25 February 2009

the story of Jack the Yogi Cat

Seventeen years ago I saved him from running down a rain sewer in Texas. We were living outside of Dallas and a neighbor knocked on the door and asked if the gray and white mackerel tabby frolicking in the grass was our cat. We stepped outside and he was running around like crazy the way kittens do and I saw him head toward the long opening of the rain sewer in the gutter. I had seen adult cats jump in and out of that spot but I knew a little kitten probably couldn't jump back out, so just when he was about to dive in I grabbed his tail and put him in my arms.

We already had Sam-Dog, a big black Lab, and Sox (named after the Chicago White Sox), another rescued Texas street cat who lived in a pile of bricks -- a "marmalade" tabby with white socks and orange swirls on his sides. I rescued Jack in July and Sox walked into the house in March, estimated age was 6 months. I could tell you how Sox came into our lives, but this is Jackson Theodore Kat's story.

Not knowing yet if Jack had any diseases that would infect Sox, I put him in the yard with food and water. I knew then he was a cat who was happy just "being." At night he would crawl up on a window ledge and sleep and during the day he would hang out in the yard, he never wanted to leave. I took him to the vet and found out he was loaded the fleas and tapeworms. The vet gave him a shot for the tapeworms and I gave him a fleabath when I got home. I let him stay in the house after he got his shots. The Hubs wanted to name him Smokey but I said everyone names gray cats Smokey, that's boring, besides, he looks like a Jack.

Jack was smaller than Sam-Dog's head and when Sam went up to sniff him, the two pound kitten hissed and the 80 pound Lab turned around and walked away. I knew then he was a fighter, and that fighting spirit helped him through all his physical afflictions.

Sam-Dog, Sox, and Jack all got along and we eventually moved back to Chicago, us and the old Lab and the two rescued street cats. Sox and Jack would always sleep together, they were street brothers.

Jack grew into a big cat, almost 20 pounds. But fat cats are prone to diabetes and fatty liver disease. He developed FLD before he was 10 years old. Just like the link says, he had stopped eating and was losing weight. The vet treated him and when I got him home he still wasn't eating so I had to force-feed him with special food. I'd put him inside a pillow case with just his head sticking out and put a syringe full of special food down his throat. After a few days of this, I think Jack said "enough of this shit" and he started eating on his own. He regained some weight, but was never a fat cat again. He was just happy to be.

I can't remember exactly how he was diagnosed with diabetes but I gave him daily insulin shots for about 10 years. I can't tell you how many all-day glucose tests he's had over the years, and he had been on three different brands of insulin. Just like a human diabetic, he had crashes and I had to rush him to the vet. Once he was being boarded at the vet while we were on vacation and he crashed. To this day I think the vet tech made a mistake and gave him too much insulin because there was another diabetic cat there also named Jack -- I think they almost killed him. In any event, the vet called us and we flew home from New Mexico that day.

When we got to the vet, he told us Jack was recovered but blind. Oh well, I thought, we'll have a blind cat, no big deal. As soon as we got him home, Jack started jumping up on the counters begging for food! I moved my fingers in front of his eyes and watched how his eyes reacted -- he wasn't blind! But at the vet he just stared, unblinking. We're convinced that he faked being blind just to come home! When we got him home it was like he had never been sick at the vet. As it turned out, we could never board him again because he would stop eating, he would go on a hunger strike, and we eventually found someone to come over and take care of the cats if we went away. The reality was that our long vacations dwindled down to none because of Jack. In the last few years, however, I finally found someone who would come and give him his shot, I taught her how to do that.

In the last year, he's needed two insulin shots a day and I saw how diabetes ravaged his body, just like it does a human. He was also arthritic and I gave him shots once a month for that. The Hubs sawed off one side of a litter box so Jack could walk right in, so he did not have to lift his arthritic back legs. We did all that we could and as long as he wasn't showing pain, as long as I could see that he was happy just to be, I let him live his life of eating -- he loved avocados and peas and fresh meat, of course -- and sleeping on his chair. He could not get around too much anymore, his world was the kitchen and the basement. Jackson Theodore Kat was already skin and bones and yesterday he stopped eating, I saw a stagger in his walk. I knew it was time. I think he knew it too because he did not fight getting into his travel case. And he was always a fighter.

The vet sedated him and I kept my hand on his heart. Even with all his ills his heart always pumped strong. As she gave him the death needle I chanted OM MANI PADME HUM. I saw the suffering leave his gray and white face and he looked like a kitten again. Even the vet said she saw his eyes get wide and then he was at peace.

It is a law of physics that energy can neither be created nor destroyed so it follows that what is never born can never die. As a practicing Buddhist, I know this, that is why I do not fear death. My body will die but "I" will never die. I know that Jack the Yogi Cat has already been reborn as a higher life form.

And if Buddhist cosmology is all wrong, there is still that little bit of Christian left inside me who likes to believe that when we die all our pets will come running over the Rainbow Bridge to greet us.

Either way, we will see each other again, me and Sam-Dog and Jack the Yogi Cat.

Jack the Yogi Cat

I put my cat to sleep last night. I will write more about him later, but for now you can read what I wrote about him in 2007 in my yoga blog:

going with the flow

In the picture in this post he looks healthy. When he died he was skin and bones.

Jack was a street cat. Seventeen years ago I saved him from going down a rain sewer when he was a two pound bundle of fur covered with fleas and filled with tapeworms. Please click the "Feed Shelter Animals" widget in my sidebar, and if you are a regular reader, please click it every time you stop by. I do, and Jack thanks you.