Say goodnight, Bunny.

Bunny came into the picture thirteen or so years ago, shortly after the loss of Big Kitty and Little Kitty, a couple of orangies who spent their whole lives so intertwined that only I could tell them apart by their slight variation in size.

But she wasn't Bunny yet - I'll get to that in a minute. The Humane Society was calling her Midget, an ugly and inappropriate name for what was by all accounts an unusually striking - and averaged sized - cat. Besides, everyone knows they like to be called "little cats."

My sister and niece came over to meet her, as much to let me know they cared about my life as to ensure this kitty would not end up with a name as ridiculous as her predescessors', Big and Little, had been. And Colleen refused to leave until the name was officially bestowed.

Suddenly at a loss for conversation, an event that thirteen years later has yet to re-occur, we sat awkwardly, silently, waiting for inspiration to strike. Emma asked to go home. Bunny, for her part, leapt about the tiny apartment, easily clearing the living room in one or two jumps.

At long last, Colleen broke the silence. "She hops like a Bunny," and we all agreed that she did, indeed. So henceforth she was Bunny. Bunnycat. And sometimes even Bunbun, although she would kill me for admiting that.

And what a Bunnycat she was! She ripped holes in the neighbors' screen doors, let herself in and made herself at home. She had cat parties while I was out - I would come home from work to a living room full of her feline friends. A couple of them crashed at my pad for so long, I eventually let them move in.

Several months ago, Bunny became quite ill. Nothing specific was ever identified - maybe just age. And although she made it through the initial episode, she was never quite the same.

She quit climbing the stairs and took up residence on the sofa. She let the other cats cuddle her. When my sister came to visit, she reluctantly settled in beside her and allowed herself to be petted.

Always a neat cat, Bunny stopped grooming. She lost her appetite and although I coaxed her to eat bits of chicken and cheese, she lost weight, and I began to wonder just how much she was suffering.

Like all pet owners facing a big decision, I wondered what the right thing to do was, when the right time was. And just when I'd decide that the time had come, Bunny, in her contrary way, would do something that surprised me, and my resolve would weaken.

The holidays came and before the tree had been up a day, the scent of Noble Fir was draped in the scent of something else - something rank and earthy. I checked the litter box. Nothing there, so I began to look around. And there it was, behind the tree, evenly spaced between the curtain panels because Bunny was nothing if not detail-oriented. She got that from me.

I think it was more an act of resignation - as if she supposed the tree would do since it was inside anyway - than a commentary on seasonal festivities. But I can't be sure. She was a very opinionated cat.

And as I lay on the floor, wedged underneath the tree, Clorox wipes in hand, dry heaving because I forgot to breathe through my mouth, I realized that no amount of hand wringing was going to restore Bunny's health and quality of life.

So a date was set. An appointment was made. A loss was scheduled for 3:45 pm, Saturday afternoon. I spent the better part of the day petting her and she repaid the kindness by not making too much of a fuss when I put her in the carrier.

In the waiting room, she sat quietly, nuzzling my fingers through the carrier door, until Dr. Nagell and Ninah, the very people who first examined her when I brought her home from the Humane Society, called us in.

The whole thing was over in a matter of minutes. And while there were a few tears on my end, Bunny took it like a champ. Dr. Nagell walked me out to my car, sparing me the indignity of toting the empty carrier, hugs were dispensed, and it was done.

Did I do right by Bunny? Was it the right time? I don't really know. I don't even know that there's an answer to those questions. And you know what? It's okay. Because we had a great run, Bunny and me, a good thirteen years of friendship. And I can't ask for anything more than that.

P.S. Sorry if there's cat pee on your Christmas present. As usual, Bunny had the last word.

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