Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Clyde. He arrived about a month after we bought our house in Clarkdale, in February 2001. It was a few months since we'd lost our wild woolly Raoul, in Jerome, where he was killed on the highway in front of our apartment by a fast moving car.
(Raoul,1998, Jerome AZ)
As freshly minted homeowners, with a yard of our own, and finally recovering from our mourning for Raoul, we agreed to take this young cat named Clyde (he came with the name). The Jerome Humane Society said he needed "special owners" as he was getting himself into trouble where he lived, with an elderly lady/Veronica Lake lookalike in leopard print jumpsuit, in Cottonwood's Verde Villages.
He'd been getting into scraps with wild creatures and nearly lost his tail in a battle. We'd made a poster commemorating Raoul and had posted it all over Jerome. The kind folks in Jerome remembered the poster, and tracked us down. Soon this beautiful creamy colored flame-point siamese mix was in our living room. He was just under a year old.
Clyde was kinda wild at first, but soon mellowed into a lovely pet. We kept him indoors because of Raoul's death by car, and also the abundance of coyotes in our edge-of-the-wilderness neighborhood. He came to us with a history of scrapping with wild critters, so we wanted to protect him from future dangerous encounters. Sometimes we'd walk him on his harness and leash, or leave him hooked up on it, on a lead, in the protection of the yard. We kept his harness in a end table drawer by the door, and when we opened the drawer and pulled out the harness Clyde would come running, and hop up in the table, ready to put it on and go outside.
In 2002 the wacky Veronica Lake looking lady came over to visit her Clyde. She was eccentric in a most amusing way. Apparently she had a daschund named "Regis" that Clyde liked to play with. She also said "He likes coffee. See if I say 'coffee-coffee-COFFEE' he looks. Lookat 'im. He's licking his lips!" We repeated that phrase for a year, chuckling. (Footnote: Clyde has never asked for a cup of coffee.)
Sociable and mouthy, Clyde liked other animals, and on the times he escaped the front door we'd nearly always find him on the next block with neighbors who had several cats, dogs, and a pot-bellied pig named "Chuckie". He seemed lonely for some company.
In 2003 I did something crazy and impulsive. I stopped for a sign that said "Chihuahuas 4 Sale". Clyde could have easily killed tiny 24 ounce puppy Floyd, but he didn't. Clyde, with all of his claws in tact, and pointy fangs, could have made a quick end for my rodent-sized puppy. But he didn't. In fact he loved Floyd like he was his very own pet. Always gentle and playful with him, teaching him manners as best he could.
The next year we ended up with another dog, Ivan, and though Clyde was never as fond of Ivan as he is of Floyd (he mainly liked bopping Ivan on the face or batting his butt and waking him up from sleep), he was good with him too. Clyde was indeed the king of the house, and the dogs both answered to him on just about everything.
Clyde was always in the same room with all of us. We would sometimes joke how all 5 creatures of our house, canine, feline, and human, would sometimes be inhabiting the same 5 square foot space, snuggled up together. A very happy lil' arrangement indeed!
In early 2011, around the 10th anniversary of us buying our house in Clarkdale, Clyde stopped eating. He stopped pooping. He didn't jump on our bed anymore. He got very quiet. We took him the the vet and were crushed to learn that he was going into kidney failure from something called Polycystic Kidney Disease.
The veterinarian said this was something genetic he's had since he was a kitten, and there was nothing we could've really done about it. She also didn't know how much longer he would live. We took him home. It was like "hospice" care, being fed liquified mix of baby food and special kidney care formula in a kitten bottle, being injected every other day with subcutaneous fluid between his shoulderblades to help flush the growing toxins from his blood, groomed with wet washcloths, and brushed by me, as if he were a baby and I was his momma.
We'd always fed Clyde the best most expensive holistic organic meat-based feline diet. He drank filtered water and got premium treats. We even brushed his teeth and got him dental care from the vet. He was kept safely indoors. We did everything right, everything you're supposed to do. We certainly didn't think he'd be dead at age 11.
