Thursday, June 16, 2005

The passing of Joe

It is very sad that yesterday we had put to sleep our cat Joe. Joe extremly unmangable and with my currant state of health we were no longer able to care for him. But it is my husband that wrote the Euology for him:

early in the AM:

My wife and I took our cat, Joe, to be euthanized today. He was 7. It was especially painful because there was nothing physically wrong with him. He had become aggressive to the point that we could no longer keep him in our home, and we could not find a suitable home for him. We had him on Prozac a while back, but with my wife's illness it had become impossible for her to wrestle him to the ground and give him the pills. I was never able to give him the pills. My wife has worked with animals professionally for years, and she says she had never encountered a cat less domesticated than Joe. He was hard to handle and very big and strong.

Over the last three to six months, he had grown increasingly more aggressive and territorial, and pretty badly beat up our other cats. The sad part is that the conflicts would normally begin as play and escalate out of control. Joe always showed signs of wanting to be part of the family. It just seemed that his instincts would get the better of him. He only wanted to be touched when he was in one of "his" areas. At those times, he was extremely affectionate. He loved to have his chin rubbed and his cheek scratched. When we had him on the drugs, he was easier to handle but was zoned out to the point of being unrecognizable and barely there. I've known mentally ill people who had been vibrant be reduced to doing the Thorazine shuffle, and that seemed a pointless and cruel thing to do to a life form who didn't have the capacity to know what was happening to him or why it was happening.

One of my wife's co-workers was bowling in Northeast Philadelphia one night in May 1998 when someone in the league came in with a litter of kittens that had been found behind the building. They were thought to be about 2 weeks old. My wife's co-worker took one, a boy, and bottle fed him. At this point my wife, a life long cat lover, had gotten me to say "yes" to getting a kitten to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. I thought that getting a bottle fed kitten was a bit out of our ability to deal with, but agreed that we would take him when he became able to eat wet food.

I was on a graveyard shift job, and my wife picked me up from work and told me that her friend had brought the kitten over that morning. She was slightly afraid to leave him unattended, but my job was close by and she was only gone for about 20 minutes. She said that I had to be careful walking in the door not to step on him, and to be prepared for how tiny he was.

We open the door, and this tiny little thing, maybe triple the size of an average mouse, had managed to climb on top of our couch (a BIG climb for this little guy) and was smiling and looking quite triumphant and proud. It was clear there and then that this guy needed a MAN'S name, something befitting his dignity! Mittens or Fluffy was not going to cut it for this hard core mighty beast. He needed a name with stature, testes, and butt kicking authority. That name was Joe!!!

It was immediately apparent that Joe was going to be on the rough side. He wasn't really big on being touched, but he loved to chase around this feather toy. He quickly figured out that the stick operated the string and started going for that. This was to become a motif that carried on throughout his life. He was very smart, and quickly figured things out. I cherish the memory of the night when we had him for about two months that he climbed on my chest and hung out with me and fell asleep, because I knew that wasn't going to happen a lot with him.

Right before we brought home another kitten (with whom Joe never got along) when Joe was about five months old, we were having problems with him biting. He was becoming quite strong and never got much more domesticated than a racoon, but he had a deeply affectionate side. He loved the bathroom, and picked, of all times, when I was seated on the toilet to come climb on my leg and rub his face up against mine. He did this for the remainder of his life. He lived in a total of five places and in each of them the bathroom was his territory. As much as I wanted to occasionally take a dump in peace, I am going to miss that greatly.

We got a third kitten after we moved to California. Joe was born in Philadelphia and had lived in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California. This kitten was (and is) an incredibly affectionate girl cat who took an immediate liking to Joe. She would come up and just plop down on him and rub her face all over him and give him a bath. One of the sad things that happened over time is that she eventually gave up on trying to be Joe's friend as he got more aggressive. Our remaining cats love each other and are pretty much a team. I just wish that Joe could have been a part of that. It seemed like he wanted to be but was instinctually incapable of socialization. It always seemed to come down to a fight or separation.

This turned out to be a really bad thing, because when he wanted to be let into a closed room by himself, he would start a fight with the other boy cat, whom he was much bigger and stronger than. He seemed to know that this would get our attention, and he would get his way just so the other cat wouldn't get beat up. Joe was very much top cat and the other boy very much bottom of the three. Even when he didn't start it, he certainly finished it.

