22 December 2008

R.I.P. Rufus, 1993–2008

We had to put our cat, Rufus, to sleep today. It was the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. He's now at rest in the raised flowerbed in our backyard next to our other cat, Somalia.

It appears Rufus had a blood clot or possibly a stroke. Back in September, I came home from work and heard a thud. Rufus had apparently attempted to get off the couch to greet me, but instead fell. I stood him up and he was having problems walking, so I rushed him to the vet. I called them as I was preparing to leave and they stayed and waited for me. The cause was uncertain then, but when he hadn't improved much the next day, they thought he'd probably had a mild stroke. The main symptom was his walking in a drunken stagger. Within just a few weeks, however, he'd appeared to have recovered.

We had to board him while we were gone for Thanksgiving. He seemed to do fine, but then I noticed after a few days of being back home he had appeared to stop eating. I might have noticed sooner, but the job of feeding him had been given to Andrew, and he didn't bother to mention it to us right away. A visit to the vet seemed to get him back on track, but then – after they'd done a follow-up call, of course – he seemed nearly to stop again.

I'd planned to call the vet today, but this morning, after Hannah woke us up, I heard him calling from the living room. I found him lying on the floor in front of the couch. Upon trying to stand him up, it seemed he was unable to. Further examination showed no movement in his tail or back legs. He was happy for the attention, though, calmed down, and began purring.

Once we got to the vet, the prognosis wasn't good. The options boiled down to more of the kinds of tests he'd had lately or putting him down. After much heart-wrenching discussion, we decided for the latter. I stayed with him while it was done, which broke my heart.

I think I understand, now, an emotional reason for burying the dead. Digging a large hole to put a loved one in helps a little, because it actually gives you something to do and focus on. Putting him in and preparing to cover him, however, I broke down again.

Dorothy and I got Rufus from the Humane Society back in 1994. He had gotten sick and his family had been unable to care for him. The Society had gotten him healthy again and then put him up for adoption. He was about 13 months old and came with the name Rufus.

I had taken Somalia from Dorothy's family a year earlier. She was a stray who was obviously uncared for and they couldn't really handle another cat, as they had many. We naively hoped that maybe she'd get along with Rufus immediately since she hadn't been a problem for Dorothy's family. We introduced them far too soon and, naturally, she attacked Rufus, the intruder. I grabbed the cat who was closest, which happened to be Rufus, and paid for it with numerous scratches on my hands and arms. Eventually, of course, they got along, although Somalia seemed to remain the dominant one.

Rufus was an unusual cat and extremely laid back. He loved to have his belly rubbed. Once we had children, Somalia tended to just stay away from them. Rufus, however, tolerated them better.

Sometime after Walter learned to crawl, Rufus came, laid down in front of him and rolled over for a belly rub. Walter, not knowing how to pet, just grabbed his fur. Rufus didn't react, other than to give him a look like, "what are you doing? That's now how you do it," and then got up and laid down a little further away. Walter crawled over and the scene repeated itself. Rufus tried a third time before giving up and wandering off.

When Andrew was one year old, he tried riding Rufus. Meaning, essentially, he sat on Rufus, although not putting his full weight on the cat. Rufus just sat there until he could get away. Other, more high-strung cats might have responded with clawing and/or hissing, but not Rufus. The above photo of baby Andrew and Rufus is not from either incident, but was one of the few I was able to find of Rufus with one of the kids.

I realized while burying him that Rufus had been in my life longer than any of my children and almost as long as Dorothy. While I felt sad when we had to euthanize Somalia, it didn't hurt as much. That was, perhaps, because while Somalia let us feed her and pet her, she remained aloof as only a cat can. Rufus was more affectionate. I don't know that I'll ever know another cat like him. Goodbye, kitty.

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