The Ninth Life

It wasn’t entirely unexpected.

Lucy’s health has been going steadily downhill. My cat’s age was listed as “mature” when I adopted her, eight years ago, and she has always had health problems since she was found in the woods with an infestation of ear mites that took both ear drums. I adopted her after she spent a year with the Humane Society. She lived with me in Africa, was micro-chipped for travel through Frankfort, shared guacamole with me in Amsterdam, and went camping in northern Minnesota. She has had a full life. But lately she has not been doing well.

Still, I was surprised when I came home Friday afternoon to find that Lucy was very ill.

She seemed to have had a stroke or something similar. One eye was unfocused, she could not walk across the room. When she tried, she walked in circles, around and around, crying. She was confused. She could not eat. I realized that I had better get ready to say goodbye to Lucy.

That night was hard. Lucy kept pacing, looking for something she could not find. She made Milo nervous. He would growl when Lucy started pacing over by his bed. (Milo will not be winning any Florence Nightingale awards.)

Lucy has never weighed more than six pounds, but now she was losing a lot of weight. When I stroked her back, I felt every vertebrate. She was fur-covered bones. The next day, she stopped pacing. She seemed exhausted. When I came into the room she would notice me and, looking off in slightly the wrong direction, she would meow. I sat by her and pet her and she purred loudly.

By the third day. I was making preparations. How would I know if she became too uncomfortable? Where would I take her if I woke up and she was dead? Living so far from my farmhouse, it made me sad that she would not be joining my other pets, buried together under the willow tree. My landlord, Robert, gave me the phone number of a kind and understanding vet who was open weekends.

“For when you need it,” he told me, and I thanked him.

The next night I sat up every hour or so to see if Lucy was still breathing. When I saw the tips of her ears move, I laid down again and went back to sleep.

The next morning, when I woke, Lucy was sitting on the arm of the chair, looking at me.
Her eye was no longer looking sideways. She looked at me and meowed. She jumped down and walked over to her food bowl, filled with dry food. She looked at the food. She looked at me. She meowed again.
“Okay,” I said. “You’re not dead and now you’re hungry.”
We started with liquid food from the vet. I squirted it down her throat with an over-sized syringe. Lucy liked it. Two days later, I put the liquid food directly into her bowl. She ate it all and demanded more. I replaced the liquid food with canned food. She liked that a lot and started putting on weight. Her sinuses cleared up for the first time in months. Her belly became round.

“Lucy, how many lives do you have left?!” I asked her this morning as she hopped off the chair and came to see me. She purred.

I am filled with admiration for Lucy. She is making the most of what certainly must be her last life. I figure I should do the same.
Till next time,
—Carrie

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