Wednesday night he started sneezing, repeatedly, but I didn't think anything of it since he's always been a bit sneezy. Nothing abnormal happened afterwards. Thursday night he didn't eat anything, was acting really lethargic and the membranes around his eyes had started to swell up, kinda like how cats do when they have a bad head cold. It was after hours so I resolved to take him to the vet in the morning.
That night, he was so weak he didn't even sleep in the bed, just on the floor on a blanket as close to me as possible. I took him in to the vet Friday morning as soon as it opened. He was so weak he could only put his front paws in the litter box instead of crawling all the way in.
When the vet finally arrived at the animal clinic, he thought Sebastian might have a genetic heart defect called cardio myopathy (in which the muscles of the heart are overly large, compressing and limiting the size of the heart chambers) but needed an echo cardiogram to confirm it. He could have started treatment immediately, but we wanted to be sure that that was the problem. Had it been cardio myopathy, he would have led a very restricted life and a shorter one than normal even if he had responded to the medication.
The closest place that could perform the test was Memphis, so I took him up to get it done. I was afraid he wouldn't even live long enough to make it to Memphis. I watched him deteriorate so fast, like he was dying in front of me, weakening to the point that he couldn't even stand, his back legs flailing to push himself up again. He mostly slept in during the trip, but I kept checking him every minute to so to see that he was even still breathing so that I didn't pull up in Memphis and hand them a dead cat to scan. It was the worst car trip in my life. I kept the carrier on the front seat with the door open, one hand touching him the whole way.
He perked up a little when we got to the clinic in Memphis. The test showed that there was nothing at all wrong with his heart, which ruled out cardio myopathy. So I went straight back to the vet here and he figured that Sebastian probably had a pulmonary embolism, which had formed in the heart and lodged in his lungs. He was having severe trouble breathing, even open mouth breathing. Back at the Oxford vet, Sebastian seemed to have improved, if not greatly, at least some. He was walking a few steps at a time. The doctor kept him overnight to observe him and give him some more laesics (sp?) to help with the fluid on his lungs.
But when I was getting ready to go in and see him this morning about eight, the doctor called and said he'd passed in the night, sometime after 2AM which was the last time a nurse came in to check on him and give me more laesics. He had been a little sick when I first got him from the shelter, but other than the occasional sniffles, he was never really sick again. He got sick, faded, and died all within the span of twenty-four hours. What makes it worse is that he died all alone, in a scary place with strange smells, when he could have been here with me and zordac and Izzy. I would have slept with him, on the floor, or pet him until he stopped breathing.
We buried him at Jimmy's parents' house in Fulton at 10:45 AM. He was one and a half years old. The vet had wrapped him in a garbage bag and a scrub coat.
I couldn't bury him without holding him and seeing him at least once more, so I unwrapped him and tore a small hole in the bag near his head. I kissed his face and rubbed his nose and ears. He was already a little stiff, but he still looked like himself, or at least the himself that was near-death when I'd seen him the night before.
Even after I wrapped Sebastian back up, I couldn't stop petting him, his elongated, muted shape. We buried him at the back-left corner of the house, under some small trees and vines, next to two of Betty's (zordac's mother) cats, Sugar and Brownie.
I put the long plastic stick from the cat-fishing pole that was the first toy we got for him and Isabelle. It used to stick with a suction-cup to the coffee table and dangle a little plush fly and bell. Even when he was too big to play with it normally, he'd eat the string and bat the fly pieces around the house.
I also put in:
- an old green Coca-Cola bottle cap that he had played with since about the time we got him
- a package of catnip toys that Brooke bought him yesterday
- a little red faux mouse he loved to play fetch with
- a bundle of Q-tips bound together with a twist tie which he used to steal from under the bathroom sink or the trash cans and drag around the house or bat around the bed when you were sleeping and lose them in the covers to be found again at the end of the day when you crawled back in to sleep
- a sleeve from the plaid polo button-down shirt that my daddy gave me in junior high. I didn't add this because Sebastian liked it but because it was a piece of me, a piece of my life that I loved, just like Sebastian.
- a handful of McDonald's french fries. He was the only cat I've known that liked to eat them, but not, of course, before he toyed with them.
I brought along the last remaining piece of the catfishing lure/fly that went with the plastic stick above, nothing more than a few twists of plushy wine-colored fabric that was still crusty from his saliva or frequent dunks in the water bowl. I meant to add it to the hole with him, but it remained hidden in the toybag until after the grave was covered, perhaps a sign that I should keep it with me, to remind me of him, not that I need any reminding at his point. I put it in my pocket.
zordac dug the hole, which Sebastian was almost too big for (I remarked that he was such a big boy without even thinking) and covered it with a sheet of metal and a tire to keep him safe until the ground settled around him. It helped a little, to put him in the ground, like it gave it an element of finality, conclusion, so I could grieve yet see an end to my grief, someday.
He wasn't very old, but I loved him like he was my child. I don't think I will ever know another cat as perfectly humored, loving, affectionate, talkative, trusting, playful, loud-purring, constantly-ready for attention or holding or food-begging. He was never in a foul-mood, never angry, and slept with his tongue sticking out on occasion. You could roll him around like a ball and rub your face in his belly and twirl your finger in his tail, which was striped like a raccoon's and as long as the rest of his body. He loved to ride on shoulders when he was little, and he was always nearby, if not right next to me, every moment I was in the house, which was often since I was rarely gone. Everyone who met him knows how wonderful, remarkable, perfect he was.
And I can't stop crying because I miss him desperately. I worry about Isabelle, because she's never been away from him. I adopted them together; they were in the same cage. I also worry about myself and my ability to handle grief. What's to happen if I lose a person I'm close to? He's brought so much happiness into my life, and I've made my life better since he came into it.
Goodbye, Sebastian, my buddy-buddy. I love you so much I don't want to let you go.
"There are no mistakes in love..."
In the office, where he often slept on the monitors or between our two keyboards:
Asleep on his favorite puff-ball with Izzy:
Christmas 2003 with their new water fountain from my mother:
Chilling watching television in one of his normal poses:
One of the last pictures I took of him, watching an enormous flock of blackbirds outside: