Friday, February 6, 2009


I wind up posting about my doggies a lot, but today's post is devoted to one of my five cats (no, I am not a crazy cat lady - five cats is what happens when two cat lovers combine households).

This picture is of me with Arthur, who is the first pet that I acquired after I starting living on my own. I'll never forget the night in January 1998 when one of my law school pals called me and said, "Hey, do you want a cute 3-month-old black kitten? I have one sitting on my lap right now who needs a home." My friend and her housemates on Capitol Hill had taken in a mama cat who had given birth to five kittens, and this one was the last to need a home. I'd been wanting a cat of my own for a while - I'd been living on my own without one for five years - and it was right around my birthday, so figured that there was no harm in at least going to look at my friend's kitten. But before I did that, I went to PetSmart to get a cat carrier, kitten food (wet and dry), food and water bowls, a litter box, kitty litter, and a scoop - not that I had already made up my mind or anything. . . .

I lived downtown at the time, so I drove up to
Capitol Hill on an icy night to look at the little black kitty, and he stole my heart immediately. His mama cat, Ebony, clearly was not pleased when she realized that I was taking her last baby, so my glee was mixed with guilt as I left my friend's home and drove toward my own. When I finally got back to my apartment and saw this little bundle of shiny black-coated, kitteny joy romping around my apartment, I forgot the guilt and experienced unadulterated happiness. I called my mother to tell her I'd actually gone through with the adoption, and we discussed some potential names. I wanted a real boy name but not something on the top-10 baby names list. At some point my mother said, "What about Arthur?" "Hmmm. Arthur. That's pretty good," I said, at which point the little kitty looked at me. So I stuck with Arthur as his name. (Although I didn't know it at the time, this was the beginning of an "old Jewish man" naming theme for all of my subsequent pets).

Arthur was sweet as a kitten but he also was hell on wheels. He climbed the draperies from top
to bottom, shredded the couch, and for a while liked to pounce all over me when I slept. Luckily, for us both, I let him live through kittenhood and he turned into a pretty mellow young cat, but as he got older he decided he didn't really like any humans other than me. All guests to my apartment, and later my house when I moved to Arthur's home turf of Capitol Hill, received a mandatory "Arthur warning" upon entering. "He will come up to you and rub against your leg like you're his best friend, but no matter how strong the temptation DO NOT PET HIM!!! As soon as you reach your arm toward him HE WILL SHRED YOU!!!" Most people quite sensibly gave him a wide berth after a warning like that, but some of my hard-core cat loving friends just could not help themselves. The most notable of these was my friend HSA, who actively invited Arthur to shred her and took to calling him "the shiny wicked guy." "Shiny and wicked" was a description that stuck (it sounded better than Darth Vader, which was what I tended to call him when he got in one of his moods), and I still describe him as such today. He is one handsome shiny black dude, even though he can still be wicked at times.

I think that Mr. Shiny and Wicked probably delayed J's decision to
move in with me, in part out of fear for his own safety and in part out of fear of what might happen to his two cats. I promised J that all the cats eventually would work things out just fine, although there probably would be a period of fur-flying and weird yowling sounds, and I argued strenuously that J would be safe if he became The Food Guy. The cats integrated far more quickly and peaceably than my fondest hopes, and after a few weeks of being The Food Guy, J no longer walked half way around a room to avoid Arthur. After a few months of being The Food Guy, J actually made friends with Arthur. But Arthur continued to have dominion over all the other cats, and the dogs, too, for that matter. OK, I admit it, Arthur is the alpha-creature of the entire house, even the humans, although he lets us keep our blood in our own veins because he realizes that we are his devoted servants.

Arthur is now nearly 11.5, and J and I have noticed that he has been slowing down a bit over the past couple months. Two weeks ago he was leaving us evidence of pretty bad urinary tract distress, so we took him to the vet and got meds for that. Although Arthur stopped leaving the evidence after he finished the meds, this Tuesday and Wednesday a.m. he didn't eat much and he walked around our house extremely slowly looking like he was stoned. I was worried that he had a UT blockage and so took him to our usual vet first thing on Wednesday a.m. on an emergency basis. He was not blocked, but an x-dray showed fluid in his abdominal cavity, which was evidence of a much bigger kind of problem. We spent half the day yesterday at South Paws Veterinary Referral Center (a very impressive place) seeing an internal medicine specialist to try to find out what was going on.

It turns out that Arthur has cancerous tumors throughout his entire abdominal cavity, including in his bladder (which explains why he was leaving us all the scary UT evidence). It obviously is too late for a cure or even a life-prolonging treatment, so we are giving him prednisone and subcutaneous fluids to see if that will at least bring him some comfort for whatever time he naturally has left. The vet said that some cats do really well with this kind of palliative care and get a few more quality months, while for others it does not work at all. J and I now are in the unenviable position of monitoring Arthur carefully to determine when enough is enough -- although I will miss Arthur terribly when he goes, I don't want him to suffer needlessly for even one minute for the sole point of delaying my own grief.

This morning Arthur ate fairly well and moved around OK - slowly, but without any evidence of pain - and he seems to be hanging out comfortably with the other cats. He's staked out one of the dining room chairs as his safe spot, and Thomas, who was my second cat and is Arthur's best cat pal, will not leave Arthur's side and has taken up residence in the adjacent chair. The other cats, and even the dogs, are hanging around the dining room a lot, too. They all know. In fact, I think that Jacob the dog has known for a while -- he and Arthur have traditionally been neutral toward one another, but about six weeks ago Jacob started going up to Arthur on a daily basis to sniff and lick him. I thought it was sweet, but a bit odd, when I first observed it, but in retrospect I think that was Jacob's way of acknowledging Arthur's condition and starting to take care of him.

