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03/06/2006: "but with the loneliness of night I start remembering ev'rything"

i was 23 in 1992. i had just left Baylor University, ungraduated. my mom was undergoing massive chemo and radiation treatment for breast cancer. i was jobless and had run up a $20K credit card debt trying to escape the pain of life...or at least the pain that i thought was in the future, a future without my mother.


so i moved home, got a job and re-started life. my girlfriend from Baylor, an on-again/off-again affair, had moved to Houston also. she dropped from Baylor, running from her own problems. we were both pretty aimless, goal-less, and meaningless. our relationship was the same.

i had just finished a 6 month stint working at a Stop-N-Rob, the 11PM to 7AM shift. in an American Beauty moment ("something with as little responsibility as possible"), i got a job as a bike messenger. i spent 8-12 hours a day riding in the potholed, dirty streets of Houston. we messengers carried legal documents, legal filings, bank documents, and other sundry things that the meaningfully employed dared to send about town. in this world the hierarchy went: managing partners/CEOs/CFOs, partners/presidents/business owners, lawyers, law clerks, legal secretaries, secretaries, receptionists, police, building security, courthouse security, court clerks, bus drivers, cab drivers, motorists, drifters, bums, the homeless, the mentally deranged, and then bike messengers. i am not kidding - messengers were the lowest of the low. i fit in perfect.

after six months of hard, ass busting work, i was almost debt free. yes, i made almost $16K in six months as a bike messsenger. to say that i was in top shape and a hustler would be an understatement. i dropped from 185lbs to 155lbs and went from riding a collegial 30 miles a week (if that) to over 400.

with my financial obligations shaping up, my girlfriend and i decided that since we were already spending every non-working moment with each other, we might as well share rent...or at least i could share my portion with the portion her dad paid.

as part of becoming "real" a couple, we got a cat - a shared pet that would bind us more than a CD collection or shitty couch. we went to the local SPCA and window shopped. a gray tabby kitten was hanging by all fours on the front of his vari-kennel, hollering as loud as possible, "wraaaaaaaaren, wraaaaaaaaren, wraaaaaaaaren." i like animals with lots of spirit and this guy seemed to have it. it was around Christmas of '92, so we named him Cole, as in a lump of coal, or even better, for Nat King Cole, a constant played during the Christmas season in my home growing up.

like all relationships based on sex, alcohol, drugs and lies (thank god no video tape), things ended badly; i was too much an asshole and she was too much a whore. since the lease was in my name, all her shit got moved out. i kept Cole.

Cole went through all the changes of me growing into (more of) an adult: my first real salaried job (benefits, 401K, paid vacation - woo hoo), my return to and graduation from Baylor, my first post-college new car and apartment, my marriage, our first new home and the dogs that eventually numbered five. somewhere in the mix i adopted a Snowshoe Siamese who I named Barnaby. Barnaby and Cole were inseperable and broke many a glass tchotchke during their play throughout our house. our standard poodle Pheobie even adopted Cole, spending almost every waking moment for the last five years fascinated by him. essentially Cole became Pheobe's pet; i was still responsible for feeding him - that whole opposable thumb deal.

two weeks ago Cole took a disinterest in eating. sometimes he could be obstinate. while vocal about dinner, he was not real fond of the maturity/weight-managment food he was on. so for a week i toyed with the flavors. the following week he was looking gaunt and he wasn't being his usual vocal self, so we figured he needed to see the vet. we took him in this past Friday. his liver was a little enlarged, but beyond that, not much was out of the ordinary. phosphates all normal, respiration/lungs good, temperature normal. but his blood level were out of whack: reds down, whites up (this is either a White Stripes album, or a lyric from "Colors".) our vet had two suggestions: some liver tests and/or a trip to a specialist, specifically an oncologist. our vet said it very well could be a lymphoma or something in the bone marrow. because we spend a lot of time (and money) with our vet and the fact our lives basically revolve around pets, instead of Cole staying the weekend in the vet's office, he gave us some fluids to subcutaneously give Cole over the weekend and we would make a decision on his path of treatment on Monday. we also started him on some Baytril, an antibiotic in case we got lucky and it was a liver issue.

pet oncologists are expensive. we have seen several of our customers go through it with their dogs. $3-5K later you usually get another 6-12 months with your pet. animals over 12 are equal to being in their 70s for humans. basically, if Cole had cancer then we were looking at the same thing that happened with Dar's dad: you can treat it, but the timeline is not very long.

personally, my wife and i both are not "medicine for medicine's sake" people. i don't want $400K worth of hospital treatment to give me the final 2 years of my life; those aren't going to be the best two years. we both think that "modern" medicine does some great stuff, but as a society we just don't handle the inevitability of death coupled with morality very well. i mean, Dr. Kevorkian is in prison, does that even make fucking sense? so anyway, we won't be those people who try and save our final years. i expect to die of something like cancer or heart failure (runs in the family, both sides) and i expect that i won't make 70 (runs in the family, both sides.)

this mornning we took Cole back to the vet. our decision was that we wanted the liver tests and then we would see where to go. if the liver test came back as cancer, then we would not treat that. unfortunatly, Cole had gone from lethargic to listless over the weekend. you know it is bad when a cat won't get up to go to the litter box. the vet looked at his lungs: fluid has started to collect and his respiration was significantly more laboured than on Friday. in the vet's opinion, he would need kitty ICU just to get to a level where we could test the liver.

our vet is pretty close with my wife. i mean, we have 5 dogs, 2 cats and we own a boarding/grooming shop 3 blocks away from the vet clinic - i am paying the man's yacht payments i think. we chose this vet after much vet shopping. he is selfless, smart, experienced, and shoots from the hip. he also has a great bedside manner, spending a lot of time to talk with you and give you his opinion/prognosis. he is better than 90% of the human doctors i have seen in the last 5 years, and don't forget i have had back surgery and my mom has recently been in the hosptial for CHF. so what i am saying is, we trust Doctor Jacobs more than i would trust many human doctors.

Doctor Jacobs said personally that Cole was just too far gone. his rapid detoriation was more than likely an effect of some sort of cancer and at his age treatment might get us 3-6 months. maybe. looking at Cole i could see all this was true.

we put Cole to sleep this morning at about 9:30AM. he was my first pet i owned in my adult life, one who i was personally responsible for. it still hurts to even type this.

if you have a pet, give them an extra hug tonight. their lives are so short compared to ours.

I should forget
But with the loneliness of night I start remembering ev'rything
You're gone and yet
There's still a feeling deep inside
That you will always be part of me

Replies: 2 Comments

Man, I am so sorry to hear that. Even allergic, I was always a fan of that cat. Well, both of 'em actually. Hope you're doing ok.

DAC said @ 03/07/2006 06:09 PM CST

I am very sorry for your loss. You and Dar are in my thoughts.

Rob said @ 03/09/2006 10:26 AM CST

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