Goodbye to All That Cat

I don’t know where to begin so I am going to try to just start anywhere. I am terribly sad to say that Schwartz died unexpectedly Sunday; so there you have it.

It was absolutely unexpected. He had been perfectly healthy his entire life and I was counting on him to help me with Eggi’s whelping at the end of the month. I don’t even know how to write this. I tell so many Schwartz stories how can this be the last? I take so many pictures of him, in this post I am only posting the most recent, from the beginning of May onward. Take? Took. Sigh. Took.

I want to say Schwartz is a particular cat, which is to say Schwartz was a particular cat. But this is ridiculous. He was a cat, and all cats are particular. I am still convincing myself that he is no longer here. He was here a minute ago. The doors to our closets are still carefully closed, to keep him from going in and peeing on our exercise clothes (dirty or clean). Just now, I shut the backdoor when I went out with the dogs, because I didn’t want to let the cat out. The abstract cat, I guess. Last night we left the door to our bathroom ajar, in case he wanted in or out. I did pilates virtually, and left the door open for him. He never misses a session. Misses? Missed.

I continue to see him out of the corner of my eye, in the kitchen, on the stairs, in my husband’s office, on the pile of finished projects in the sewing room; there he is, the Void, lurking just beyond what you’re looking at. I almost fed him this morning. You want me to call him? He’s around here somewhere.

Schwartz noisily announced meal times and liked in recent months to have a little parade for breakfast and dinner and had been asking for his food to be put down here or there rather than in the one spot by his big big water dish as he had in years past. Having three dogs meant Schwartz always had to have his dinner and breakfast when they were locked in their kennels having theirs. He was always a good eater, though anything he left in his bowl the dogs would find immediately upon release from their kennels, the hungriest dog title going to either Captain or Eggi (Fellow is more a food stealer of opportunity than a premeditated taker of cat kibble).

So if Schwartz was eating less it would have been hard to detect in the hubbub of dogs cleaning up whatever he left on his plate.

I had noticed in the last few weeks or so that he was starting to lose weight, and maybe not getting around quite as well; but he was, after all, 16. 

Among his particular feelings, Schwartz despised being put in a crate, going for car rides, and especially being taken to the vet, so we were a bit behind on ordinary wellness checks and vaccinations. (There are at least four other stories about Schwartz going to the vet: here, here, here, and here). He was an indoor cat, though, and seemed to be not especially at risk of contracting something.

He loved sitting at the human dinner table and having his share of roast chicken, lamb, eggs, pork chops, steak, bacon, pepperoni or sushi. He liked to be brushed until he didn’t. He consented to being picked up and carried, but would rather not. I recall that in Seattle he was a lap-sitter, but somewhere along the way he stopped asking, preferring to curl up near a person working on a computer. He was very good over the years at being well. And was never sick, not with anything, ever. He had an entanglement with a sculpture which almost killed him and pulled out a nail panicking over being in a crate, but that was the extent of his medical history. And the nail grew back after about five years.

He liked to try to run outside whenever we stood on the front porch to watch a thunderstorm. He loved sprawling on my sewing table. He liked to bite the dogs on their shoulders and hocks. He liked sleeping on the dog beds when they left one empty, and sometimes peed on a dog bed because he was a cat. He liked cat nip. And sun puddles. He posed for pictures, including Christmas shots with the dogs under the tree, and helped me write a children’s story. He liked drinking water from the far side of a large ceramic bowl. He slept next to the Bacon Provider, and took up half the bed when my husband was on business trips.

He seemed eternal.

Like the void itself.

Like the one character, Úrsula Iguarán, in One Hundred Years of Solitude that you forget about and then when she’s still there again and she’s like really, really old but you’re like, oh, yeah, her she never died, did she? Our oldest housepet.

Last week, I realized Schwartz missed a day of pooping. I cleaned his litter boxes daily (yes, two, side by side, because cats have very particular needs and that was what worked for him) and there hadn’t been a poop in a bit. This wasn’t he first time we missed a poop, because, of course, on occasion when he couldn’t be bothered to go IN the litterbox he would go BY the litterbox, and the dogs, having a keen taste for cat food also have a keen taste for cat excrement.  But anyway, not pooping. And when I thought about it, maybe asking for breakfast and not digging into it. So, I got him a vet appointment, but seeing how it was going to be some ground to cover (him not having been seen by a vet in so long), I thought I would wait for a good time slot with my vet.

As you know, I’ve seen a lot of vets lately.

There was nothing until Thursday (today), which I felt would be fine. I was offered something sooner with another vet and I did not take it. While I was scheduling I made an appointment for Captain to have a checkup; he’s turning 14 this month, and has a quiet, persistent cough that has resisted all our attempts to treat it so far. A worrisome thing, but not as worrisome as the cat.

Saturday, Schwartz did not even go through the motions of asking for breakfast and then not eating it. It occurred to me then that it may not have been a picky cat thing of wanting something different and that he was sick. He napped the whole day. I checked on him. He seemed relaxed and peaceful, and not uncomfortable. Sunday morning I found him in an odd corner of the laundry room, and he complained at my harshly. He was in real pain. I realized my error and got ready to rush him to the emergency room.

I stuffed Schwartz into a kennel without any protest, another sign that he was in distress. 

At the emergency vet hospital they did an ultrasound, found some masses in his abdomen. The ER vet suggested he was pale and needed a blood transfusion and hospitalization. She estimated the cost for me around $4,000-$5,000. I thought about what he would want, what was reasonable, and what was realistic. I asked if they could stabilize him and let him come home. The ER vet countered with wanting to do bloodwork and a chest x-ray; I thought that sounded like a good plan. Maybe then he could come home.

I went home to wait for the vet’s call, and the call came quickly. All Schwartz’s blood values were critical; he was headed for septic shock. The ER vet again suggested he could have a transfusion and be hospitalized, and have a diagnostic ultrasound Monday morning.

I said it sounded like it was time to let him go. I asked them to wait so we could come and say goodbye. I woke my youngest child, who wasn’t up yet, and so did not even know the cat was sick.

The receptionist looked as stricken as we felt, and showed us to a room. My youngest (who is 24) had never been to the vet before, and I blabbed at him about how in veterinary medicine you get estimates, alone with a diagnosis and care plan. I thought about other times I’d been at this vet hospital. I’d been lectured by a young vet in this very room about ear infections in dogs when I’d been dealing with them for a decade and knew as much as he did. 

A tech brought Schwartz in, bundled in blankets, with an IV port in a hidden leg. We put him on the table and loved on him a while, and then I told the stricken receptionist that we were ready. The vet come soon enough armed with a handful of syringes which she laid on the table. She explained what each contained. That it would be painless. She asked if we had any questions. 

In life, Schwartz was demanding and sometimes loud and uncompromising. He died with his eyes open, after suffering with secret cancer for weeks or months, and hidden it.

We are all smarting from the loss of him. I had tweeted that I was at the ER vet and that the news was bad and have been so overwhelmed with the kind, sad replies that I haven’t been able to bring myself to post the news anyplace else.

I keep seeing him here in the house. His litterboxes are still set up. I have several bags of his favorite food in the pantry because I didn’t want to run out in the pandemic supply chain interruptions. Every place he liked to sleep in the house (the top bunk in the guest room bunkbed upstairs, the windowsill in my bedroom, my grandmother’s green chair in the living room) still has the matted layer of cat hair. Eggi and Fellow still look for his food dishes, but Captain seems to know it’s not worth the trouble. He alone remembers that there can be pets here one day and gone the next. 

Mud Mask

This shit started when this friend I’ll call W was coming to visit with their new SO. The last time we saw W, they were at the end of a relationship, and it was rocky and bad;  words were exchanged, disappointments voiced, phone calls avoided and emails unreturned. Breakups are ugly, I get it, but seriously, people, you know the rest of us can see you? 

So ok W was coming and bringing the new SO and we were getting floors vacuumed and the sheets changed when W texted me to say the new SO was sick and they weren’t coming after all. Which meant we could stop vacuuming. Which was, despite the disappointment, sorta ok. We had agreed to take care of The Graduate’s GF’s fuzzy little dog for the weekend. He’d be our houseguest. Something else to do.

GqFHGW58TSu0aDUz2z34uAI was out in the yard with all the dogs when I got a text from my brother asking about an article that the Search Engine Monopoly suggested to him, written by J, one of my internet friends. My brother was like don’t you know this person and I was all sure that’s J. Is that a real friend my brother asked and I did not hesitate to say yes. 

I never like set out to have internet friends. I had them before I realized, really. When I moved from Seattle I felt disconnected from most of the people I saw every day. It was like we were dead to them. Of course, no one warned me. I just set off on my adventure with all my family, pets, and possessions, and no one wondered whatever happened to us. And that first year, we lived in North Dreadful, which had its downs and downers. And then we lived in the city, and there was a hurricane. But somewhere in there I made a Twitter for my cat, and ended up with some pocket friends.

J was one of the first people I talked to regularly on Twitter. Back in 2012, he caught me at peak cussing-on-the-internet, and RTed me as @HamsterRelish “what kind of twat says “va-jay-jay?” it’s VAGINA.” We go way back. 

I talk to J on three platforms, I told my brother. I’m looking forward to having lunch with him. (Not because we had plans to have lunch, but because I always imagined I would have a reason to go to J-ville and we would have lunch. Maybe get a mani-pedi. You know, friend things.)

But then standing in the yard watching three dogs run around I got to thinking about J and wondered why I hadn’t seen a post in about a week, which was unusual given that we were connected on three platforms.

And it was a Facebook post, to J’s wall, from J’s longtime SO, that said something about J being gone and that sure as shit didn’t make any sense.

So I looked up J’s mother. And she had a post saying that J’s last words were “Just love each other.” 

J could tell me which peanut butter cookie recipe to use and follow it up with a hilarious 80s song reference. J wrote beautifully about being a therapist, and had a plush vagina pillow on the couch at work. J encouraged my revolting and fanciful ideas about cat-milk-cheese. J tried on all the funny hats at Target. J could take down a Twitter troll and make them cry uncle. J called bullshit on homophobia, on racism, on sexism. J knew what Bundt cakes to make. J had names and numbers for mental health specialists. J took selfies with a mud mask on his face. J knew more about suicide than anyone I know. J knew when people’s husband’s employers were in the news and that not all news that seemed good actually is good. J knew how to DM me on three platforms, and did.

Your internet friends are pocket friends. They live in your phone. They know your pet peeves and your enthusiasms. They are real friends you see all the time. They go everywhere with you.

So where the fuck was J.

I checked all three platforms.

It didn’t make any sense. He was just there the other day, when the truck full of axe body spray exploded in Texas. When he walked his dog. 

I’ve had other friends disappear on social media. Sometimes they come back with another name. Sometimes they don’t. I’ve even had an acquaintance in Australia die. But this.

I hearted the posts from his SO and his mother.

And within minutes the algorithm was showing the posts to our mutual friends. And by the end of the day I was juggling DMs from mutual friends on three platforms. 

What happened.

Are you ok.

I am ok. Are you ok. I am gutted. I don’t understand. No, me either.

Luckily, in my weird little privileged world, there are always dogs to walk and horses to ride, and I kept going. Horses demanded my attention. Dogs, dogs, dogs. I was a little out of it, and had to tell my horse trainer, but we got to work, because I had regionals to prepare for. My new horse and I qualified for the championships, ok sure only at training level but it was coming up. An important horse show seems stupid and strange when you’re upset about someone who died, but also good and simple and true. We worked to get there. We were ready.

But then right after I’d left the barn my mare spooked and got a big cut on her hip. The barn manager texted me right away. She called for the vet and sent me a photo. It looked like a clean slice. Not too deep.

