Monday, December 18, 2006

Rest In Peace, Gus!

On Saturday--my Dad's birthday and the day of our annual holiday party--my mom called to say that our family cat of 17 years had been attacked by a dog in the driveway. They had to put him to sleep. Gus (short for "Generally Useless and Stupid") was a good cat. Fat and unhappy, but he gave the love freely, for sure. I picked him out with my dad when I was thirteen.

Gus did NOT deserve to go that way. Unfortunately, that he did means that this cat-lady is now even more anti-dog than I already was (the licking, the humping, the smell--I just have never really "gotten" dogs).

This is not the first cat I lost to a dog. In 1999, shortly after I moved into this house, I woke to hear a brawl outside. I was living alone--Sam was off travelling--and I got up, put on a robe, and went out to find four dogs emerging from the yard next door. I called for my cats--Poydras and Georgie--and only Georgie came. I remember I wnet in and grabbed some cat food to shake--the usual way I'd get the cats to come inside--but Poydras still didn't come. I felt like I heard a whimper at one point, but I still couldn't find her. After about an hour, I went back to bed, hopeful that Poydras was merely off with a new buddy.

The next day, when Poydras still didn't come when called, I walked around the neighborhood with the cat food. I remember that when I came home, I saw a stray in the yard next door. It was eating something dead. I went into my backyard, climbed a chair, and discovered Poydras--dead and being picked at by a stray. I wailed. I mean I wailed and wailed and wailed. My dear friend and fellow cat-lady, Jackie, came over and helped me bury Poydras. It took me a long time to recover from that one. In fact, there are certain images, certain memories (knowing, for instance, that my baby could hear me calling but couldn't answer) that I try not to recall. Losing Gus to a dog brought all of that up.

So this dog's name was "Beethoven," and it was his birthday, too. Evidently he belongs to the schizophrenic son of some neighbors who have struggled over whether or not to have him euthanized because he had already mauled another neighbor's cat (that one survived but now has just three legs). This we learned when they called to apologize about Gus and to ask for advice about what to do. It seems the son has not been doing very well lately, and the parents worry about what the loss of his dog would do to him. So they shared this on my parents' answering-machine, and now my mom is struggling with their own grief--and now the burden of knowing their own struggles, too.

Now, I am ultra-senstitive to the needs--and rights--of the mentally-ill. But I am frankly a little angry that the family chose to share this with my mom. An unfortunate trait that I share with my mom is perpetual guilt. We are empathetic to a fault. So I know exactly how she is feeling right now--torn. But why did the family have to share this? I'm sure they are genuinely struggling with what to do, but it almost feels manipulative that they would share this with my mom, who really should only be concerned with how to keep that dog away from other families' pets. My advice to my mom was to call and tell them that the decision to euthanize would have to be their own, but that we would like the dog to be removed from the neighborhood. Maybe they have friends or relatives with some land--and hopefully no helpless cats or kids around.

Sigh! It all just sucks a whole, whole lot. I know it was hard on my dad, too, who in the usual dad-fashion handled everything very well but said to me, "If I see that dog outside again... that's it." I share that unfortunate trait--blind rage--with my dad. And I know that if I were to see that dog, I'd have a really hard time not wailing on him something good. I am really tolerant, and very understanding of flaws and mistakes and all of that, but if someone or something hurts those I love, all that love and understanding gets compressed into rage, rage, rage. It's worse after the storm, too. So the bottom line is that the dog needs to go before Simon and I go to Atlanta for the holidays at week's end.

So on Saturday, while I made spinach dip, stuffed mushrooms, red-and-green cornflake treats, and hot cider, I put on a sad CD and allowed myself a good cry. Later, around the campfire, my friends listened to my rummy speech about the cat and we all "cheers"-ed to Gus and poured a little booze out for my kitty-homey. I have really very excellent friends.

There's so much more to tell--about our plans to move, about the state of the city and all things Katrina--but I am drained from the cat and dog episode, and also perhaps from the long semester. Now that I've had a few days to decompress, I feel more tired, not less. I have been slowly wrapping gifts, sleeping late, contemplating taking on any of the myriad tasks on my long list, and getting a whole lot of nothing done. Maybe it's the gray weather and all the fog. Maybe it's that I am really just tired and need to listen to my blues and sleep while the gettin's good. Who knows. For now, I'll make my way to the mountain of dishes in the kitchen, drag myself to a going away party that promises to be sadder than hell (another friend who's decided to leave the city...), and get up at the McCrackin' of dawn for a dentist's appointment.

Tis the season!(This, by the way, is our Christmas tree. Last year we got a real one because they were giving them away on Canal. This year, no more free trees. It appears even Santa has Katrina-fatigue. This one still gets the job done, though--and an added bonus was that it attracted buckmoths. Buckmoths come from the wretched and poisonous buckmoth caterpillar that rains from oak trees in New Orleans. While they are generally just vicious creatures, they make excellent ornaments! There: that's a cheerier ending!)

What I MEANT to say was 'TIS THE SEASON!!!!


LaPartera said...

Oh Sarah, I am so sorry about Gus. He had been failing slowly, which in his case meant actually letting me pet him. What a way to go. Irresponsible dog owners are the pits.

Hugs. I will call your mom later today.

Emily said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Gus. What a terrible way to go! As a fellow cat-lady, I feel your sadness. I'm sure Gus will be having fun chasing bugs and eating catnip or whatever in kitty heaven.