Now we're all taking special care of Mr. Arthur and will continue to do so for as long as we can keep him comfortable, and we are preparing ourselves for the inevitable day when that will no longer be possible. Last year, as I watched several of my friends lose their beloved pets, I thought to myself how lucky I was that my oldest cat was only 11 and should have lots more time. Shows you what I knew. These last three days have been a stark reminder for me of how unpredictable and tenuous life is and of how little I really control. I suppose that if there is a bright side to this situation, perhaps it is receiving a reminder of some of life's inevitable truths.


Barbara said...

Animals don't last forever unfortunately. I'm sorry Arthur is so sick, but I'm sure he knows he is loved and he will live out his remaining days in the peaceful presence of all his loved ones.

Reya Mellicker said...

What a beautiful tribute to an amazing animal. I'm so sad he is folding in his wings, so glad for him that he has you and J and the other cats around.

May we all live so well and die surrounded by beings who love us.

In the meantime I am sending much love, warmth and healing in your direction.

tut-tut said...

It is hard to live with a pet who is dying, but keeping them safe, warm, and comfortable is mostly what we can do. My lovely Cuter Lee died in my arms on the way to the vet. But before doing so, she bit me one last time . . . she knew where she was headed.

Arther, like all black cats, is a superior being. You never know, in any case.

AryaShaya said...

The Bodhi-Tree under which Siddartha Gautama attained Nirvana, liberation from the cycle of birth and death and became Buddha, the realized one.
According to Buddhist teaching, ‘Buddhahood or unchanging wakefulness of mind is at the heart of every living being, this very awareness is the essence of life, it is beyond birth and death. But to be born, lays inevitably to the suffering of sicknes, birth and death.
Compassion for everything that lives is the basis of a path through this life a through our death.
Death is a natural transition.
~The Tibetan Book of Death
Dear Adrianne, your blog add, The Bodhi Tree really fascinated me and your philosophy and your words touched my soul or something in me. You are indeed a Compassionate being.
Arthur must have performed good 'karmas'

Adrianne said...

Thanks to you all for your kind words. Tut-tut, I wish you could have met Mr. Arthur -- I can tell that you would have understood him perfectly (and probably not minded a claw or two in the arm). (: )

karen said...

this made me so sad, but what beautiful words about Arthur... I'm a devoted cat person, too, so have been through all this before, and often vowed Never Again, only to be "found" and owned by a new cat again!!

About Jacob - it reminds me of something I saw on TV not so long ago, about dogs being incredibly sensitive to the presence of cancer, and some being actually trained by medical researchers to be able to find cancer in humans, from urine samples... it was amazing to see.

Sending you warm, african thoughts :-)

Reya Mellicker said...

Love the new icon - it's the you of this lifetime, gorgeous, vivacious and fantastic. Yeah!!

Adrianne said...

Karen -- thanks so much for your kind words and warm thoughts. I, too, had heard of dogs that can "sniff out cancer," and I think that my Jakie boy might well be in that category.

Reya, my Reya -- I debated long and hard about using a picture of myself as the icon (meant to talk to you about that yesterday but totally forgot). I'm so glad that you approve of the choice. (: )

e said...

Your story is heart-wrenching, particularly as I lost my oldest cat, Samantha, to cancer almost one year ago.

I think all cats are special creatures and the humans who are lucky enough to have been adopted by them have been given a gift.

Your dog and the other cats will give Arthur the love and caring needed to make his transition. He is fortunate, and so are you.

Interestingly, as I'm writing this, my black cat, Phoebe, is up on the desk and appears to be following along...You might let Arthur and the other pets know they have a friend or two here...

Cynthia said...

I also had a beautiful black cat, Mione, who went through a similar process. He's gone now but is remembered with so much love.

This is my first visit over to The Bodhi Tree. Btw-We have two ficus religiousa on our property in Puerto Rico. Before we moved to the mountains, I came here on a meditation retreat and participated in their chanted blessing by the monk who lead the retreat. Since then they have grown taller than the house and have shinny green heart shaped leaves.

I hope you feel comforted in these final days of Mr. Arthur's life.

Teri said...

I came to visit your blog from Cynthia's OWL blog, because I read you had a kitty that was ill. I am a vet tech at an all cat veterinary hospital and your post telling us all about Arthur just made me smile, through the tears, because it lifts me up to know there are people like you out there, who's special animal companions mean the world to them and they will go that extra mile for them.

While the diagnosis is grim, you now know that every day you have with Arthur is a treasure, that kisses on his forehead, and whatever else you do to show him your love of him, will be made into special memories that will remain in your heart forever.

As you said, life is tenuous and unpredictable. I used to spend a lot of times on what if's and making plans for inevitable scenarios, but after losing my husband unexpectedly to an aneurysm, I came to the realization that we really can't control as much as we think we can, all we can do is put one paw in front of the other, and go on.

I will visit your blog again, as another animal lover is a good friend to have.

Teri and the Cats of Furrydance

Val said...

ah poor Arthur - poor you - so sad when this time goes but a time to celebrate howmuch happiness you have shared. `its good you are giving him reiki - it will help ease this time for him.

if you want to play the word game your letter is F - i hope you like it xx

Gloria Ives said...

So hard,
we are blessed to serve them
as we do, and to peek into their minds
and learn a thing or two
I can't imagine life without them
but it's true they have a course
as do we
and something to teach
or quiet comfort to bring
but a purpose to serve
and a memory to make.
He knows he's been blessed, no doubt.