We got home and headed out to walk the dogs. Eggi was too excited for words and kept licking my face and bumping into Captain. The Houseguest looked fuzzily nonplussed, but I fitted him with his little blue collar and leash. I handed the Houseguest’s leash to the Bacon Provider, and took our two dogs myself. We were doing the short loop, through the woods. We were about a half-mile from home when I heard the Bacon Provider make a sort of hiccuping noise. I turned around to see him holding a leash, attached to a little blue  collar, buckled into a neat round loop with no fuzzy dog in it. The Houseguest was booking it back down the trail towards our house. Now the Bacon Provider is not accustomed to fuck-ups, and takes things v seriously, and he took off running after the fuzzy little punk, despite my attempts to explain that he really should not chase the dog. DON’T I shouted CHASE HIM to the empty woods.

Then I was alone in the woods with my two dogs, and my phone rang and it was the vet. She had sewn up the hole in the horse. I asked about the upcoming show. “Well,” said the vet, “if it were on her leg, I’d say no. and if it were on her face I’d say no problem. You should stick to light work for the next few days and we’ll see.”

Sticking to light work.

What happened. 

Horses are stupid.

But what happened.

There was a guy, fixing a thing, with a power tool. It made a noise. The horse scooted.

Is she ok.

She’ll be ok. 

Don’t you have a show coming up.

Back at the house, the Bacon Provider and the Houseguest looked like nothing had happened. I thought about posting something about how naughty the Houseguest was on one or three platforms but thought his owner might be sad to learn he was being a pain while she was away.  

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A couple days passed and the Bacon Provider left for a business trip. My horse and I stuck to light work. By Tuesday it was clear the stitches were holding nicely. But the stitches are right on her hip, and if she stood the wrong way on the trailer ride she might open it again. I made the decision to keep my horse home from the show. Even though it was the championships. Even though we worked so hard to get there. Even though.

I got a text from my husband sitting on his plane where he saw W’s ex who boarded after he did. Had W and the new SO made it for the weekend, they would have very likely all run into each other at the airport. JFC people the rest of us can see you. Be good to each other, even if you have to let someone go.

I walked all three dogs by myself.

I got in bed early and put a mud mask on my stupid sad face.

I got a text around 10 from my neighbor. She was away and the person who was supposed to do barn check hadn’t. Could I go over and throw the horses a flake of hay? Of course I could. I washed off the mud mask. Real life friends and neighbors are important. I went in my pajamas. Her horses were fine.

But

Dammit 

I miss you, J.

I attended as “a spouse”

What I did: went as my husband’s “+1” to an election night party, hosted by a cable news network, at the Fifth Avenue Empire Room, a rooftop lounge at 230 5th Avenue, in New York City.


What I did beforehand: voted, took the dogs for a sniffing walk, showered, tried to dry my hair, gave up on trying to dry my hair, put too much product in my hair, changed into jeans and a “Vagenda of Manocide” t-shirt, packed my party clothes into a suitcase, drove to town with a woman in a Land Rover tailgating me. When she turned for the highway, I could tell by the dark shadow that I had picked up another tailgater, now on the 30 mph approach to town where it is oh so tempting to go just a little faster. But I didn’t go any faster, so when I realized my new tailgater was a local policewoman, I felt justified. I walked through town and saw the policewoman buying lunch, and I wanted to ask her if she voted and who she voted for, because I was still giddy and stupid and anxious with excitement.


On the train I worked on yesterday’s blog post on my phone, and when we pulled in to Grand Central I found myself surrounded by other women with overnight bags. They were all headed to hotels, too, but then they were headed to the Javits Center for Hillary Clinton’s election night shindig. I slipped going up the stairs.

What I wore: my mother loved dressing well and shopping and spent more time choosing what to wear than she ever would have wanted anyone to know. She had a perfectly organized custom closet as big as a bedroom. When she died, there were so many navy shoes and long, straight-ish skirts and knee-highs and slips in every color and interesting jackets of various lengths and creamy white blouses to wear under the interesting jackets. And unusual jewelry, of course, as well. I still have some, but not many, of my mother’s clothes, but I do have a certain 90s-era off-white silk blouse which I’ve not worn more than once in the 11 1/2 years since my mother’s death. I was thinking it should be my “white,” since they were saying it’s the color the suffragettes wore, and it seemed like it might work under my other pantsuit. I don’t normally pick out and try on an outfit the night before, but there I was, the night before election day, seeing if the pants from my other pantsuit fit well enough to wear. They did. I put on the blouse to see if it looked ok. It hangs out from under the jacket, but in a way that I liked more than I hated. When I took it off I discovered it was missing a button.


