Sunday, November 13, 2016

2487. Farewell to My Mooshi

By Kamran Nayeri, November 13, 2016

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightening in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.
—Diamond Sutra, ca. fourth century CE

My Mooshi was euthanized on Friday, November 4.  She took her last breath at about 10:25 a.m.  It was a warm sunny morning, the kind she would have loved to enjoy sitting in her favorite spot in the garden between the miscanthus grass and deer grass.  

The process was relatively anxiety free for Mooshi. As with each examination, she laid on the examination table.  Leaning over her, I held her in my arms to hug, kiss and comfort (and to comfort me). She ate one or two pieces of cat treats.  She was then given an injection of a sedative under the skin of her upper back.  Within minutes she became sleepy.  Then the fur from her back leg was shaved off to expose a vein and some sedative was rubbed on the exposed vein to make it numb. Finally, she was injected in the exposed vein with a dose of a drug that stopped her heart in a few seconds.  I did not see any of this as I was sobbing and holding on to her as if for eternity.  I felt no sign of unease from Mooshi.  She said nothing and did not move. After I was tapped on the shoulder I raised my head to look at Mooshi who still was laying there with her eyes half open. For a moment I thought she was still alive. Alas, her life-force was gone. There laid her beautiful body, those green eyes, colorful fur, gorgeous face lifeless.  I realized that my Mooshi is gone forever. That I must carry on without her beautiful presence in my life.

I buried Mooshi under the redwood trees next to where I had laid Lulu to rest on February 13.  When I placed her body inside her burial site and picked up some soil to spread on it, it smelled like the earth; that is the smell of Mooshi's coat that I always adored. 

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Life and death have puzzled humanity for tens of thousands of years.  Each of us confront them according to our own understanding.  Mine is rooted in science that understands life as an “emergent property” requiring energy flows to sustain and thrive. In this view, death is the negation of life when an organism loses it ability to generate or process this vital energy flow.  After death organisms disintegrate into their constituent elementary chemical compounds. These in turn may become parts of a new living organism or energy flows that are necessary for sustaining them. In this sense, it is true that part of us will become part of one or more living organisms.  However, this is simply a transfer of matter and energy in the constant recycling of living organisms. There is neither a “grand design” nor a non-material “soul” apart from the emergent property of individual organism when it is alive. None of this denies the magic of life and the intrinsic value of each individual being.  To the contrary: imagine the complexity of the conditions that have been necessary for the emergence of the first living organisms on Earth 3.8 billion years ago and complex of conditions necessary for the emergence of more complex forms of life since.  

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There has never been and there will never be another Mooshi.  Just like any other being, she was the product of her unique circumstances.  Mooshi was probably born in 2000 near the Anna Head Buildings of the University of California, Berkeley, between Channing Way and Haste, north of Telegraph Avenue.  Legend has it that she was as part of a litter and her mother and siblings all perished soon after her birth.  The campus Animal Control trapped, spayed and released Mooshi back into the same location.  If this story is true it may explain Mooshi’s feisty personality.  It took me her life time to be able to secure enough of her trust to pick her up and hold her in my arms.  And this was made possible in part due to Mooshi’s increasing dependence on me for her daily functions as she became practically paralyzed in her back legs in the last year of her life.

If my account of her birth date is correct (and I am not at all sure that it is) Mooshi lived about 16 years.  She spent her life in almost equal parts in three locations.  From 2000-2006, she lived as a feral cat in various spots under the Anna Head buildings in Berkeley.  When I had to move to a new job at the UC Office of the President in Oakland, with great difficulty which took months I worked to  trap Mooshi and took her to my Chelton Drive home in Monclair neighborhood of Oakland. She lived there from March 7, 2006 to August 20, 2011.  From August 20, 2011 to November 4, 2016 Mooshi lived in our new home on Darby Road in Sebastopol.   
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Mooshi got her name because one morning I found her at the Survey Research Center’s parking lot with a disappearing mouse tail in her mouth. “Moosh” is “mouse” in Farsi and Mooshi was to denote a mouser. Those early days Mooshi was bursting with energy.  She climbed all kinds of places including the metal mesh fence separating the parking lot from a childcare center and even the Anna Head building itself which she climbed to the top (giving me a minor heart attack in the process).  She was a very smart. In cold winter mornings in Berkeley, she sat on the hood of the recently arrived cars to warm up. Being raised in a parking lot made her car and people smart. She was not afraid of them but she was weary of them getting too close.  Most evenings she sat on the balcony of the Survey Research Center building observing people in cars leaving for the night.  To me it was a heart break each day to leave Mooshi behind to go home for the night so I asked her each time: “Do you want to go home with me?”  Because of Mooshi, I went to work seven days a week--to ensure she eats well and to have company. 

