Herbie was my mom's cat. He had to be put to sleep today. I was in the room with ma and Herbie when he passed, and I want to apologize to Herbie. Here's why.
Herbie had been having trouble getting his business done for the past year or so, especially the past week, so mom called her vet., who was on vacation, so she called another vet and made Herbie an appointment.
Herbie was seventeen and a half and lived four of those years with mom and dad, five more with mom alone. Herbie would smush his twenty-five pounds of coon catness beside dad on the recliner, and dad would pet Herbie all night long. When dad died, and you don't have to care or believe me, or believe in the spirit of this, but when dad died, Herbie mourned him by not getting up into dad's recliner for nearly a month. Herbie would sit in front of the recliner, look at it for a good spell, and go rest somewhere else. Good soul.
Since dad died, Herbie had become mom's main man. His giant green eye's looking after her like his life depended on her. Which of course it did.
Mom feared Herbie might not come home from the vet. this time; but she hoped the vet .would be able to get Herbie flushed out enough to send him home for one more run. I hoped the same. We always want a little more. "Fries with that?" Yeah, fries, and another two weeks with ole Herbie around would be just fine, thank-you.
So when ma got the call this morning from the vet. saying Herbie's kidneys had done their last work, she wasn't surprised.
I watched the slow but dignified death of my father; saw him lying passed away in his bed. Saw my Aunt lifeless in her bed at the nursing home too. I've been around my share of old, and very sick, and extremely hurt people, but I've never been witness to putting an animal down, which I feel is why I screwed up just a little.
Ma and I were in the room when a nurse brought Herbie in, two IV's held with gauze and stuck in his little forearm. On the table Herbie cawed a bit, but it didn't seem like he was in pain. I'd like to think his caw was more from discomfort then blatant pain.
Ma kissed Herbie and told him she loved him and that she will always love him. I pet him, and listened to what the doc had to say. I put my ear down to the bulk of Herbie's body to hear if he was purring. Brilliant eh? He wasn't.
Cause she doesn't stand well at eighty, ma settled in a bench a couple feet from Herbie. I stood behind Herbie as the doc went about presenting a sedative into his arm. I lightly stroked Herbie's back a bit, but when the doc plugged the shot of relaxant into the IV, I let up petting.
Herbie fell into a medicated haze, a sleep, basically. I walked over to ma and put my hand on her shoulder, tapped her a couple of times, and the doc quietly said "this will stop his heart," as he administered the second and final dose.
Gentle ending of a gentle giant seventeen and a half year-old, green eyes the size of marbles, nice as can be, at one time 25 pound, cat.
Why do I want to apologize to Herbie? Because I wasn't chatting with him as the doc gave the first sedative. For some reason I thought getting in too close to Herbie could muddle the procedure. I've always had good instincts; known what to do and say with folks who're hurting. But this was different. This was someone who was going out, right then and there, and my usual dead on instincts let me down a little bit and allowed me to succumb to the odd certainty of the moment.
So I'm sorry Herbie that I wasn't chatting with you right before the end. I should have been right down with you, loving you up, going about all normal saying "ole Herbie, he's the feller, he's a good boy, a handsome feller, you're my buddy." Sorry about that ole Herb, cause maybe going about normal could have made the very, very end, a bit more comfortable for you.
I'm not worried Herbie that you didn't have a subtle end, I'm just thinking it might have been a tiny bit better had I talked to you through it. Live and learn for me, for you Herbie, die and teach. I'll be better next time.
Thanks Herbie, for everything.
Rusty DeWees tours Vermont and Northern New York with his act "The Logger." His column appears weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Listen for The Logger, Rusty DeWees, Thursdays at 7:40 on the Big Station, 98.9 WOKO or visit his website at www.thelogger.com