When I stopped crying about my haphazard sewing skills vs. mother’s meticulous sewing skills and from stress about the election and then the realization that my mother would have loved HRC way more than I do and generally missing everything about my mother, I clipped one of the spare buttons from the inside of the blouse and sewed it on. 

And so, to the election night party I wore a black Eileen Fisher tank top, the gray Hugo Boss pantsuit with flimsy, unusable beltloops and no pockets (not even too-shallow pockets), gorgeous and understated jewelry from my generous husband, my grandmother’s square-faced Longines gold wristwatch, and an amethyst pin that belonged to another female relative and though my mother made a big deal about telling me who it came from, it was too long ago for me to remember. I also wore net knee-highs and the loafers with heels that I put pads into finally so my feet don’t slide around. 
One of his co-workers complained that
there aren’t any bad pictures of him
Who went with me: my husband, who made plain back in April that he thought the election might go badly, and whose paranoia, as I called it, was informed by his having escaped a totalitarian regime as a child, and his uncanny ability to predict everything. 

How I got tickets: as the guest of the Bacon Provider, I was actually the only “+1.”

Why I saw this show: I blithely said beforehand that I thought it would be fun either way. I genuinely believed that America would not elect a Russian-sponsored fascist. 

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Where I sat: if you were watching live results on the right cable channel, you saw us in the front row. At least one friend did. 

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Things that were not funny: at dinner, I botched the, “…And what do you do?” question again, but I made up for it by being somewhat ludicrously funny. 

By 9:30 one of the marketing people from the cable news network (who had made it clear at dinner that she was repulsed by the orange, frothy fountain of racism candidate, and excited for America’s first female President), announced cheerfully that the disastrous installation of a lying, bankruptcy-addicted, child-rapist as United States President would, in fact, be very good for cable news, what with the advertising sold to air during impeachment proceedings and all. 

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By 10 pm I started to be cold and miserable and when I went downstairs to find the coat check to retrieve our coats I got trapped in a party that wasn’t ours and when a small mob of people crushed into an elevator, I finally saw the hall and found the gap in a black curtain leading to the event I had a wristband for, at which point I was waylaid by a security guy who thought I was headed out of bounds and I had to get all imperious in his face. 

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Things that were sad: by 10:30 I was ready to move away from the United States for the foreseeable future. The other guests who were sitting outside with us retreated to the party inside or left for home. Drunk, anxious bar patrons grumbled amongst themselves about the tray of extra cupcakes abandoned on our table.  One guy came out of nowhere and asked me if he could take two. I told him they weren’t mine to give away, but, ok, be quick about it. Others came. By the end, people weren’t even asking; they were just taking.

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Things that were funny: when my father was in the ICU towards the end of his life, I realized that he had lost his sense of humor. This was how I knew he was dying. There is nothing funny about last night’s election result.

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What it is: not a good day to be a person of color or LGBTQ. Or both. 


Something I ate: steak and one cupcake.

I violated this cupcake before I ate it.

Who should see it: look away, friends and readers abroad. It’s going to get really ugly. 

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What I saw on the way home: we spent the night in an upscale eurotrash boutique hotel because I had planned for a long night. I had multiple nightmares about crashing my car on the Saw Mill Parkway and woke with a migraine. 

He’s reading about Stalin.

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Outside it was just another bad, gray, Manhattan Wednesday morning. I followed a guy into the subway who was reading the big biography of Stalin I read when I was in business school. He was about halfway through. I let a flustered, old mustachioed woman cut in line ahead of me when I got a coffee and a glazed doughnut in Grand Central and commenced having a big, long, ugly, sniveling cry on the train. White men moved to another car. 

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As we arrived in the sleepy town of Katatonia, I stepped into the drizzle and looked into the dark windshield of an oncoming Audi SUV. I didn’t pause in the slightest before entering the crosswalk, putting my life in the hands of some rich asshole.