Monday, August 16, 2010

Good-bye, Sweet Friend

On Saturday our sweet 17-year-old cat, Partner, had finally had enough.
For the past two weeks we had watched his digestive system shut down, despite the medicine we were giving him for that issue. He was hungry and he ate a lot, but nothing came out the other end. He was in a lot of distress. So first thing Saturday morning we called the Rio Cucharas Vet Clinic across the road from where we are parked and asked if we could bring him in to be put to sleep. The receptionist said to come right on over.

We knew it was right for Partner. This is a medical issue he has been struggling with for over two years. In fact, we bought enough medicine from Walgreens that he even had his own prescription discount card. You can read about that here. Enough is enough. Once weighing 13 pounds or more, he was nothing but skin and bones at 5 pounds. He had virtually lost his desire to go outside and lie in the sun, let alone chase bugs and chipmunks as he used to do for hours at a time. Often he didn’t even want to sit in my lap or be petted. That used to be a staple of each morning. As a youngster he was a determined protector of our back yard, chasing intruding cats up and over our 6-foot wooden fence, without front claws. Recently, he occasionally fell just trying to jump up on the footstool of my recliner.

So we drove to the vet’s office. I hugged him close while the vet gave him a shot of anesthetic and he went to sleep in my arms. John and I cried, I hugged him and petted him, then laid him on the towel-covered exam table. I left the room and John stayed while the vet gave him another shot, then we spent some time saying good-bye to our sweet little cat. He looked like he sometimes did sleeping in the sun outside our trailer. We knew he was at peace, no more pain and discomfort. Now it is John and I that are not at peace.

We adopted Partner 17 years ago next month from the Dumb Friends League in Denver. We already had PC, who also came from the Dumb Friends League. We felt he was probably lonely since we both worked all day, leaving him home alone. Then we closed him in the basement each night. So we adopted someone to be his friend and companion. Thinking of the movie Paint Your Wagon, we named him Partner. We were shocked when we brought Partner home. This tiny, five-week-old kitten that had a cold made our mellow, laid-back PC hiss and spit. It took a while before they became friends.

Although PC was older and larger, as Partner learned his way around, he was the aggressor, the alpha-cat. Only when they were riding in the truck with us did PC demand his rights and claim the center console as his place in the truck. Partner often sought out PC to sleep with—and on. Most of the photos we have taken of the cats have been ones of them sleeping together.

Partner lived with us for more than one-third of our married life. Seventeen years is a really long time. How long will it be before I stop expecting to see him at the door when we return to the trailer? Or look under my chair before I put my feet down to be sure he isn’t underfoot? Or miss our walks outside as he led me around wherever we were parked? Or get over wanting him in my lap every morning?

When you take a young animal into your life, you watch them mature from infant to teenager to adult. Then you have to watch them get old and geriatric. As difficult as that stage is, maybe the hardest part was realizing we are closer to that than we would like to think. It helped us to be patient with all the problems that come with aging cats. We felt we were operating a feline nursing home. Could we be the kind of care-giver we hope to have when we reach that stage? I’m not sure we always succeeded, but I do know PC is loved and Partner was loved each and every day he lived with us.

We are making a donation to the Denver Dumb Friends League in Partner’s memory. If you love small animals you might be interested in supporting this great facility.

Now we appreciate your reading my blog post about our beloved cat’s death. But this may be all you want to know about him, and we understand if you stop reading now. The post is quite long because we are using Blog2Print to create our annual scrapbook of life on the road. So we are putting into words here many of our memories of Partner.

When we first adopted him, he was tiny and he had a cold. We had to give him medicine with and eye dropper. His eyes were matted and he barely moved. Two days later, as we left for church he was so sick we were afraid he might be dead when we came home. John prayed for him during Mass. When we got home, he was much improved! The first time we took him to the vet, we were told he had a heart murmur and that might cause problems later in his life. Saturday, when the vet put a stethoscope to Partner’s chest, he looked up and said, “He has a heart murmur.” John said, “Yes, he’s had that all his life.” Obviously, that was never a major problem.

The first time we couldn’t find Partner, he was just a kitten, maybe four months old. We had a lot of family over to meet Eric’s new fiance, Liz, and Partner didn’t like all the noise and people. We searched and searched. Liz finally found him huddled in a corner of the coat closet. He had run in when then door was open, and then was trapped when it was closed.

Several times we had to search the neighborhood for Partner…when he would scale the back fence, chasing away another cat. He would run after the cat, then forget where home was. We would find him huddled under a bush or on someone’s front porch. He learned he could jump up on the dining room windowsill, then to the top support board on our six-foot fence, then get out of the yard. For a few summers, our yard looked like a prison with chicken wire on top of the wood.

