Thursday night I was grabbing my camera to take a few shots of the sunset which was developing nicely outside the bathroom window. As I picked up the camera Christy got a call. Hearing only her side of the conversation I could only guess that someone died. I went about my snapping for a few moments before returning once the conversation ended.
Then the tears came.
I asked what happened and she said there was confusion. Her parents found him in the field across the road from their 40 acre property. To be more specific, they found him after investigating the area over which the buzzards were circling.
Both Christy and I were saddened at the news of his death, but Christy was especially broken up at the way in which her mother broke the news. She would be watching over her parents house for the weekend while her mother and father crossed the state for her paternal grandmothers funeral.
“You won’t have to worry about feeding Casey this weekend,” were her mother’s words. I’m not sure how I feel about them. I know that she doesn’t care for animals the way she used to, but using a phrase like that to announce to someone that their beloved pet has died is just this side of cruel regardless of your own feelings. Her mother hasn’t been the same since the brain aneurysm that left her comatose for 8 weeks and one of the areas that have suffered greatly seems to be her internal “filter.” She seems to have lost some grace in speaking in many situations and this was another example. I wanted to fault the aneurysm completely, but still wanted to slap her for making a horrible situation worse.
Through the continued tears Christy relayed to me how her parents had found Casey, and that there “wasn’t much left.” Because of that her mother said that they had no plans to remove him from the field for burial.
Casey was not my cat. Not in the sense that I cared for him as my own for his lifetime. However, Casey was the cat whose behavior around me caused Christy to call me the Cat Whisperer. Whenever I would visit he would come from the far reaches of the property to greet me, and I was the only person to whom he would call when he saw me. For that I am touched and grateful. He always warmed my heart especially when he’d come trotting to me and begin the figure-eight leg rub for which many cats are known.
Even though Casey wasn’t really my cat, I loved him. That being said, I was incensed when Christy told me that his body was going to be left in the field to rot, or be consumed by the carrion feeders who had already begun their attack. For me, for Casey, that would simply not do.
“Let’s go. I’ll take care of it. He’s not going to sit out in that field. I’ll bury him.”
The long ride out of civilization and to her parents was spotted by light chatter and attempts at understanding why her mom had been so rude and why their 20+ year old family members body was being abandoned. There were also jokes and retelling of stories involving Casey.
Casey was a perfect example of a cat with 9 lives. I know that he’d been bit by rattlesnakes and survived, been run over and left unaffected, and then more recently he was attacked by a rival male cat that left the barn a wreck and blood everywhere. The run in with the rival was earlier this year and while he survived the attack he, in essence, became an indoor cat. That he’d ended up in a field that he no longer visited for no apparent reason is still baffling.
When he had the scrap with the rival male Christy called me and was very worried about his condition. She told me that there was so much blood and parts of his face were “hanging off.” I told her I’d come look at him and do what I could to make him more comfortable, and was honestly expecting that this episode was his last hurrah. When I got to him wrapped up and sleeping on his couch he lifted his head and meowed and began to purr as I examined him. His scalp was a tremendous mess of dried blood and matted fur. Thankfully the piece of cheek that was thought to be hanging from his face turned out to be a chunk of cat food that had dried and been covered with the mess that now covered most of his body.
I listened to his heart and lungs with a stethoscope and all seemed well. His heart was pumping away as usual and his lungs were clear, although this was difficult to determine as his purring through the scope was quite deafening. Before using the scope I could hear he was struggling to breathe and found the culprit in his nostrils. A thick mucus was covering much of both of his nostrils. When not purring you could clearly hear that Casey was laboring to breathe. After clearing his nasal passages the sound was no longer present and the tension previously visible in his chest was absent.
Other than the cuts, mats, caked blood, and mucus he looked alright. Walking wasn’t easy and one of his rear legs didn’t seem to want to cooperate with the operation of the other three, but he was able to climb up onto his couch and rest. His left eye wouldn’t close, possibly due to nerve damage suffered from the wound on the top of his head, but he didn’t seem to be bothered. The eye remained wet as his inner lid was able to function normally. When sleeping he would just roll his head on that side so the outer lid was shut by friction. Something I find quite brilliant.
Within weeks he was back up and moving around, eating, and using the litter box, an action for which I was quite proud of him as most of his life was spent as an outside cat. After a month or so the only thing that reminded you he’d even been in a battle was the scab atop his head and the rear leg limp. Christy thinks Casey inflicted wounds on the rival that weren’t survivable and attributes Casey’s survival to my care. I’m not sure about either of those things, but am certain the rival was never seen again.
So having survived that episode, and the rattlesnake, etc. I was shocked that he would go missing for a day, or so, and only be found after he’d died. Perhaps it was just his time, but it seemed a lad that had survived so much would live forever or at least show signs of death far before he’d actually pass.
After the long drive we stopped at the end of the long driveway leading to Christy’s parents house.
“He’s across from the mailbox.”
The mailbox is at the edge of the road and is separated from the main property by a shallow drainage ditch on it’s west side. We weren’t sure if he was across the ditch from the mailbox, or the road. We looked at both spots, but it was growing dark and couldn’t find anything. Well, we did find something across the ditch but neither her nor I were able to identify it. It kinda looked like bleached partially digested shredded wheat, but it resembled nothing that had any business being in the field.
Because we couldn’t locate him we went to the house to ask her parents. We were told he was on the other side of the road from the mailbox and was farther east from where we’d already looked. When I asked for a shovel so I could bury him Christy’s dad made a face that I interpreted as an, “I’m not sure you want to see what I’ve seen” face and he asked if we were sure. I assured him that I was and he told me where to find a shovel and something that I could use to transport Casey. I’m glad that I’ve never had any issue with death and the sites and smells that accompany death. If I had had an issue I’m not sure I would have been able to help Christy and Casey.
I was pleased that by the time Christy and I picked up shovels and a bucket that both her parents had come out to assist. They showed us where he was and I retrieved his body. I don’t want to remember Casey only for the way he looked that final day, but he wasn’t as bad as I expected. When I’d heard buzzards, and “not much left” I’d expected to find a pile of fur at most. He was whole enough that identification was easy, but he was enough of a mess that I didn’t want Christy to see so I did my best to shield the view while I lifted him and placed him in the bucket.
I was also pleased that Christy’s dad helped me dig the grave. Not only because the dirt on their property is more roots and rock than dirt and the digging is difficult, but also because it seemed more like a family memorial. That helped me feel like maybe they weren’t the heartless cold bastards I’d wanted to bash with a shovel when I’d initially heard Casey was going to simply be abandoned.
We said few words while we dug, other than cursing at the horrid ground in which we were digging. As I placed Casey in the ground I think I said something along the lines of, “There you go buddy” but don’t really recall verbatim. We covered him and everyone remarked that they were glad there was a place where they could visit when they wanted to do so. “There’s Casey,” were Christy’s fathers words upon completing the task.
It was only after the “ceremony” that I made my way downstairs with Christy to embrace her and shed my own tears. I didn’t see Casey often enough, but will miss him tremendously.
Other than my deceased roommate, Sabreena, and my current roommate, Momo, no other cat made me feel more loved by an animal than Casey. And I feed Momo. Haha…