In Montclair, Mooshi continued her habit of watching the world go by as she sat on the driveway from dusk until the bed time (unless she was hungry and came in early for food).  Often I had to call to get her inside for the night.  Mooshi was used to seeing urban wildlife like raccoons and skunks.  When Rocky the mother raccoon and her four offsprings made a habit of stopping by to eat leftover cat food and wash their paws in their water bowl, Mooshi liked to watch them.  

In Sebastopol, Mooshi continued these habits except here I worried about wildlife like coyotes she was not familiar with.  But she was very cautious and stayed close to home.  Mooshi enjoyed the acreage and the rich rodent life that goes with it.  She climbed trees and when the garden took shape she enjoyed taking naps there in the warmth of the sun. 

In Montclair, initially Mooshi shared the house with Nuppy, a large, muscular, tomcat who was a menace to all cats. We had partitioned the lower floor so Nuppy could not beat up Mooshi.  On occasions that Nuppy managed to jumped over Mooshi stood her grounds as best as she could (she was half the size of Nuppy).  After Nuppy’s death in May 2008, Bogie, a tuxedo male cat who had lived in the neighborhood for years came inside the house.  Even before Nuppy died we began feeding George, an unfortunate orange male feral cat who found love only in the last two and half years of his life. Then Fluffy showed up—a young female orange cat that had no teeth. Fluffy hanged out with George and came into the house at the time that Mooshi and I left for Sebastopol.  

In Sebastopol, Mooshi shared the house with Sayda, an older emotionally and physically scared female cat from the feral cat colony I found on Darby Road who also found love only in the last three years of her life.  A little later, Sunny, a younger docile female orange cat, who I found under the mailboxes by the bridge over the Draby Road creek around Christmas of 2011, came to live with us.  Eventually Mooshi accepted them.  About a year and half ago, Panther, a large young muscular tomcat that was dumped in the neighborhood and had befriended me finally came into the house.  Mooshi liked Panther but did not like his wild mannerism and Panther stayed away from Mooshi’s path.  In April, 2015, I brought in Lulu who was the surviving member of the Darby Road colony.  In all this, it was clear that Mooshi remained the dominant cat.  As Dr. Baldwin who cared for Mooshi in the last three years of her life wrote in a sympathy note: Mooshi “was  a beautiful kitty with the soul of a lioness.” 

My relationship with Mooshi was based on total and unconditional love. I know that it was so from my side. But Mooshi who was so protective of herself began to trust me from the beginning and this trust grew over the 13 years we knew each other.  I like to think that she loved me like I loved her.  I know this was true at least towards the end.   But as soon as she had a chance to sleep in the same room as me she made sure to spend at least the last hour of the night laying on my legs.  This habit gave me a bad back but it was well worth it.  As she became more disabled Mooshi let me take care of her daily needs including cleaning her butt and sometimes bathing her in a bucket of warm water  to clean her lower body to ward off infections.  When she was bedridden I used to lean over her and kiss her face and body while rubbing her back and belly and she was purring her heart out.  Perhaps this was total and unconditional love on her part. 

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I am deeply saddened over Mooshi’s demise and feel the lack of her existence in my life each day.  But to euthanize her was the correct decision to ensure she does not suffer needlessly.  Mooshi suffered from chronic kidney disease, the number one killer of older cats.  As the kidneys fail poison build up in the cat’s body.  Subcutaneous fluids are given to cats with kidney disease to flush out the poison from their bodies. Two days before her death, Mooshi refused taking subcutaneous fluids because it involves inserting a big needle under the skin of her back. And the cat needs to stay put while the fluid empties into their body from a plastic bag.  The needle hurts and many cats don’t like the procedure.  The day before Mooshi’s death the technician reported success in administrating the fluids.  But on the way home Mooshi tried to bite my hand that was patting her back. She had never tried to bite me before. When I got home I found a bloody patch of detached fur on her back.  Mooshi had struggle while being forced to take the fluid. The same day Dr. Baldwin reported the result of Mooshi blood test.  Her kidneys were failing fast.  Based on experience, I knew Mooshi needs daily fluids which she had already rejected.  It was time for us to say goodbye.  

After Mooshi’s euthanasia I thanked Dr. Baldwin telling her how I wished to have a similar treatment available to me when my own time comes.  She agreed with the sentiment.  It is a humane way to end the magic of life when it can no longer be sustained with dignity and pursuit of happiness.

So farewell my little girl Mooshi; I have been truly fortunate to know you for so many years of my life.  May you live in my heart for as long as I breath. 

Video clip: Here is a short video clip of Mooshi from the early days at the Survery Research Center to the last day of her life at the veterinarian office in Sebastopol (Thanks to Dr. Baldwin for the last photo). 

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