We lost our little buddy this morning…

It always amazes me how attached we get to animals…while we use them mostly for food, we still end up becoming extraordinarily attached when it comes to our pets. And early this morning we lost our little buddy. His name was J.B., which contrary to those who believe it had something to do with Jim Beam, was short for “Jungle Beast,” front part “Fierce.” He received that name, if I remember correctly, the first time he ran in terror from a spider in the bathroom.

Little sucker was, at least seemingly, fine until last Monday. While he did have a bout of something last month that resolved quickly, he’d been “normal” (assuming that word can ever be used about a cat) until then. Granted, he didn’t chase Martians as often as he used to, but then he was getting up there, and like me not quite as active as he was a decade ago. More, including the obligatory photos, after the jump.

Last Sunday, he seemed perfectly fine. 10:30 pm or so he started his nightly ritual, following me around screaming for his dinner (it was the convention that he got his wet food feeding at 11:00pm – he had all the dry he wanted in his bowl all day, and frankly he snacked on cat treats and human mealtime donations all day long). Monday morning, he seemed tired and stayed in bed longer than usual – ok, let me rephrase, he didn’t get up for his litter-box-and-drink break between naps at his usual time. He burrowed himself under the covers of our bed (his routine was to sleep on top of the covers), and by Monday evening I was wondering why he didn’t get out. By 11:00 pm Monday, I was becoming concerned, and by 12:30 am Tuesday morning when we still didn’t hear anything from him about dinner, I was flat-out worried.

Tuesday morning he went to the vet’s; had a fever, was listless, a bit dehydrated, a staggering gait, and low blood sugar, so they decided to keep him overnight with some hydration and antibiotics. Since they were managing him, I was able to go down to Washington D.C., although it was a little odd not to be bugged at 11 for dinner.

Wednesday, we received a call from the vet telling us he had taken a turn for the worse; he was not regulating his temperature, and even with a glucose IV his blood sugar levels were low. Last evening, after Katie came home from school, we went up to visit him and discuss his condition with the doctor…it was painfully clear to me that he wasn’t going to get over this one, and the physicians were actually a little confused as to what would cause the low temperature (around 95-degrees with a heating pad) and the low blood sugar (as a non-medical-professional, I can’t figure out where the energy produced by the breakdown of sugar was going, since it clearly wasn’t to movement or temperature regulation).

After consulting with the physician, the three of us, and yes, “we” included Katie since J.B. was her “older brother,” decided to bring him home and make him comfortable for whatever time he had left. We planted him in bed under the heated blanket, on top of a small heating pad set very low and “blue pads” all around; we were able to raise his core temp to 101-102 between the heating blanket and our body heat. We made a makeshift mount for his IV bag above the bed, and ended up using diapers to keep him comfortable (he would become agitated when his bladder let go…little guy hated having his fur wet, and being on his death-bed didn’t mean he was going to put up with that).

He slept fitfully between us, and early this morning, started to moan softly and have difficulty breathing. Annie and I stroked him gently, as his body shuddered with a mild seizure, and then his breathing slowed, and stopped.

I’m not sure what I think about all this; I mean, of course, I’m sad that my little buddy is gone, and I’m even sad I won’t be annoyed by his constant crying in the evenings for his dinner. But on the other hand, he lived a good long life (outliving his siblings, at least those I know about), and was pretty healthy until the last three days of his life…even then, he didn’t seem to be in much pain, and he didn’t need to die alone in a sterile veterinary hospital with a water bottle his only comfort. Not that I’m a big fan of dying, understand, but if I could choose a way to die, this doesn’t seem the worst choice one could make.

Still, he was a knucklehead who could infuriate or amuse, depending on his mood (and mine), and I am going to miss him terribly. A few photos – as always, click the thumbnail for a larger version…

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If I can find it, I’ll edit this post with the first photo of J.B. we ever took…his six-week-old flea dip. Poor thing looked like a drowned rat, and I’m pretty sure he decided then and there he had been kidnapped by a couple of morons who didn’t know better than to wet a cat…

Edit: My desire for accuracy in all things requires me to point out that the analog picture to which I refer above is not the first photo I took of J.B. When we drove to Ohio to pick him up (it is a long story I will cheerfully explain sometime, when I tell the backstory of Pixel), I took photographs of the four brothers playing in a large kennel, and running around on Rebecca’s floor. Those were the first pics, the ones at home were the following day.

