"Humph," I humphed. Who cared if the stupid cat liked me?
But I did care. I could see that Ted and Pascal had a special bond, and because I found myself liking Ted quite a bit, I knew that I would have to get his cat to somehow like me. Or at least tolerate me. Or at least stop biting me. I tried to woo her with treats, scritch her behind the ears as Ted did, but nothing worked. I gave up and decided we'd simply give each other a wide berth. Really, she was already 11, it wasn't like she was going to be around forever.
There really wasn't any one event that caused Pascal and me to raise the white flag and form a truce. No single act on my part or hers that allowed us to overcome our differences and jealousies--because yes, I was jealous of a cat--and form our own friendship. Pascal did not wake up one day and suddenly decide to leap up in my lap and lick my chin adoringly. It was a gradual shift. I think she slowly came to realize that I wasn't going anywhere anytime soon, and decided to accept it. We weren't friends, exactly, but there was no longer any animosity between us. We could sit together on the couch. She'd let me rub her head briefly or feed her a tidbit. No, we weren't friends, but we weren't enemies, either.
It wasn't until after I moved in with Ted that things changed between Pascal and me. Late one night, I woke up with her curled up on my pillow. I picked up my head slightly so that I could see her face, and she reached over and briefly laid her paw on my cheek before turning away and going back to sleep.
Stupid little furball had somehow wormed her way into my heart.
Pascal and I eventually fell into a routine. We always managed to wake up before Ted, and would creep down to the kitchen for coffee and Catsip, a lactose-free milk that she adored. Our conversation would go something like this:
Then we'd go to my office, flip on the computer, and she would sit purring in my lap while I checked e-mail.
Over the years the three of us--Ted, Pascal, and me--would establish a dozen similar routines. Naps on the couch. Burrito night, where I would pick out bits of carne asada and feed them to her while we watched a rented movie. "The Hall Game," where I would sit at one end of our shotgun hall and rub and scritch Pascal while Ted sat at the other end, calling her and calling her until she couldn't stand it anymore and had to run down the length of the hall to see if his scritches were better. Then I would try to call her back.
My favorite game was "Attack the Poofy Slipper," a.k.a. "Foot in the Belly," depending on who instigated it. In the winter, both Ted and I wear our thick sheepskin slippers. Pascal loved to walk up to one of us, throw herself on her side, grab onto the toe of our slipper, and rip into it with her back claws. Then she would stop, look up at us, and meow a question at us to see what we would do next.
Or one of us might say "Foot in the Belly" while Pascal was sleeping or lounging in the sun, and poke her with the tip of our poofy slipper until she went on the attack. None of us ever tired of this game.
It was last fall that we began to realize something was not quite right with Pascal. She wasn't eating as much and she drank a lot of water. We would find her drinking from our water glasses or from the toilet. She was slowing down quite a bit, too. We figured she was just getting old. Rather quickly, however, she stopped eating altogether. She would only want the gravy from her food or Catsip. We had just moved to my mom's house, and took Pascal to the vet up the road, sick at heart at what he was no doubt going to tell us. She was 17, nearly 18. Old, for a cat. But it was too soon.
He told us what we didn't want to hear. That Pascal was suffering acute onset, chronic renal failure. It had come upon her fast. A month before she was attacking squirrels on the deck, running like a maniac down the hall, and chowing on her dinner like a hound dog. And now she was creeping across the room like an old woman, and all she wanted to do was to sit next to us and sleep. In just a few weeks, she had lost half her weight.
The vet left us with few choices. We could let Pascal live to her natural end, unassisted by treatment, and she would live maybe a few more weeks. Or we could try aggressive therapy, bringing her in three times a week for fluid treatments, and maybe gain two months at the most. Or we could bring her home for a few days to say our good-byes and bring her back to be euthanized. We didn't want her to suffer and we didn't want to traumatize her with all those vets trips. We brought her home.
Those were the saddest two days. It was obvious that she was not happy. She would try to drink her Catsip or eat some gravy, but quickly lost interest. She started to hide behind my mom's rocking chair, or the bathroom door. I guess she felt safer. She couldn't get comfortable in my lap, but she was able to sit on Ted's desk. When she walked across a room, she would lay down to rest every few feet.
The last night she was with us, Ted and I placed her on the bed between us, stroking her head and telling her how much we loved her. We talked about the fun times we shared. And as I scritched her little, bony chin, I found it hard to believe that I had ever disliked this cat. And I couldn't imagine what it was going to be like without her. Pascal looked up at me, blinked her kitten eyes, and reached out a tiny paw to lay against my cheek.
I can't talk about what happened the next morning at the vet; it's still too painful. All I can say is that we brought her in, we were with her at the end, she was calm and quiet, and then she was gone.
It's been four months, now. We've been telling ourselves that when we're ready, we'll start the search for another cat. A home is awfully empty without a critter in it, isn't it? But how do you know when you're ready to bring a new animal into your home? How do you know when you'll be ready to accept a new pet for all her own quirky qualities, and not see her as a replacement for the love you lost?
We've begun to visit pet adoption shows in the area. My cousin fosters animals, and is at Petsmart every weekend, so we go there. And while we've played with the cats and kittens through the wire cages, we haven't picked up any of them to snuggle yet. So maybe we're not quite ready yet, after all.
I didn't mean to work myself into this sad state this evening. But yesterday, Ted sent me a link to the Garfield Minus Garfield comic spoof and it got me to thinking how big a hole Pascal's loss has left behind. How different our daily routines are without her in them. Now, if you've made it down this far in the post, let me give you something cheerier before signing off.
Here's the idea behind Garfield Minus Garfield:
Who would have guessed that when you remove Garfield from the Garfield comic strips, the result is an even better comic about schizophrenia, bipolor disorder, and the empty desperation of modern life? Friends, meet Jon Arbuckle. Let’s laugh and learn with him on a journey deep into the tortured mind of an isolated young everyman as he fights a losing battle against loneliness and methamphetamine addiction in a quiet American suburb.
Go to Garfield Minus Garfield for More