Sunday, May 13, 2018

2914. Farewell to George

By  Kamran Nayeri, Spring 2009
The last time I saw George. Photo: Kamran Nayeri

George left us as he came, almost as if it was his choice.  And on a certain level, it perhaps was.  About two and half years ago, when I was feeding our other cats outside the house I noticed an orange cat sitting at a distance eyeing me.  There was no question that he was hungry. 

So, I took a bowl of dry food and left it near him and walked back.  He immediately came and ate all of it.  He wanted more.

I did not see the cat for several weeks after that day.  But he showed up again and I fed him again.  With time, the frequency of his visits increased and his trust in us. I called him George.  He was a large male feral cat that was never neutered.  He was in a bad shape. He was noticeably suffering from malnutrition, his left forearm hurt so he kept it up when he sat down, his right ear folding forward.  He had these two big round eyes that looked so sad.  He was very wary of people; we never managed to touch him.

At first, “our” male cats, especially Nuppy, tried to keep George away.  A few months before Nuppy’s death, I had to snatch him up from a confrontation with George. Both cats were fighters.  Bogie, “our” cool male cat that is usually easygoing had a few punches exchanged with George.  But eventually, George joined “our” group of cats and our house became his.  He quickly learned the breakfast and dinner schedule and during the day went to the garage for snacks or water.

Over time, George’s health improved. He fur got healthier, his forearm healed, and I think his ear also straighten out.  A few times, I saw George following a younger cat up the hill among the bushes.  The younger cat looked like George, especially his ringed tail.  Later, we thought this probably was George’s son.  This cat also shows up from time to time to eat the food in the garage.  But he looked healthy and I think he might have someone that feeds him more or less daily. 

About a year and half ago, we noticed a fluffy orange cat that ate the scarp of cat food we left for raccoons to eat.  While very skittish at first, afraid of us and of Mooshi, “our” female cat that I had brought home from UC Berkeley, Fluffy, as we called her, joined the group as well.  

We guessed that Fluffy was George’s daughter.  They often hung out together.  They sometimes greeted each other by smelling each other’s faces, as if kissing each other on the cheek.  George would let Fluffy eat first.  Both of them slept under our neighbor’s house. 

From time to time, George did not show up for his meals or his day food would go untouched.  I thought he might have found food elsewhere.  But he would show up somewhat worn out.  But things would return to normal and he would eat with good appetite.  Being an older cat, I was worried if he would survive the winter.

Last fall, we insulated the garage and made a couple of nice beddings for George.  Soon after that George began to sleep in the garage.  We felt good about this.

What is more, George began coming into the house to eat and to venture.  At one point, he did spry in the house. That is, to mark his territory.

What we did not know was that George was suffering from a serious disease.  Beginning in January, George became increasingly finicky.  First, he did not like his salmon wet food anymore.  We tried to offer other flavors. Gradually, he stopped eating most food that he really liked. When he ate, he did so with difficulty.  He would eat only the top of his chunk of wet food.  And he increasingly preferred liquids (but not water).  So, we got his CatSure and lactose-free milk.  He began to lose weight.

We found ourselves helpless. There was nothing reliable on the Internet to give us some clue of what to do to help George. I did call the Montclair Veterinary Hospital to see if I can talk to a veterinarian for help.  Dr. Richter called the following day.  But he said he cannot really offer much help without seeing the cat—which we could not arrange.  We could not touch him and in the past trying to trap him had proved futile.

But on Saturday, January 30, I asked Mary if she could borrow the trap from our neighbor (who traps feral cats to fix them) and set it up.  Thirty minutes after the trap was set up, George had walked into it—no doubt in his confusion.  

So, I called Montclair Veterinary Hospital immediately and begged them to give us a quick appointment, which they did with minimum $600 charge.  They took in George without us having a chance to talk to the doctor.  They ran a series of test.  Dr. Cynthia Lynn came to the waiting room to discuss her exam.  “Everything seems more or less normal about George,” she said.  I immediately felt better.  His blood lab results ruled all infectious diseases, kidney disease, and almost everything else that could explain his condition.  One of his kidneys had enlarged, so she wanted to take an X-Ray to consider the possibility of cancer.  The result showed a well-formed but enlarged kidney.  She did not think it looked cancerous.  So, I asked her what could explain his dangerous condition.  She did not offer any ideas.  They had given him an antibiotic shot, something to stimulate his appetite and they gave us some prescription cat food that was supposed to be tasty and nutritious. Dr. Lynn told us that the X-Ray showed a pellet in George’s body.  The bill was just shy of $800.

We went home still happy that George may pull out of this—after all the doctor did not find anything wrong.  We left George in the garage, left the door to his carrier open and close the garage door.  He immediately ran to the cat door and was trying hard to open it to leave the garage.  We left him there for a while and in about 30 minutes Mary opened the cat door so he could leave if he wanted.  George left the garage and we did not see him again until Thursday morning.

Thursday morning, when Mary opened the house door at 6 a.m., George was half his former size hungry and thirsty. His eyes were sick and small.  He came in and ate about ¼ of a can and drank some milk.  He then went upstairs to sleep in the garage.  It was a rainy and damp day.  

Friday morning, I went to visit George in the garage.  I also cleaned a litter box for him so he did not have to leave the garage for anything if he did not want to.  It was a nice day.  By mid-afternoon, it was about 59 degrees.  When I went to the door to feed Fluffy, I found George in his box, a very small cat with sick small eyes.  He put his head on his front paws resting.  I offered him food and milk—he smelled them but did not take any.  He then went back upstairs to the garage.  He repeated this twice again.  The third time, he did not go to the garage. Instead, he sat on the top step like he liked to do many times in the past to enjoy the fresh air.  He then laid down, his body like a sheet of paper.

Somehow, it occurred to me that I might never again see George.  We had no photo of him as he was camera shy and I respected that.  But I ran downstairs to get my camera.  When I came back up Bogie was standing above George looking at him and smelling him; a very unusual situation.  I called Bogie not to bother George and aimed to shoot a picture.  Then came the mail truck—Bogie ran away, George dragged his body to the driveway and laid flat on his side in front of the garage.  A little later, he went in to rest.

That night, Mary went to the garage to spend time with George resting on his bed.  

Next morning, George was gone.  We have not seen him since and I have convinced myself that we will never be able to lay an eye on him again. 

George was a dignified cat—even when he came to us starving and badly hurt and sick or when he was dying.  He liked to stretch by putting his forearms on the stairs and lowering his bottom.  The day before we took him to the vet, George sat on the top stair while I sat a step below him. We locked our eyes together. He looked deeply into mine. And I look into his round sad big eyes.  Somehow, tears came to my eyes. I knew that my friend will not be with me for very long.  He got up and walked towards the garage, stopping at the eye level looking at me one more time.  He then disappeared into the garage door.  

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