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5 Responses to We lost our little buddy this morning…

  1. louie johnson says:

    Charlie, you have my deep sympathies for your loss. I lost my best friend, Snooky, on December 22 07. She came to me as a stray on the first day of 1998 so we were together not quite 10 years. She was a tough Maine Coon cat, and her purpose on earth was to teach someone who never saw the value in having a cat around that cats are incredible therapists. They amuse, confound, and comfort us all for the price of a chin scratch and a bowl of food. I was devastated by the loss (my eyes are tearing up as I write – me, a cynical, cranky, aging OTR fan crying?), but yesterday I brought home a successor – not by any means a replacement – from our local animal shelter. I met her last Friday and she was spayed on Tuesday. I’d followed all the directions to create a comfortable space for the newcomer, planning to wait ten or twelve hours until she’d feel the urge to explore. One hour after arriving home she left the open carrier, helped herself to food and water (they told me she wouldn’t be hungry for a day or two and would probably hide for a long period), filled up the litter box, toured the apartment, climbed onto my lap and let loose a full-bore purr. Later she followed me to bed, and settled down next to me for the entire night. The room full of cat equipment has gone virtually ignored – just part of the cat’s inclination to keep us guessing. Your loss will eventually become less painful, and there are lots more in the shelters who’d appreciate being J.B.’s “successor”. Allow yourself the grief and then prepare for another adventure.

  2. Charlie Summers says:

    J.B. wasn’t our first cat…this story really deserves a blog entry of its own, but until I have the time I’ll write the Cliff Notes’ version, as we flashback 17 or 18 years…

    I hate cats. I don’t dislike them, I despise them. They are demanding creatures that get their fur into delicate electronic parts, without the benefit of at least a bark. So of course, my wife decides she needs a cat, and I do like her, so we agree to get a cat. There are many, many restrictions placed on the arrangement (the little monster does not enter my office, it doesn’t sleep with us, etc., etc.) and we acquire a cat, the six-week-old runt male of a litter sired by a stray to a friend’s pet.

    When we pick up this ugly piece of fur, it’s a Friday night (my memory says Dallas was on that evening, but I can’t guarantee it). We rush home, and I plop down in a chair to watch television (and studiously ignore the unnecessary creature). Annie opens the pet carrier, and leaves the thing out to roam around the room. It walks in a halting gate, and approaches my leg. Then it grasps my pants and begins to climb!

    Understand, I look on this with the same horror most would if it were a tarantula…I am literally paralyzed with loathing for this small thing that presumes to use me as a ladder. He climbs painfully to my lap, then grasps my shirt and continues his climb! I am literally apoplectic, and my wife is waiting fearfully for the angry explosion clearly imminent.

    The beast climbs to my shoulder, silent all the while. He literally looks at me look at him in revulsion, then spins once, sticks his furry little ear inside mine, and promptly falls asleep.

    We were inseparable from that moment to the day he died a little more than a year later, of the FeLeuk I didn’t know he was carrying while he used my body as a step-stool. He was named Pixel not only after the monitor dot, but after Robert Heinlein’s The Cat who Walked Through Walls, for his uncanny ability to be in whatever room I was in, seemingly without requiring anything as pedestrian as a door. If I were sitting in the living room, he would be there, probably in his chair asleep. If I went into my office, he would suddenly be there, asleep on the floor.

    We also did tricks together, tricks even a dog couldn’t handle without years of training – but then, it’s always been an open question who trained whom, considering all of our tricks required both of us.

    There’s a whole lot more I could say about Pixel, and sometime I need to write a long blog entry about our single year as best buddies, but I only tell this much to make one small point:

    J.B. had it easy.

  3. bexn says:

    Charlie, I’m so sorry to hear about J.B. It seems like only yesterday that you drove out to Perrysburg to get him! JB had a long and wonderful life with you guys and I know you enriched his life as much as he did yours. I’m sure he’s been welcomed into heaven by both Kung Pao and Tigger. I hate to think what trouble the three of them have already stirred up! You are your family are in my thoughts.

  4. jwidner says:

    Charlie, sorry to hear about J.B. I understand your feelings completely as about 10 years ago, our cat – Sherlock (the stalker) – had to be put down after being with us for nearly 20 years. His was mostly age, but it was me who had a difficult time making the decision to agree to have him put down. He had been “my” cat and tolerated my wife, who in his final weeks did more caretaking than I could bring myself to doing as I watched this “old man” valiantly try to be with us.

    Non-pet people just don’t seem to understand.

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