Friday, August 21, 2009

Still not there yet

I'm getting better, but I won't say I'm OK. I'm still not over what happened with Gretchen. What I did to Gretchen.

I know. People keep telling me not to beat myself up over this, not to blame myself for what happened. But you know what? It was my fault. As far as I know.

But there are some things that don't add up.

What was she doing there? Her presence under the chair isn't completely bewildering; after all, these kittens spent their first few weeks under an overturned wheelbarrow, and probably associated hidden cavities with safety. But what was she doing so close to me? Truth be told, she didn't even like me. She would always run away when she saw me, and never let me get close, unless she was asleep.

And she was asleep most of the time. Or hiding. That's why she was able to go more than thirty-six hours without us being certain she was missing.

That's the other thing. Mostly Gretchen hid, or lounged. My mom has quite a few pictures of her lounging around, usually with Rachel and sometimes one or more of the other kittens by her side. Never running, or jumping, or playing. I remember her playing in the early days, but not lately.

In fact, the first time I can recall seeing her in a long time was when I pulled her lifeless body out from under the lift chair. My, she's gotten big, I thought.

That wasn't my first thought. As I raised the chair I thought Please let me be wrong. As I spotted her and pulled her out I thought Oh no oh no oh no oh no. And as I held her cold, lifeless body, stiff but already loosening up as the rigor mortis was leaving her, I thought She looks like a dead frog.

She didn't look dead, exactly. I watched Rachel as she napped today, and first she had the classic curled-into-a-ball pose, and then she had the classic just-got-hit-by-a-bus pose. Gretchen's body was in a "Sphinx" pose, all four legs tucked neatly at her sides. Her head was not crushed, and her neck did not appear broken, as far as I could tell. But I didn't look too long. She had been dead for quite a while.

You may be wondering why we didn't notice she was missing right away. Remember that last Tuesday I had just come back from working night shift, and immediately prepared to take my mom for a medical procedure that would leave her mostly incapacitated for the rest of the day. We came back some six hours after we had left, and both of us immediately took naps. Mine was only two hours long, because that afternoon I was going out to meet some friends.

The next morning I discovered I had locked Peaches and Rachel in this room overnight. At some point someone had pooped on a protective plastic sheet. It took a while to clean up that mess, and the smell.

The rest of the day I spent mowing two lawns. It was only late that evening after I had gotten everything accomplished for the day that my mom expressed a concern that she still hadn't seen Gretchen....coupled with a concern about the increasingly bad odor in the parlor, which we assumed had been the result of me not thoroughly cleaning up some poop someone had made behind the couch the day before.

It wasn't.

Things are different without Gretchen. All of the kittens seem friskier, more playful. Rarely do any of them lounge or hide for extended periods. Even Rachel will come and watch me at the computer.

Was something wrong with Gretchen the whole while?

Could Gretchen have been hiding under the chair because it is a natural instinct for animals to hide when they are dying?

Could Gretchen have been dead before the chair came down?

Could Gretchen's time and place of her death have been in no way the result of the time and place of her death?

I said I shooed away the cats before I lowered the chair. I believe it was Rachel I shooed away. Rachel and Gretchen were often together. I have wondered why Rachel wasn't with Gretchen under the chair. Maybe she was? Maybe they were both there, and only Rachel got out and ran away? Even if she had just shifted her position back by a few inches she would have been in a wide open space under the chair. It's not like the chair came down in any hurry, and it's not like it doesn't make a huge racket of hums and creaks and groans as it moves. Maybe Gretchen couldn't shift her position and couldn't run away at that point because she was already dead?

I don't know. I'll never know. There was no post-mortem on Gretchen's body, which is now buried nearly three feet down near the wheelbarrow where she was born.

Tomorrow - well, later today - I was to take Gretchen and Rachel to the vet's for a follow-up visit. Maybe we would have discussed Gretchen's lethargy, her anti-social behavior. Maybe some condition, some disease, some something could have been diagnosed and dealt with.

We'll never know. Tomorrow Rachel will go the the vet's, and Bowie will take Gretchen's place. And, God willing, we will see how healthy they are.

I am so sorry for what happened, Gretchen. Even if I didn't cause you to die, I'm sorry I wasn't able to save you.


hedera said...

This is better, you're starting to think. It's been years since I lived with cats, but I lived with a lot of cats, and the behavior you describe isn't normal for a kitten that young. Do talk to the vet; I don't think that level of lethargy was normal, I think you had a sick kitty, who may very possibly have died under the chair all by herself. Things that happen at the same time aren't necessarily causally related.

joy said...

DB...From what you just described, Gretchen probably died of natural causes. Had the chair crushed her, there would be NO DOUBT that it killed her.

Todd HellsKitchen said...

Some things are just meant to be... Peace, buddy!

Stroudsburg High School Class of 1974 said...

Hi DB, sorry to hear about G. I had a good time last night -- good to meet you and the others.

anne said...

Harold, in my experience with animals, lethargy is never a good sign. Yes, babies do a lot of sleeping, but they will make up for it when they are awake. A youngster that is lethargic has something going on health-wise. Even an adult animal will usually have a brightness to the eyes when they are healthy but just tired or resting. Dull eyes and listlessness are the first signs something is going wrong.

I have way more experience with this than I wish I had. But, truth be told, I never appreciated just how delicate life is. It's one thing to raise a pet or two, but taking on these kittens will teach you so much more.

A book you might want to consider picking up - Dr. Pircairn's Complete Guide to Natural Health for Dogs and Cats. It has some great information about in it and you can at least have something to work with for those times when something goes awry on a Friday night. Because animals never have emergencies when the vet office is open.