrhage. Plummeting blood pressure. It also would be the reason Mosie was completely unresponsive. She was dying.
We’d already figured that part out ourselves. We just didn’t know why.
We lost Mosie on Tuesday morning.
At least she was breathing easier that last day. And we got to have one final afternoon with her, when she was happy, loving, purring, and eating all the corned beef and whipped cream she desired.
We were with her the entire time, as I’ve promised all the cats we’ve rescued: “You’ll never die alone. I’ll be there with you.” So far, we’ve been able to keep that promise. We don’t intend to ever intentionally break it.
No one should be alone when he dies.
Not even a Suitcase Cat.
(Antony’s “Hope There’s Someone”), followed by John Donne’s Holy Sonnet # 72, in case anyone wants to read the entire thing.)
Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so,
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow,
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure, then from thee, much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and souls’ delivery.
Thou art slave to Fate, Chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy, or charms can make us sleep as well,
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.