Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Baby Boy, 200? - August 3, 2016

Romeo, Baby Boy, and Hershey, the three animals we inherited from the neighbor when she died.
As of this writing, August 3, 2016, only Romeo is still alive.
We lost another cat today. This was one we inherited from the woman next door when she died back in 2011. She had given him the appalling name of "Baby Boy," which we kept, though I mostly called him "Mister Baby Boy."

I don't even know how old he was - at least 11, possibly as much as 14. Her husband died in 2001, and she had gotten herself some pets in subsequent years - first the pug Columbus (died in 2011, possibly causing the downward spiral in her physical and mental health that led to her death later that year) and the chocolate lab Hershey (who died in June of 2015), then the cat Tinker (ran away, presumed dead), the longhaired cats Romeo (still with us) and Juliet (died sometime prior to September 2011, when her mummified remains were discovered) and the tuxedo Baby Boy.

I had met her cats, though most of our encounters took place through a window. My first meeting with Baby Boy took place in the weirdest way. It was perhaps sometime in 2009 or 2010. I was on the phone with a friend, in my basement, when for some reason I looked up and saw a cat staring down at me from the rafters. "What are YOU doing here?" I asked. I caught him, and dropped him off at the neighbor's house. I have no idea how he got into the house. He may have slipped in while the garage door and the door into the garage were both left open at the same time while someone was packing out some stuff.

The neighbor actually turned the cats out of her house sometime around then, possibly even before he found his way into our house. After she went into the hospital in September 2011, never to return, we brought them back into her house while we were taking care of Hershey. After we moved Hershey into our house, we brought over the cats, too, though both Romeo and Baby Boy had habits of escaping back into the Great Outdoors. Romeo stopped doing that fairly quickly, but Baby Boy kept it up until he had a tussle with the local feral Tabbies, an encounter which left him with his scalp sliced open. (It healed quickly with daily applications of Neosporin, though the eyebrow whisker on that side never grew back, making him look like a lopsided Martian.)

He had the most striking eyes. That was the thing I noticed when I saw him looking down from the rafters. They were a yellow-green almost exactly the color of glow-in-the-dark stuff glowing, or the color of a firefly's light. I saw that glow for the last time today at the vet's. When the vet brought him back to us wrapped in a blanket after he had been put to sleep, the light had gone out.

Baby Boy seemed to have the worst reaction to the fireworks this past Fourth of July. He came to bed with me, something he had dome sporadically before Hershey died, but only rarely since Nikki died. He was panting hard and his heart was racing. He slept on my head, and by my side, and on my back, and on my hip.

Other than that I did not observe any major change in his behavior until recently. He continued to come to me during my morning ablutions for his treats, something he had been doing since long before Nikki died. But in the last week he had been coming back to bed with me, showing the same sort of restlessness and panting and racing heartbeat he had shown on the night of the Fourth of July.

In the last few days he had been panting even during the day. At first we thought it might be because he was hot - temperatures have been in the 90s lately. Then we wondered if maybe being near the air conditioner had brought on respiratory issues. He eventually moved from his perch near the air conditioner to a cool bar covered in linoleum - kicking off everything that was already there.

Today was the first day of my "weekend." After I made breakfast, fed the cats, and did all of my other morning routines, I Googled the phrase "cat keeps panting." The information I found online was not encouraging. In short: if this is a real issue, it will not get better on its own, and even with treatment, the prognosis is very, very poor. My mom observed his tongue-out panting today and decided to make an emergency appointment with the vet for 3:20 this afternoon.

Baby Boy was calm - and not panting - as we got ready to take him to the vet. He didn't complain much when I put him in the carrier. He stayed calm as I set the carrier on the lawn to make room for him in the back seat. He didn't cry until my mom got into the back seat with him. But the whole way up he has perfectly calm - no panting. He didn't pant as we waited to be taken in for our appointment until I took him out of the carrier to hold him. After I put him back, he didn't pant until we took him out again for the vet tech to do a preliminary assessment.

The vet saw us at around 3:30 and quickly took Baby Boy in for X-rays. He confirmed that the panting the last few days was a symptom of fluid filling up Baby Boy's pleural cavity, making it increasingly difficult for him to breathe and for his heart to pump. The prognosis was grim: imminent death, possibly any minute, probably before we could get  him back home, certainly within the next week, or an extremely expensive procedure involving a tube into his pleural cavity to drain the fluid, followed by an extended stay in an oxygen tent, followed by imminent death.

When the vet tech brought him back from the X-rays his condition had worsened drastically. His breathing was audibly labored and seemed to be through liquid. His tongue was turning blue, and a few times he just lay on his side and stretched his legs out while gasping. The decision to opt for euthanasia was emotionally wrenching, but as his condition rapidly deteriorated we realized it was the right one, and the only one - unless he didn't last until the procedure.

He did.

He's gone now, and we'll have another box of ashes to add to the stack next week.

He was a good boy, a nice boy. He got along well with the other cats. He loved treats in the morning, and would often jump into my bed to wake me up if he thought I was sleeping too late. In addition to his striking eyes, he had the hilarious habit of lying on his back with his legs in the air, prompting the question "Baby Boy, are you dead?" How ironic that that question is now a happy memory of a cat who has died.

"O, I die, Horatio."
"Ummm, my name is Hershey. Can I eat your treats?"

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