Monday, December 29, 2008

Michelle, My Belle, R.I.P.

Our feisty little feline, all of five months old, died today. It was around two a.m. last night that C noticed her sitting in the bathroom, and we brought her out and laid her on C’s bed. She was cold and at first we thought it was just because the bathroom floor had been wet. But as it increasingly became clear that that was not the cause of the drop in temperature, C warmed a cloth repeatedly with an iron to keep her warm. She did this every few minutes for the next seven hours, until we could take Michelle to P. P responded to C’s text message at three a.m., telling us that she would have to see Michelle in the morning. Apart from warming her with the ironed cloth, C also fed Michelle sugared water every half hour, since she could not eat or drink anything on her own.

In the morning, we took Michelle to P’s clinic. There were many dogs there, and a small cat, and the people they had come with. There were kids and grandmothers who wanted to take a peek at the sweet little grey-and-white tabby in our basket. There were two little pups, Bruno and Dexter, who had come with different people and who insisted on romping about together before parting company. On P’s noticeboard, there was a new poster about a weekly picnic/walk for Olive Ridley turtle-gazing.

P said that Michelle had probably licked some insecticide off one of the cockroaches she was so fond of bringing home to us as prizes. She gave Michelle fifty m.l. of IV solution and an antidote, and told us to bring her back for another dose in the evening. She said a hot water bottle would be helpful, so we got one from the pharmacy on the way back home from P’s. C was just heating the water to fill the bottle for the second time when Michelle had a small fit and her eyes glazed over. Her small body kept twitching gently for a long time after her eyes had stopped seeing, and her heartbeat slowed very gradually before it stopped.

We started digging a grave in a patch of ground to the right of the front door, but our spade had broken while digging our pup Jewel’s grave last May, and the going was tough. I brought out a hammer and we tried using the pointy end to dig, which was better than the handleless spade, but that was terribly slow. There were rocks in the ground that made the digging virtually impossible. So we moved to the left of the door and started afresh, this time making considerable progress before we reached a water pipe. That would be no good at all, since Michelle could not be in a spot that might be dug up in the future.

We also did not want to make it obvious that we were digging a grave, since there’s been all kinds of trouble with the landlords and we have to move out ASAP from the house where we have lived for over seventeen years now. We decided a plant would be nice, both to keep Michelle company and to disguise the true intent of our endeavour. So, while C stayed with Michelle, I went to the nursery and bought two very efficacious spades. I looked around the nursery for a bit, trying to choose the plant. It’s a beautiful little nursery, and the plants reflected the most wonderful green light all around. We’d decided against roses since they are delicate, and the plant will have to be left to fend for itself when we move. I looked at the white roses nevertheless; they were lovely. So were the dahlias and marigolds. But then, of course, it struck me that the choice was so obvious: chrysanthemums. C didn’t know the story behind the name, so I gave her a rather sketchy account of it as we resumed our work. It was still pretty tough with the rocks, and the ground was hard. C’s nearly-seventeen-year-old hands were much more efficient than my over-three-decade-old ones, but she also got more scrapes and aches than I did.

It’s not easy to type when one feels like one has a dislocated wrist, so here is the long and short of it: nearly four hours of gardening was pain-inducing, but also wildly therapeutic. Not to mention surreptitious in a way that would have made James Bond or Ethan Hunt proud, since we kept a lookout for the landlords and whispered warnings to each other in fits of silent laughter every time someone opened the front gate. We chattered about cats and dogs we have lost, and so much else that I can’t recall now. We did giggle girlie giggles quite a bit. I looked down several times at C’s silky little head as she dug, and wondered how much more we will endure together, and thought about how the bond I share with her is so completely different from what I share with anyone else.

For Michelle, then, and in memory of Muliet as well, B’s cat who died a few days ago. To Michelle and Muliet, beloved cats, members of our family and full-fledged people in their own right, in gratitude and adoration for the time they spent with us and the memories they have left us with.


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