And now he's gone, too.
Really no warning this time. No hiding under the bed. No dicey vet visits to give us a heads up. One day, Reggie was fine, and the next, he just didn't want his entire plate of food. Usually, when cats are as sick as Reggie turned out to be, they stop eating, start vomiting, stop being able to walk.
Not Reg. We just thought he'd decided the food wasn't his favorite. He liked it enough to eat it, but not enough to finish it. After a few days of this, we took him to the vet on Monday afternoon. The vet examined him, found a benign growth on his jaw, and commented that he really looked pretty good for a 16-year-old cat and he didn't expect to see anything particularly alarming on his blood-work, which we were scheduled to get back the following day.
The next day, we received a call from the vet's office: Reggie's kidney values were sky-high. How he was still standing was beyond them. He needed to be brought in immediately for fluids.
We dropped everything and took him.
For two straight days, they pulled out all the stops trying to save him. Reggie was on anti-nausea meds and appetite stimulants, as well as a cornucopia of other drugs, each one prescribed to fix the side-effect that was created by the previous treatment. It's not the vet's fault--it's just that with cats, these things quickly become moving targets, and a bad medical situation can spiral rapidly out of control. One medical treatment gave way to another until by Thursday night, he was profoundly anemic. The vet wasn't sure he would even make it to Savannah if we made the decision to take him to the emergency vet down there. And even if we made it, our chances of a positive outcome were diminishing dramatically.
The decision was heart-rending, but it seemed like the right one. He lay on my lap, tucking his head into my inner elbow. We told him how incredibly important he is to us, how much we love him and how there would never be another Reg-Roo. We cried until our eyes ached. Then we let him go.
It feels almost impossible now. Reggie was supposed to outlive all the other boys in the crew. His appreciation of mush-time never wavered, no matter how many times he heard the song or how many times he ate Indoor Turkey and Potato. He licked us awake every morning, and snuggled between the two of us every night. At least, he did after some of the other buddies moved over and gave him room to be king of the hill for the first time.
Reggie did much better in the role of Big Brother than he had in the role of Little Brother. He was patient and kind with the younger buddies. His territorial marking all but ended once there weren't cats that were higher on the totem pole in the house. He was content just to get along with everyone, throwing out the occasional Zen-judo-master moves when Cooper wanted to play or hanging out with Coco on the bed when the other buddies weren't giving her the time of day.
It doesn't feel like he's really gone. Reggie was special in a way that would be hard to describe. If Wanda was the soul of the house, Reggie was the anchor. He was the one who kept everyone honest when the older buddies were alive, and grounded once they had passed. So much of our world had been crafted around him in so many ways, small and large, that we are a bit set adrift without him here. We come home at night expecting to see him sitting on the couch, eyes like a kitten, whiskers forward, waiting on us to sing the song and serve him mush. Sean's voice catches as he realizes again that he can no longer sing the special part of Reggie's song: "Reggie gets his very own mush, very own mush, very own mush. Reggie gets his very own mush so nobody else can eat Reggie's mush but Reggie." He created that extra part of the Kitty Mush song because Reggie had to be closed in a room to keep him from eating the other cats' mush, but this way Reggie got to feel like we were protecting his mush from the other cats. We know it's silly, but it was meaningful to us and I'm 100% certain it was meaningful to Reggie, too. We realized after the fact that Reggie had more special songs than all of the previous five buddies. Maybe more than all five put together. That's got to count for something.
Losing Reggie has been hard enough, but we realized as we continued to process his loss that by losing Reggie, we also lost ties to all of the other buddies who meant so much to us. Reggie was the last official tie to Elroy. He was the only one of this crew who knew the other cats when they were young, and the only one to live in six different houses with us. He was a cosmic string connecting us to our past lives with our buddies and leading us into the future with the new crew. The Fates have now severed that string, and we have to figure out how to move along without him.
Reggie's passing marks the end of an era. I remember having a fleeting thought when I was young and foolish about how surely having six cats would make the loss of one of them less painful than having only one or two and losing them. I had no idea what a ridiculous notion that was at the time. Having six cats didn't make the loss of any of them one iota easier. If anything, it compounded the loss because of the intricate connections between each one of us, and the fact that we all had to grieve one another, in our own ways and in our own time. Losing one of six doesn't make the pain one-sixth as bad as it could have been. It makes it six times worse than it might have been because each cat is so different and each one brings so many specific things into our lives and into the whole. It's the real reason I started this blog some eight years ago. The whole is much greater than the sum of its parts.
We'll make new memories with the remaining three--of course we will. Now they're like "The Buddies Eclectic: The Next Generation." I realized a few days ago that a more appropriate term for them might be The Boo Crew since we seem to call all of them "boo" these days. And this is absolutely not a referendum on which group of cats was "better" or who we loved the most. We love them all, more or less equally. It's just that the first six were really extra-special somehow, maybe because they were our first six. They were weird and wonderful and...well...eclectic. Maybe it's more about who Sean and I have become as people than about the cats themselves. This group is awesome and all, but the magic that was created when we eight became a family is not something that is ever likely to be replicated. We were blessed in ways we could not have imagined to have experienced the love of those perfect little creatures. And even the most remarkable, enduring things in life eventually have to end. We have to be okay with that.
We have to face the sad truth that Reggie and the original six Buddies Eclectic are no more.
Long live Reggie.
And long live the Buddies Eclectic.
|In Loving Memory: Reggie Dennis 2001-2017|