Life Without Sassy

Copyright © by Dan Schneider, 12/4/06


  Several years ago I had a beloved cat of mine named Chia run away. It devastated me, for while I had suffered through the deaths of cats before, the physical loss of one was a new experience. With death there is certainty. Not so with mere loss. There was no closure with Chia. A few weeks ago I did get closure with the death of another cat of mine, after I got home late, after a day of work. Sassy was an overweight orange and white cat that was a few months shy of turning seventeen. Two other cats of mine, Freddy and Kitty, also died at sixteen, so I was hoping Sassy might set a Schneider family record for oldest cat.

  She was not a friendly cat, and did not get along with the three other younger cats we have- Shadow, Oscar, and Kiwi, much less my wife Jessica. But, as she aged she mellowed a bit. She was not as fussy, and the other cats sort of laughed off her hissing and bitchiness. Yet, Sassy was capable of love. A few years ago, before Jess moved in with me, Sassy would keep me company at nights. Before that, she kept my mother great company for many years, as well as being Kittyís friend after the death of Freddy. My mother had actually picked Sassy when we got her at the North Shore Animal League in 1990. My mom would always recount how she fell in love with Sassyís pink nose, and took her before a little girl could claim her.

  A day or two after we brought her home, Sassyís started ballooning, for she was pregnant, but at six months was too young to give birth to healthy kittens. All her kittens died at birth, and Sassy was concurrently spayed. She gained weight, and had a floppy belly that hung over her anus, when she sat up to try to lick herself clean. Consequently she could not easily clean her butt, and would sometimes run her butt across rugs and carpets to scratch her itch, thus leaving brown smear marks. This drove Jessica crazy, and fed into her dislike of Sassy, which started because Sassy did not like Jessica right away.

  Yet, my mom loved Sassy, and was devastated at her loss. Because it was late at night, we had to take Sassy to an all night emergency animal clinic, not our regular vet. She had been going downhill over several years, and the last few months started losing weight, but in the last month of her life I just knew she was not long for the world. She had trouble walking, due to arthritis, and in the last few days was just lazier than usual. The last day, before I left for work, I saw her laying by our back door, in the sun- a very unusual thing. When I got home Jess told me Sassy lay down in a little puddle on our floor after Jess had mopped up. By the time I got home, Sassy was immobile, dehydrated, unkempt, and sleeping. She could not stand up without shaking violently- her nervous system was shot. I knew this was a sure sign that death was not far behind.

  The vet at the clinic could not actively tell us what to do, lest risk a lawsuit, but I knew Sassy was doomed. We could have tried to rehydrate her, but it would have cost hundreds of dollars, for just a night, and I knew, deep down, she was gone, and it would be vain and cruel to prolong her suffering for my, or even my momís, sake. I called my mom, and she agreed, although she wished she could have been there. I was weeping, so was my mom. Even Jess cried, for she thought Sassy still had a chance. I knew my decision was correct when the vet did not try to argue my decision. So, Sassy was going to be euthanized. I insisted on being there, and first she was to get an injection to knock her out, and then another to stop her heart.

  But, Sassy was so far gone that the shock of the first shot, alone killed her. When I was with other cats that were euthanized, there was a relaxation at death, and the catís tongue unfurled outward, in a snagglepuss grin. Sassyís didnít. She just died, with eyes open, as I held her and told her I loved her. The second shot wasnít even necessary. A few seconds after her death, Sassyís dead body just quivered, and then fifteen or so seconds later her body convulsed a final time. The vetís assistant, who administered the shots, said it was just an autonomic reaction to let loose air.

  Thus, the cat I spent the longest time of my life with, Sassy, was dead. I called my mom, again, then went to her place with Jess, and comforted her. Mom still grieves for her cat, and it has been odd getting used to things that Sassy did, which are no longer, such as Sassyís back claws would click as she walked on our laminate floors, or her big nipple on her back left side, possibly from when she was pregnant. Why it never got small again I do not know. There was the way she turned her head, and many other smaller things.

  Many people do not get the love a person has for a pet. I do not get, emotionally, those sorts of people. They are simply missing the ability to empathize. Often, though, they are the most liberal leaning of people politically. When I lost Chia, I was saddened, for I loved her more than any of the cats I had up to that time. She was my cat, like Sassy was my momís cat. Yet, we had her only a little over a year. Sassy, who was more difficult to love, was with me far longer, and I wonder the mathematics of love- does Sassyís bulk of years compensate for Chiaís year of great love? Human beings think of these sorts of equations. Animals do not. Thus, they cannot scheme, lie, nor manipulate others. This is why I love animals- especially cats.

  There is a purity in the relationships you have with them, even if they donít really like you. Jess knew where she stood with Sassy, who disliked her, as I knew where I stood with Kitty, who always feared me. And now, Sassy is in the past, like Chia, whom I still weep for. Jess weeps for Chia too, and even for Sassy. Sometimes it is good to cry. Other times not. Knowing which is which defines your person and love. Not knowing of such, simply loving, defines a pet.


Click here for photos of Sassy Schneider!

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