When met the GM nearly 14 years ago I was an avowed animal loather. My only love of animals was the love of eating the tasty ones. I had no interest in sharing my life with furred, feathered or finned creatures.
The GM of course had two cats. I understood she loved them. I didn't understand why. It didn't matter, I loved her and was willing to put up with the beasts.
The white guy in the photo is Ziggy. He came to the GM in Chatsworth, and became her guardian, friend and later, reason to live. When I met the GM she was recovering from a work related accident, unable to do much physically without pain. She was something of a hermit, sitting for hours with her Ziggy, watching movies, smoking weed and trying to make sense of her life.
When we met I was on my way. I had already made plans to move to North Carolina when the work season here ended. She decided she'd had enough of chasing her father and decided to join me. Ziggy and Piper came along. Two cats, all our crap, a full Yugo and a roof rack across the country.
I still didn't care much for animals. My attitude was not exactly Descartesian but I wasn't convinced that a person could know the mind of an animal (I'm still not for that matter). However in Chapel Hill I did accept that Ziggy could communicate which has been a source of great misunderstanding between the GM and I ever since.
While we were there things got rocky. We split up and the GM moved out, taking the cats with her. She went along in something of a fog until one evening, Ziggy disappeared after she had been a little negligent. Once she realized her life had gotten out of control she knew it was time to change. We started speaking.
While she was changing, about a month or so into the new GM, a woman called me saying my cat was coming around her house. My number was on his tag. She lived 30 or so miles away. I drove over and indeed, there was Ziggy, but he wouldn't come near. I did this every day for a week or maybe two. I'd see him, but he wouldn't get close. Once the GM could travel I brought her over. The woman told her not to be disappointed if he didn't come over but Ziggy ran right up to the GM and hopped in her arms. We all went home together.
I still don't know how it is I came to love Ziggy. Or how someone who never wanted anything to do with an animal managed to have two cats and two dogs in his house. I do know that loving Ziggy was the first step to loving myself in a greater way and that opening my heart to these animals is, in some weird way, what allowed me to become a father.
Eighteen years is old for a cat and Ziggy had been showing signs of that age for a while. He became a feline skeleton, with papery skin. I could barely feel his weight when he was in my lap. He didn't seem in pain though. Just old. Finally his legs were giving way, he stood with difficulty and teetered around the room. It was time.
I took him in and the vet said he might respond to treatment. To go longer. I couldn't make that decision. The GM said let's try. So for a week I sat with Ziggy and a fluid bottle, giving him 100 ml subcutaneous liquid in an effort to get his frail body some moisture and muscle. Looking vainly for signs of improvement.
Before the Sardine was born for about a month and half we were constantly being bombarded with child situations. Customers telling me to fuck off because I wouldn't let them bring in a pizza for the children. Being in the NY Times as part of an article about children's behavior in restaurants. Nearly every day there was something that was making us examine how we felt about children. At one point I asked the GM, "What the hell is going on with all this kid stuff ?"
Now it seems like I am surrounded by the aging process, medical intervention. What to do, not to do. What "quality of life" means. We had a 94 year old man, and a 98 year old woman at the restaurant two nights ago. One of the cooks and I had to escort the 98 year old up the stairs as the elevator was broken. When we got her down, after she had enjoyed dinner with her family she gave the cook a big hug and told us, "Thank you for doing that for me. Otherwise I would have had to stay home." Could she do the same things she could at 40, 50, hell even 70 or 80? No, she had a walker and was moving slowly. Was she enjoying herself? She seemed to be. What was quality of life for an animal ? The same as a human? Do they accept that sitting by the fire might be as good as it gets when they reach advanced years? I don't know, and I don't think anyone else does either.
I brought him in today. The GM couldn't go with us. I held his head gently while the vet gave him a sedative and he very quickly fell asleep. She gave him another injection and within moments he died in my arms. I buried him by the steps, where he used to greet us when we got home from work.
I miss him. He was my friend. And my teacher.