This week's Sunday Scribblings prompt is to imagine our pet's inner life. I've decided I will tell you about little Annabelle. She was one of the sweetest kitties my parents had ever adopted; a stray from the Humane Society. Although I try not to anthropomorphize my pets and imagine them as individuals in their own right, what happened with Annabelle made me wish I could have understood her inner life and communicated with her...
Tiny Annabelle joined our family last year, and quickly became a central part of my parents' household. Their older cat, Caramel, loved her. They used to lie together in exactly the same way in the same chair; groom each other; play together. They quickly became inseparable friends, which so rarely happens with cats.
She was such a sweet little cat. For a while, we thought we'd call her Ewok because up close, that's what she looked like. But there was something always wrong with her front paw; the way she held it up like it was botherng her and stepped gingerly on it.
One day, Annabelle started having difficulty with her breathing. Lying on her side, her flank rose and fell like a bellows in the heat. After a week at the vet's, she came back home, but Caramel didn't seem to recognize her, and the problems resurfaced. Her eyes turned grey and glazed over. She started walking into walls, tables, chairs. She spent hours lying on the rattan chair in the front porch, because it seemed to be the only place she was comfortable anymore. We took Annabelle back to the vet's.
While my dad and I were on a four-hour drive back from Sudbury, caught in the tail end of the huge storm last summer that washed out the Finch Avenue bridge, my mom got a call from the vet: he'd had to make a decision and put Annabelle down. Her body had systematically shut down due to a parasitic infection. She lost her sight due to hemorraging in her eyes; her fur lost its shine; her liver and kidneys shut down. She started having seizures.
When my mom went to see Annabelle for the last time, her beloved kitten didn't recognize her. She backed away into the corner of the cold metal cage when mom reached her hand out to pet her. Mom came home and cried for an hour while she waited for us to arrive.
We cried together in each other's arms while dad put Annabelle's lifeless body the ground next to a weeping birch tree, branches swaying above her. We placed a bird bath in the grass above her, because she'd been so thirsty in her last days and couldn't seem to get enough water, mom said. And she'd also loved to watch the birds.
Why did I weep so deeply for a cat I'd known for such a short time? Because all I could think of was that she couldn't have known what was happening. Everything around her was foreign - the sterility of the vet's cage, the shutting down of her body. And she couldn't call out to us to tell us something felt wrong in that front paw. It must have been completely disorienting and frightening to her. And in the end, I'm not sure she knew how much she was loved, or how much she'd be missed.
Caramel walked around the house for days calling out for Annabelle in the middle of the night. Looked for her in empty nooks and crannies but never found her.