"A dragon lives forever but not so little boys/Painted wings and giants' rings make way for other toys/One gray night it happened Jackie Paper came no more/And Puff that mighty dragon he ceased his fearless roar"
I'm writing this less than 24 hours after having to make the decision that the next breath was too painful for Mr. Max to endure and his quality of life was likely not to improve much. I choked back the tears as I looked into his eyes one last time as the vet administered an overdose of an anesthesia as Max gasped for air. We had one last week together at home after he spent a week in the intensive care unit, and specifically in an oxygen cage/tent as a fluid in his lungs that was diagnosed as cancerous meant his time was very very limited. (The first time I visited him in the ICU he was facing away from me and as I turned him around there was a tear in his eye. The vet reassured me that it probably wasn't from pain or sadness but an effect of the extra oxygen. Still I was devastated)
I brought Max home thinking we might have a night or two left together. I was lucky it was a bit more. The first night back I stayed up and watched his every breath and couldn't help but think of the past 12 years we spent together. He was weak and food, his lifelong love, no longer interested him so I had to feed him through a tube in his nose. Away from the stress of a foreign environment his breathing did indeed get better and there was even one evening while he was lying on my chest that he began softly purring.
We had an extra week. But I knew I was postponing the inevitable. And now he is gone.
I don't want to turn this into an ode for a beloved pet because I've done plenty of that in the eleven year history of this publication. Every pet owner thinks their pet is special and though I like to think Mr. Max had an idiosyncratic personality unlike any other, he was a cat and he did cat like things. He liked to lay in the sun and minus that he would sleep most the day by a heating vent. He loved two things- he loved his meals and he loved having his belly rubbed. He fascinated me. He amused me. He educated me. He kept me company. He comforted me. Now I have to find the way to go on with just his memory inside and not the warmth of lying next to him each and every night.
"His head was bent in sorrow/Green scales fell like rain/Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane/Without his lifelong friend Puff could not be brave/So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave"
When I was a wee lad my parents gave me a collection of 45s. I played those songs over and over and though there were many I loved from "Yellow Submarine" to "Funiculi Funicula" from "I'm a Lil Teapot" to "A Little Bitty Tear" my favorite without a doubt was "Puff the Magic Dragon." A dear friend (the one who was kindhearted enough to accompany me to the vet) has accused me of liking sad songs. At the risk of confirming her perceptive suspicions perhaps it all began when I played "Puff" over and over. The song is about friendship, about growing older, growing apart and eventually about loss. Tonight it is the only song I can listen to. Jackie Paper had his Puff, Sherman had his Peabody. I had my Max.
Every Saturday night for the past eleven years I have put together this newsletter. And while working on just about every newsletter Max would be off in the other room, looking out the window or sleeping in my bed. He would inevitably get up and decide he would check to see what I was doing. He would peak his head around the corner and usually saunter on over and hop up into my lap. Yeah it was hard typing with a drooling kitty between me and the keyboard but I didn't mind. I don't know how long it's going to take for me to stop myself from looking around the corner for my friend.
I already miss how whenever I got home Max would greet me at the door. Sometimes he would meow, other times if he was particularly hungry or anxious about the amount of time he was left on his own he would bellow. Other times he would look to see who was entering and seeing it was only me, nonchalantly turn and walk away.
At the risk of sounding like one of those old gray ladies living with 65 kitties I must say that Max was one of the best friends I've made on this planet despite the difference in species. He understood me to the extent that no matter the day I had or the phase I was going through or through my many different moods he knew just what to do to forever melt my heart. I treasured every moment and loved him dearly.