As a young cat, Partner would walk up John’s chest and rub his head on John’s bearded chin. When we started letting the two cats sleep with us, Partner would climb on John’s chest and purr at night. He would butt John’s chin and wake John up. John would pet him and if John stopped before Partner was ready…Partner would butt John’s chin again and again until he was satisfied. I guess I wasn’t very welcoming to the cats at night. Neither of them every curled up with me.

It was the first thing each morning that Partner and I had time together. It became such a habit that, if I took too long getting to my chair he would meow, as if to say "Get over here." I would pet him, scratch him. He might put his front feet on my chest and look me in the face, rub on my chin. We think that was his way of giving me a kiss. John could hear him purring on the other side of the trailer.

Partner was such a loving cat—to John and me and once or twice to other cat lovers. But just ask our vet—she will say he was a spit-fire and a terror. After his first illness we were never able to give him medication by mouth. I had to hide any medicine in his food ,and then shut him up with the bowl till he finished it. There was one time I got a pill down his throat, when we had no other choice. In 2002, when our elder son’s first child was born, we were parked in Malibu, CA, and Rachal came home to her parents in Twenty-Nine Palms, about a four-hour drive away. We drove there with the two cats, then kept them in Doug and Sherry’s laundry room while we met our granddaughter. Since Doug and Sherry had two cats, Partner spent most of that time growling and hissing. When we were ready to return to Malibu, Sherry gave us a sedative they had given one of their cats when traveling. It probably took 10 tries before it actually went down his throat. But let me tell you, once the pill entered his system he was peaceful for the rest of that trip back to our RV!

He loved to sleep in the sun on our patio. There was a shelf under the kitchen window. He would jump up on the BBQ grill, then onto the shelf, and stretch out to sleep for hours. Thoroughly litter box trained, he found that the pile of leaves we would rake up under the corner pine tree was even better than the litter box. Often the leaves were almost over his head.

He would sit on the base of our outdoor fountain when he was able to catch some sun there.

In 1995, we volunteered at Bryce Canyon National Park for three months. Partner absolutely loved it there! At least once a day, often twice, I would walk him out through the low bushes near our trailer while he chased chipmunks and bugs. Even in October, when I had to wear my heavy coat, we went out each evening after dinner—while John washed the dishes—so Partner could do his hunting. The following summer we were at Ft. Parker State Park in Texas and Partner chased the lizards that run under the RV. A cat with a lizard hanging out of its mouth is not a pretty sight.

He loved watching the humming birds that come to our RV's window feeder.

And roll in the dirt during our campground walks.

Even our then three-year-old granddaughter Kylie took time to walk him.

We originally adopted PC because we had mice in our house. We quickly learned that PC was a watch cat—meaning he watched whatever was going on—but he wasn’t a hunter. As a matter of fact, when Partner caught something, PC walked away. Violence bothered him. One night in Texas I woke up because of some noise in the living room. I got up and looked around, but couldn’t see anything. The next morning we found a couple of books had fallen down into the stairwell by the front door. It wasn’t until we discovered the injured mouse in the trailer that we realized Partner had been chasing the mouse and knocked them over. The poor mouse—Partner probably used it as a toy all night. He wasn’t hungry so he didn’t kill it and eat it. We came to appreciate Partner’s mousing. He didn’t get rid of them, but at least we knew when we had mice, even if we hadn’t seen them yet.

Since about the age of two, Partner had been on prescription food for what we thought were allergies. He often was biting and scratching because of itching. And he vomited frequently. Several times, in various communities, we had to search out a vet for a cortisone or prednisone shot to stop his itching. During the past few years, the itching has stopped. Vomiting was a continuing issue. Thus, the plastic covering so many areas in our RVs.

My mother didn’t think we were fair, not letting the cats outside to wander freely. But Partner has visited 45 states and driven through two more. How many cats can say that? He has crossed the Mississippi River numerous times, seen American Eagles in Alaska, deer in Canada, turkey in Texas, more deer in California, and been on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf coasts. Not that he was impressed with much of this, except the deer, which really got his attention. They were large and he didn’t like them. Not only that, he didn’t like being near water.

One year I gave John a small fountain for his birthday. The fountain sat on the table between our two chairs in the family room. Partner discovered that was a great place to get a drink of water. This is a picture of a young, very fat, Partner doing just that.

And this photo shows how really fat he was.

We thank God for Partner. Oh how we have loved this little friend. We sorely miss him. But we will treasure the many delightful memories of his life in our midst.


  1. What a lovely story you've written about Partner. I'm sending a virtual hug your way.

  2. I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your sweet Partner. My heart just breaks.
    We lost our Molly (18 year old Shih Tzu) one year ago this month. Her story was much like Partner's at the end of her life. It is soooo hard to say good-bye.
    Please know my thoughts and prayers are with you. Partner was so fortunate to have such a loving home and you all were fortunate to be loved by such a wonderful pet.

    MIke & Gerri (happytrails)