Ramone has been gone over two days now, and no sign of him. I got one phone call from my flyers, but it was not Ramone that woman had found. We fear the worst. He was just too old to wander far, and if he did not head out somewhere to die on his own initially, I don’t see how he could have survived this long on his own in his 14-year-old, sick-with-something-undiagnosed state. He never, ever stayed away from his food bowl for more than two or three hours. Whatever illness he had made him ravenous, and the only difference we’d noticed in his behavior the week before he disappeared was that he was eating even more than usual – up to 5 small cans of wet food a day. Even with all that eating, when I took him to the vet last Friday for his monthly steroid shot, he’d not gained a pound, and his stool has been pale for months – a further indication that he was not deriving enough nutrients from his food.
We were torn when the initial tests turned up nothing to explain the weight loss, and after owning so many pets over the years, my husband and I are exceptionally leery of specialists when it comes to our animals. The only time I can think of when a specialist actually helped one of our pets was when Sprocket came down with distemper as a pup, and even then the cure was more emergency than specialist care; Sprocket survived that horrible illness by being a tough pup, and by getting into an emergency clinic quick enough to be watched 24-7 for several days and get his fever brought down. The fact that he did not develop any of the neurological problems that eventually kill the puppies that get that illness was pure luck.
Other than that, we have spent absolute shit-tons on specialists for everything from cancer to anal fissures (had to be one of the worst health problems I’ve ever had to manage in a dog) and the thousands we’ve spent, when I look back on it, never did much of anything to help an animal’s suffering or extend his life. So we decided a while ago that unless we were dealing with a very young pet, we were not going to go that route anymore. Ramone was 14 years old, and we didn’t feel more invasive tests would help us (I’ve lost another cat to a weird illness involving vomiting and weight loss, and all those tests never told me a thing, and the cat still died about 6 months after all that testing) nor would Ramone be able to handle them OR whatever treatment might result from actually finding something wrong.
I guess I am justifying that decision to myself, now, in a way – in my heart I know we made the right choices and that all that testing mess would have been worse for him. I also know we got about three more good months out of him with the steroids, and up until he disappeared, he did not seem the least bit miserable. That’s the only weird thing in all this – one minute he was there, sitting at his spot on the kitchen table (yeah, gross I know, but we never eat there, so we let Ramone do it instead) while my husband fed the dogs first, then he was gone. He must have slipped out when I came home from work a few minutes later, because we never saw him again. In a way I’m hurt he didn’t do something to say goodbye to us – a final cuddle, a meow, something – but as I said, I’d been paying special attention to him for several months, since he started losing the weight, so perhaps he felt whatever needed to be shared between us was already done. I know you’re thinking, get a grip, it was just a cat – and yeah, I’m totally humanizing him to try to process that he’s gone in such a weird way. I’ve lost pets all sorts of ways over the years, but I have never had one vanish without a trace.
Anyway, I went ahead today and did what I do to honor all our pets when they move on: I bought some flowers for him at the grocery store, and tonight I will gather up some things around the house that remind me of him and place them in the large antique chest I keep in our formal living room. In that chest I have mementos and photos of all our pets who’ve died, as well as the box of their ashes – the one thing I won’t have of Ramone. In the end, I don’t need them, of course, it’s just different this way.