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Goodbye to Captain

Almost two years ago, around the third week of August, I adopted a second cat, Captain. He was four years old back then, I was his fourth home, and he had been at the shelter for about a year.

He died this week, and I feel so, so down.

I came home from work today and I still found myself looking for Captain to come running after Whiskey, to greet me at the door. Of course, only Whiskey was here this time.

Such a cuddly cat. “Aggressively friendly” was how the shelter described him. Accurate.

On Wednesday evening, after I got home from work, I noticed that he was lying down and breathing heavily. I got him to the nearby vet at about 5 pm. They took an X-ray and showed me that the bronchi were showing up as whitish instead of a healthy dark color, meaning that he wasn’t taking in enough oxygen. Pulmonary edema was the diagnosis. Lung or heart failure or both. Perhaps by the stomatitis/stinky breath/dental problems he had, that had never really seemed to go away, even after scaling and numerous rounds of medication.

Because the nearby vet was closing at 8:30 pm, they called me in at 7 pm and had me move him to a 24-hour vet about fifteen minutes away. I suspected it was bad when the vet asked me to sit down by the oxygen incubator with him for a while. They called me to come back at 2 am and he had just died before I arrived. They had tried CPR and he was attached to all these machines in their operating room. It was quite horrible to see, actually.

The vet on duty was very sympathetic, looked very sad, and bowed a lot. He actually looked like he was on the point of crying. While I was looking at him, I found myself trying to figure out if it was real or a practiced facial expression. I decided that it leaned strongly towards genuine. Even in such a lousy time, I was really impressed by this, and really grateful too. Surely dying animals are a routine process for them — weekly, daily, several times daily. I never, not even once, felt like I was being put through a routine by someone who had other, more important things to do. That was wonderful. I will never forget that.

Yesterday was a miserable process of cancelling travel plans for him. I had made plans to take him with China with me, and the flight is two weeks from now. I’m still going, but now I only have Whiskey with me.

Oddly enough, on the last night I had with him, I happened to sleep on the sofa instead of in my bedroom. Captain and I had a nice cuddle while sleeping. I’m glad I ended up sleeping on the sofa.

I don’t believe in an afterlife. I strongly believe that we are here, and then we’re gone. But if there is one, I hope all my pets will be waiting there for me. If they’re not, then I’m not going.

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