If you are an unconditional lover of cats, you might want to stop reading now. I grew up with cats. All of them named Duke. With eight kids in the house, I’m sure a cat was a pretty low maintenance pet. But every once in a while, Duke would look a little different. I’m sure my older siblings realized that the previous Duke had met an early demise only to be replaced with a similar tiger striped cat. I just thought Duke looked different.
When I got my own apartment, I carefully considered getting a cat of my own. This careful consideration consisted of me having one beer to many at a local tavern and literally getting the last kitten from a smart patron who decided he might find homes for his litter in a place where alcohol was served. Instead of the pick of the litter, I got, well, the dregs.
I brought Grace back to my apartment and on more sober examination realized that she had a severe infection in one eye and a bad case of fleas. A few hundred dollars and a very frightening flea bath later, she was mine for keeps. And she would forever have just one working eye.
I was not allowed to have pets in my apartment building, but I figured a cat was pretty quiet. Not Grace. I would exit the elevator to hear her loud mewing coming from down the hall. Afraid of eviction, I resorted to squirt gun training. Every time Grace would yowl, she would receive a harmless squirt of water. The result was a really mean cat who instead of “meow” would only say “meh.”
When Grace was about a year old, I got married and she moved in with my husband and his much nicer cat. Despite Kiki’s attempts at friendship, Grace would have nothing to do with her, growling and hissing whenever she walked by. In fact, Grace growled and hissed when anyone walked by. Sometimes she would throw in a clawed right hook if you got too close.
Grace’s disposition made me very reluctant to invest a lot of money into her veterinary care. Don’t think me too cruel. I made sure she had the necessary shots and stayed flea-free, but I declined all fecal exams and other extraneous testing. In fact, when Grace got to be of an advanced age, I came up with something I called the “Pet Deductible.” I determined the cost of euthanasia at our vet and decided that if Grace developed any condition that required care costing over that amount, that I would just go with the euthanasia. She was old, ornery, and half blind, and I was fearful she would hurt our young daughter or any other unsuspecting guest that entered our house.
It seemed like a good idea, until the cost of Frontline skyrocketed. Now, if Grace got fleas, I would have to go DNR and have her put down. I imagined the horrified look on the vet’s face as I said “She’s got fleas? Let’s go ahead and put her down.”
Grace never got fleas. In fact, she lived for many more miserable years, exceeding all expectations. Her bum eye looked like something from a zombie apocalypse movie. She eventually lost sight in her other eye and started walking into walls. Still, she seemed as happy as ever – for Grace, that is. She still liked to go outside – never far from the door. I think she just liked to feel the breeze on her one eyed-face.
We didn’t realize she was deaf until the time I backed over her in the carport. I swear it was an accident. And the darn cat survived without a scratch. It was that event that sealed her fate, though, and at last the time had come to say goodbye.
They were very compassionate at the vet’s office. I didn’t tell them their sympathy was entirely wasted. I put on my best sad face and said goodbye to my miserable companion. Grace was not a tough act to follow for the subsequent cats we’ve had, and I’ve never had to reinstate the “Pet Deductible” plan. Her subsistence will always put her in the Duke category of my pet history.