Ten days before Christmas, I thought my cat was about to die.
That morning, when I first walked into the kitchen, Merrick was not there to see me. His usual routine is to spot me the instant I leave the bedroom, glue me with his gaze, and begin an underfoot serenade of sighs and moans till food is placed in his bowl in a kitchen corner. But not that day.
Nothing too unusual in that - he's a deaf puss, so he sometimes sleeps through the day's first chore-sounds. But then I spotted him, on the couch, awake but in a posture that was part rest and part prayer. I said "Hello Merrick" and he lifted a sad, resigned-looking face.
With his front end he tried to get up, but the back end stayed where it was. He tried again to rise, but still his rear legs were as if paralysed. Eventually he found movement, lowered himself to the floor, and tottered a few steps. He looked sad and pained. His eyes were dull and a scruff test showed that he was dehydrated.
At this point, I thought, "He's going."
Merrick is about 15 years old, we think. Once a seven-kilo-plus giant, he's lately faded and thinned. His thighs have sunk in that old-cat way, his hearing is gone, and his kidneys are kept working by a daily half-pill of a vet's prescribed drug. But for more than two years since the kidney weakness emerged, Merrick has soldiered on. He sleeps, he hangs out with his human and canine companions, he bakes his tabby body in the sun, and twice daily (at least) he sings his feed-me song of sighs.
So I've been expecting that, one day, Merrick's body will wear out and those overworked kidneys will just stop responding to the drugs. When that happens, I know, he'll be in pain, and my job will be to keep that painful period as short as I can.
I really thought that day had arrived. I really thought Merrick wouldn't make it the few days to Christmas, and later I placed a gloomy update to that effect on Facebook.
But Merrick seems to like his quiet, indoor life. Despite what his drama-king dad said on Facebook, Merrick stayed around.
And I hadn't just given up. I helped Merrick to the water fountain, fed him his pill, and in time got some food into him. My partner and I also gave him a lot of attention, determined that if these were his final hours, they'd at least be spent in company.
He lasted the day, and woke the next morning. Another pill, another day of care, another series of small hand-feedings of his favourite cat roll.
After a few days he was back. Elderly, sedate, a shadow of his youthful immensity, but bright-eyed and thick-coated. He's sunbathing again, seeking out laps again, and last night he even launched himself on to the forbidden dining table after dinner to check out any leftovers; old age has blown away caution and anything else that might separate him from food.
Meanwhile, hundreds of blog followers placed comments or Likes, wishing Merrick the best, for which his owners are grateful.
We wondered if Merrick's poor condition was to do with skipping his pill for a couple of days - looking back in guilt, I realised that I'd missed a couple of days in the seasonal rush. But also, he'd been wormed the previous day, and that always gets him down. So funk plus heat plus age plus missing his pill? Whatever it was, he has bounced back.
So here we are in 2014. You and I are in it, and so, I'm glad to say, is Merrick.
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