Losing Clyde was like losing the last 10 years of our life. The foundation of our life in Clarkdale was built on his back, and with him leaving us it was like he was taking 10 years of our lives with him Like the end of an era. A door forever shut.
After we found out he was dying, we let him outside into the yard every day, because he didn't go much farther than the front porch or the shady grass. He enjoyed basking in the sun, and loved our field trips to the Verde River. First time I'd heard him meow in weeks.
There were a tough few days at first, right after his diagnosis, when we were instructed to flush him with IV fluids twice a day. It was daunting all the needles and the tubes and the medical equipment.We didn't think he'd live through the night. He seemed groggy, drunk, uncoordinated.
Then, we were allowed to cut down the fluids to once a day, then every other day.
He suddenly seemed to get a little bitty bit sparkier, clawing on logs in the yard, and climbing on the couch to sit by the dogs. Some days he almost seemed to show a wee glimpse of his old self.
Taking him to the river was a fantastic time machine. He'd roll in the sand, walk the trail, meow, claw at trunks, almost like his old self.
Vet follow up report said his blood numbers were better, but still terrible. Where they used to be off the charts, higher than the machines could even read, a week later they were merely "very high". He was maintaining, moving, drinking water, peeing in the litter box, looking out the window. And still hanging out in the same room with all of us, maybe hanging in there a little bit longer.
As it was like we'd already mourned his death, any extra day we got with our Clyde was bonus points.
"As long as he wants to be here with us, he can be here with us," we'd say.
On March 14th, 2011, Clyde took his last breath in the sunny tall grass and shade of a yucca in our yard. The vet came to our house and gave him an injection to put him to sleep. I had my hand on his chest as his heart took its last beat. Clyde didn't fight the doctors, or me, he just lay still and quiet. And then he was gone.
Despite a few steady weeks (and even some glimmers of hope he might make a comeback--like a sudden reinterest in eating food in his own), in his final couple of days, Clyde took a turn. He lost all interest in everything, food, water, us. He was suffering it seemed. Crying. Green snot in his eyes and nose. His mouth and tongue were suddenly full of ulcers. He would just hang his chin in the water bowl and not drink. If nothing else bothered him, I was certain that his mouth was bothering him and it was cruel to prolong the inevitable. All the life was fading from him. He even lost enthusiasm for going outdoors, which had been something he had always really enjoyed. Time had come to say a final goodbye and let him go. We were hoping we'd just wake up to find him peacefully curled up dead somewhere in a favorite spot, but this is not the way it went. We had to make the call.
His exit was very peaceful for him, though of course we were bawling our eyes out. We foolishly thought we'd already done all our grieving, when we first found out he was dying. But we were wrong.
Clyde is buried next to our eucalyptus tree, in a grave Chad spent all day digging. Chad made him a custom built coffin out of two shoeboxes. In his coffin: a tiny pillow for his head, Verde River clam shells, Sedona red earth, Mexican beach sand, big basin sage, kitty post cards from his pin up gallery, favorite toys, locks of our hair (including the dogs'), and a polaroid of Floyd and Ivan. Lisa gave me some daffodil bulbs to plant in the grave, and we set them right above him.
After the vet left, we said our last goodbyes to Clyde and Chad positioned him in his cardboard coffin, ready to lower into his grave. We let the dogs out into the yard to pay their last respects. Ivan was kinda clueless, and gave a perfunctory sniff before trotting off elsewhere, but Floyd was very concerned and intense. It was really touching my heart seeing Floyd, sniffing Clyde's head and ears, and watching him so intently as we closed the lid on him. Floyd seemed almost like he knew what was into going on and seemed very affected by Clyde's death.
"Of course," Chad said, "Because Clyde raised him."
Sad day, but peaceful and special.
As we carefully shoveled the earth back over Clyde's grave we joked about the crazy cartwheels and somersaults he used to do. And how he would always fall asleep on his back, legs up, not a care in the world. Clyde, you were the best cat ever.
Beautiful boy, you will be forever loved.
Thank you for the 10 wonderful years of affection, noisy wake up meows, entertainment, humor, and devotion. His memory will live on in paintings, photographs and the tales we tell.