Saturday, October 27, 2007

For Baci

"Baci" means "kiss" in Italian. Baci was my cat-friend for 12 years. He loved to kiss anyone and everyone, like some kind Italian uncle. Today I drove to the vet with him in my lap, sobbing, so he could leave this earth in peace instead of in pain.

I found Baci in my backyard one snowy winter night about 12 years ago. It was sheer luck that I walked outside right at that moment and saw him. He was a large tabby, a very strong Tom-cat. He seemed hungry and it was cold. In case he belonged to someone, I didn't take him inside that night, but left him on blankets in a large box on the front porch, so he could leave if he wanted to. He never wanted to.

Baci was a champion purr-er. That cat had the loudest purr I've ever heard. And he loved to purr right into your ear, in the middle of the night. He tried to lay on your head (likely so as to capture the heat) while you tried to sleep while launching him to the end of the bed over and over again.

Baci was at my side through many events in my life. He was there when I brought my son home from the hospital and when I woke in the middle of night with him for exhausting years. Baci always knew when I was upset, and he would walk over and offer the comfort of his purring and softness. He was there when I cried and cried over a lost pregnancy and then a few years later when it all happened again. He climbed onto my lap as I wailed like a lost child at the news of my beloved grandmother's death. Baci was there when my son learned to walk and talk. He was there when I passed the bar exam and cried with joy and relief. He watched and listened as my marriage crumbled over time. At the very end of his life, he taught me to be courageous in the face of death.

Several weeks ago, I noticed that Baci was spending more and more time in stillness and seemed to be getting thinner. At first I chalked it up to old age, but after he spent over 6 hours one day in one spot on my bed, I realized there was something truly wrong with him. The vet went through a lot of blood tests only to conclude that while he was dehydrated and had lost weight, all tests were normal. It left us with two options as to what was wrong, and it ended up being the worse of the two. There was a large tumor right next to Baci's big, strong, beautiful heart. I saw it right there on the x-ray, through tears, as the vet's eyes grew wet too, and he softly and compassionately said, "I'm so sorry."

Baci had been at the hospital for 2 nights and days at this point, so I asked if I could take him home for one night, and bring him back the next day. They removed the i.v. and feeding tube, and I took my Baci home to be loved like crazy for the next 24 hours. He slept on my head that night, purring loudly, and I didn't make him get off me. In fact, I moved as little as possible so Baci could stay exactly as he wished all night long.

I took pictures of my friend, so I wouldn't ever forget what he looked like on his last day on earth. I'm surprised I stopped crying long enough to take photos, but I did. One of them is at the top of this journal entry. He rested on my chest like that for a very long time as I cried and tried to memorize the weight of his body on me, the softness of his fur, and the sound of his "purrrrr, purrrrr."

I gave him every delicacy I could find, from heavy cream to cat treats to Petromalt, which he loved and always gobbled like candy to a chorus of "purrrrr, purrrrr."

I carried him around all morning, and talked to him. I took him outside, held him in the autumn sunshine and kissed his nose. I laid on the front porch swing and held him on my chest while he purred and then slept.

I held his adorable head in my hands, looked into his pale jade green eyes, and told him "thank you." "Thank you Baci (sob), for being my friend for all this time (sob), for sitting with me when I lost two pregnancies, and when I lost my grandma, and when things were sad and when things were happy. I love you Baci, thank you."

I didn't want to take him to the vet today. My body even started to fight me and I began to shake after I loaded him into the car.

When the very kind vet injected him with the anesthesia, it was as I'd heard and been told: He seemed to just very peacefully and quickly go to sleep and relax in my arms. His beautiful head was supported on my arm, his strong Tom-cat body on my lap. I was petting him when he died, and my voice was the last thing he heard, "I love you Baci." How I choked that out I have no idea. I guess I could do it because I wanted him to hear it.

He died snuggled in my arms, in no pain. Though I hate today, I can see the beauty of it, too. He was very ill and would have only gotten worse. I hope I gave him a gift in easing his passing. He gave me more than I would ever have been able to repay.

Thank you Baci. I love you.