I haven't slept a full uninteruppted eight hours in a year. He would wake me up two to four times a night wanting various things or to be let in and out of certain rooms. We had other behavioral issues where we couldn't just let the cats have the run of the house. We couldn't put them together in a room because Joe would beat everyone else up.

Joe had a history of biting throughout his life, so finding him a suitable home was impossible. We would have been OK with three cats in the place we lived in if there were no issues, but with Joe there was no place to put him to get any sleep and to deal with his aggression.

After all this, I still loved him and found it very hard to let him go. We tried drugs, segregation and separation into territories, a "feline behavioralist", food and water in more and varied places (this was unfortunately not possible to do with the litter due to the way the place is set up), and hope. Mainly hope that he would mellow with age. The opposite ended up happening, and he became more aggressive, while paradoxically becoming somewhat more affectionate.

I had posted about this a couple of months on a forum I frequent when it became clear that we were reaching the end of our rope with him. Many people offered words of encouragement.

My wife had become too weak through illness over the last couple of years to fight him over pills anymore and, frankly, my attempts to give any cats pills, whether Joe or one of our other, far far more compliant cats, have been somewhere between disasterous and comical. I can't stress enough just how violent and agitated Joe became when you tried to give him a pill, trim his claws, or do anything that involved having bodily control over him. It was like having a wild animal in the house with far greater strength than the average domestic cat and attempting to corner him.

My wife and I are both off this week, so we decided it was probably the best time to let him go. I had known for quite some time that this needed to happen for the good of all involved. No matter what we did, Joe was just never entirely OK, from the time he was a kitten. My wife pointed out that a dog with similar behavior problems would have been put down long ago.

I guess this made it a little easier. I felt that I had been entrusted with a life, a troubled creature but one with a deeply loving soul, and that I had failed him. Maybe if I had stuck it out one more day, or one more month, things would have turned around and he would have mellowed out and not been so disruptive.

There it is right there. I'm feeling like I bagged on one of the best friends I've ever had because he was "disruptive". Many people with far more experience with cats than I have said it was the right thing, including the vet. But a huge part of me still feels like I failed him.

On the way to the vet, he was freaking out like he always did when caged. Thankfully, they gave us some time alone in a room with him to let him relax a bit. Joe was a good guy and did not deserve to spend his final moments in terror. They came in, took the top off the cage to get access to him without having their faces torn off, and gave him a tranquilizer. He slowly drifted off. I was rubbing his chin and scratching his cheek, letting him know that he was a good boy and that it was OK. After about 15 minutes, the vet came in and gave him the final shot, and it was over.

I was totally unprepared for the level of grief I am experiencing. As I type this, 13 hours have elapsed since Joe passed and I am a crying mess for the fifth or sixth time today. Several of the humans closest to me have passed away in the last 22 years (both parents within a year and several close friends who left far too soon) and I have spent hours at those points trying to cry and having nothing happen. With Brother Joe, this hasn't been an issue. I am getting 30 minute waves of intense emotion every couple of hours, after the initial two hours of being a non-functional crying mess. We spent most of the day out after that first couple of hours, and when we came home tonight, it felt incredibly empty, even with two cats who love us and were happy we were home. I'm sure that will pass, as these cats are our family and give us a great deal of love. But there is a big hole right now.

Tomorrow (or today at this point) we plan to take the opportunity to go through our photographs and celebrate the good times we had with Joe. We got a nice box to put photos in a while back and we will finally take them out of the envelopes and put them in the box, while listening to music and celebrating Joe's life. For all the problems we had, Joe brought a great deal of joy into our lives, and I'm better for having known him.

I love you Joe!!!!! You are a good boy!!! Please find me when I pass from this life into the next!!!! I'd be honored to spend part of the next life with you as I have been honored to know and love you in this one!!!!


Blogger Naaman said...

Achromic, I'm so sorry for your loss. Pets are part of our family, even if they have twice the usual number of feet, and it's very hard to let them go.

My condolences.

8:28 AM  
Anonymous chasmyn said...

What a sweet, sweet tribute your Hub wrote.

It sounds like Joe couldn't have had a better home.

I'm so sorry for your loss.

1:20 PM  
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