“Put down”: a euphemism for euthanize, “mercy” kill.
Pet: an animal kept for amusement or companionship; one who’s especially loved or cherished.
Fritz, our elegant tuxedo cat, came to us from a local organization of cat lovers who foster feral animals until homes are found for them. He was six weeks old, beautiful and skittish.
At the time, our youngest son, Wylie, was 9 and effectively an only child because his brother and sister were off at college. He was the one who domesticated Fritz, and for a long time was the only one Fritz would allow to pick him up.
Wylie not only could pick him up, but as the cat reached full size he wore him draped around his neck like a mink, used him as a fifteen pound free-weight for overhead lifts, and spun him on the oak floor like in spin-the-bottle. Fritz loved it.
Here he is last winter on Wylie’s head. Can’t find any mink pix right now.
He had some quirks. He drank by scooping the water out of his dish and licking it from his paw. I quickly learned I couldn’t leave fresh flowers arranged in a low bowl because he’d knock the flowers out as he pawed out the water. And of course he left splattered water everywhere. He also scooped his food out of his bowl onto the floor. You could say he was something of a slob.
When we lived out in the country Fritz exercised his hunting skills on a daily basis. As B. Kliban wrote:
Love to eat them mousies,
Mousies what I love to eat.
Bite they little heads off.
Nibble on they tiny feet.”
But he was a picky hunter. When he caught a vole, instead of eating it, he would deliver it to us intact (dead). One afternoon he must have found a whole vole family because he brought us three of them. Wylie, in an act of macabre whimsy, arranged them on his dad’s computer – one peering over the top of the monitor, one looking up at it, and one on the keyboard – with a sign: “Fritz’s Action Figures.”
When Wylie went off to college, my ex and I separated, I bought a house closer to town and brought Fritz with me. Gradually we became good friends – at least at night. During the day he pretended he didn’t know me, unless he was hungry, wanted to go out, or felt like talking. He was an excellent conversationalist, with a full vocabulary of different sounds, which we traded back and forth. When you live alone, it’s much more seemly to talk to a cat than to yourself (though I confess to doing both).
At night though, he transformed into Loverboy. His favorite place to sleep was on my face or curled up in the crook of my neck. Sweet as this was, it usually triggered my asthma so I’d have to move him over to his side of the bed.
My doctor always rolled his eyes when I told him I was still wheezy. “Are you going to shut your bedroom door so the cat can’t come in?” he’d ask. He knew it was a silly question – you don’t kick a family member out of your bed!
Ten days ago, Wylie moved back home to regroup financially after an expensive three years trying to break into the film industry in LA. Fritz was so happy to have him back. But he clearly was slowing down. In fact a couple of days ago he stopped eating and his conversations were more like complaints. He didn’t want to walk more than a few feet. When Wylie put him in the cat carrier (normally a two-person job) to take him to the emergency vet he just lay there.
A 17-year-old cat is a very old cat. The vet said he was cold and so dehydrated it would take a couple of days in hospital on IV fluids and heat just to bring him up to normal – and then we’d still have to deal with whatever was wrong. $1500 for starters.
We conferred and decided that it was time to say goodby to Fritz. We were ushered into the “Comfort Room” – complete with chintz sofa, flowers, soothing black and white photos of misty landscapes on the wall. Fritz snuggled between us on the sofa, unfazed, unpurring, seemingly peaceful with whatever lay ahead while Wylie and I wept and stroked him.
A few minutes later, the doctor came in and gave him the injection – and Fritz left.
Even though it was midnight by the time we got home, we buried him in the yard by his favorite sunning spot.
Dear sweet Fritz. Rest in peace.