I ran into my former veterinarian on the Upper West Side who really popped a file for me.
Dr. J. retired three years ago, but for years looked after all the neighborhood animals, including mine…Missy the cat, being the last.
He has to be close to 80 by now, but there he was jogging in shorts with that ubiquitous white beard of his that always made him look like a mad scientist.
He made me think of Inky, a cat I had a good 30 years ago. She was given to me by a woman I knew in Connecticut who had one too many. I, at the time, had Margie who was the Dillinger of felines.
Poor Inky who withstood so much abuse from Marge until she decided, okay, you can stay.
But that’s what I remember best about Inks, she had the sweetest disposition of any cat I’ve ever had before or since.
One day, after having her for six or so years, she stopped eating, the sure sign something is very wrong with an animal. Off we went to see Dr. J. who said, she was very dehydrated and needed fluids. Now I’m very squeamish, even now, when it comes to needles, so every morning we would go and Dr. J would irrigate her, for lack of a better term.
Then the tests came back.
Inky had cancer, and he was a vet who never recommended chemo for an animal unless the owner insisted. I naturally would never put a beloved pet through that, but my sadness was vast.
How often had Inky sat with me as I wept over my latest heartbreak. She’d nestle next to me, putting her black paw on my hand as if to say, there there, it will be okay.
Losing her was going to be hard.
I decided to take her home until it was clear she was in discomfort which happened fairly fast. Right after making the appointment to put her down, the hardest thing any pet lover has to do, she rallied..eating, playing. Margie had already separated from her, apparently something cats do when they know a peer is about to depart. Nature is very strange sometimes, but then again, maybe it’s her way of getting through a loss.
Elated at the new Inky, I called Dr. J. who said, “Let me have a look at her, bring her in.”
This is when he was at his greatest. He said, “Whatever this is, is temporary, and I agree it’s wonderful to see her like her old self. But let me ask you this. If it were you terminally ill knowing any minute life would be one unbearable pain, wouldn’t you like to go out the day you felt your best Susannah?”
I sat on the floor and sobbed. I knew he was right as I held her in my arms as she purred and purred, her bones so evident against me.
It was the most difficult decision I ever had to make, but I agreed.
He taught me such a lesson in humanity that day in his skylit office with the pictures of puppies and kittens on the wall.
When I saw him jogging by, we smiled and waved to one another.