Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Curzon 1998-2007

I was dreading this, probably more than anything in my life. No, definitely more than anything. Today we had to take our cat Curzon to be euthanased.

Over the past few days, he steadily deteriorated to the point where he stopped eating anything by Sunday (he probably had a tiny bit on Saturday). Yesterday his routine changed, too: He didn't leave the house until nearly 9AM, and was back by late afternoon. As soon as he came home, I looked at him and saw how fast he was breathing, like he'd just run a long race, and I knew we'd have to take him to the vet.

When Nigel came home that evening, he felt that Curzon was starting to really struggle, it was so much work to breathe. Curzon seemed to have trouble moving himself to shift his body and he seemed a little disconnected. Nigel and I talked and agreed that we'd take him to the vet this morning.

I didn't sleep well last night. Actually, I didn't sleep much at all. I was dreading waking up in the morning and finding Curzon had died, and I was also dreading waking up to find he hadn't died, since I knew what we planned to do.

I rang the vet early this morning and made the appointment. They asked if I wanted him cremated (yes), and if I wanted him returned in a nice rimu box or just the cardboard one (cardboard). They were questions I wasn't really ready to answer.

He stayed in the bedroom in the morning, and when I'd finished my shower he was trying to get out, but couldn't quite jump over the baby gate that kept the puppy out. His eyes had life in them again. We closed the door, he lay on the floor for awhile, then crawled just under the bed.

I got dressed and picked him up while Nigel got the cat cage. I sat on the edge of the bed, held him, talked to him softly and stroked him, trying to calm him—he always hated being restrained. I'd just told Nigel that I thought he had a fever because he was hot on my leg, when I realised he'd peed on me. He would've hated that; he hated dirt boxes, too, and always wanted to do his business outside.

I quickly changed and Curzon ran into the en suite and immediately lay down on the floor, seemingly exhausted. Nigel put the clothes Curzon had been sleeping on into the cage (they were a t-shirt and sweatshirt I'd slept in, so they had my scent and his on them). I picked Curzon up and put him in the cage. He complained and again seemed alert.

He complained a few times as we left the house and got in the car. Nigel was very upset. I was, too, but I tried to act normally toward Curzon, telling him we were going to the vet, he knew that place, and it would be alright.

We got there. Nigel and I had stomachs tied in knots. Nigel took care of the consent form and paid the bill (a little crass to pay in advance, I thought, but I understand). I sat with Curzon, touching him through the cage and talking softly to him. We were ushered in to the exam room.

The vet examined Curzon, noticed that his breathing was much worse, even since last week. He felt his abdomen, easy to do since Curzon lost so much weight. He said he could feel what seemed to be tumours on Curzon's liver, meaning the cancer had likely spread. He said that Curzon might have lasted another week, at most, but it would have been increasingly difficult for him and he would have struggled more each day. We were doing the right thing, he assured us.

The vet explained that Curzon would be given essentially an overdose of anesthetic which would put him into an irreversible coma. Once the brain stopped working, everything else would shut down, too. He said he didn't like the phrase “put to sleep”, even with children, because it implies the animal can be awakened. They can't be.

The vet got clippers to shave the fur so he could access a vein. Curzon freaked and complained when he heard the noise. So, the vet got different, quieter clippers. As he worked, he talked soothingly to Curzon. When it came time to administer the drug, I stroked Curzon gently and held him, the vet gently stroked Curzon. In a few seconds, Curzon lay his head down, a breath or two later and movement stoppped. The vet said, “He's gone, I'm sorry.” Then asked if we'd like a few minutes alone with him.

When the door closed, I lost it. Curzon had been my special boy, a birthday present unlike any other. Every night for eight years he slept right up against my side, apart from nights when we were away or the few nights he stayed out all night (including the second night after Saibh died). He sometimes woke me in the night, after going out to go to the toilet or on patrol, wanting more scratches and cuddles. I never minded.

We stayed with Curzon a few minutes, I don't know how long. He looked like our Curzon of old, peaceful at last. We knew that there was a person with a cat in the reception area (we could hear them), so we waited for the vet to take Curzon away through the back door before we left out of the front door.

And that was that.

We picked up lunch on the way home, just as we did when Saibh died. We let jake out, opened up the deck doors for him, and took care of some other things. We weren't quite ready for lunch when I heard a noise in the dining room. I thought Jake knocked something over. I went over there and a bird suddently flew up and against the window. It tried frantically to get out. I unlatched the window and it ducked out and flew away.

Some Maori believe that a bird visiting a house is a symbol of death. Nigel immediately said it was Curzon coming to check on us. If so, it means it was fitting that I was the one who opened the window to free the spirit. In any case, the symbolism is nice.

Nigel said I was strong during the procedure, but I mainly just wanted to make Curzon feel at ease as much as possible. I knew he'd be distressed if I was standing there balling my eyes out, which is what I was doing inside.

Curzon would've been nine years old in November. Barely middle aged. The vet explained that these cancers might possibly be caused by things like exposure to building work, and our next door neighbour in Paeroa was constantly working on his house. Curzon loved visiting there. There were farm paddocks nearby, too, and farmers love to spray chemicals. Or it could have been something near here, like maybe some illegally dumped paints or solvents in the bush behind our house, or from the drainage creek down there. We'll never know.

All I know is that my special little boy is gone. The nightmare of the past few weeks is over for us all.

It's been a time in which Jake hasn't received all the attention he deserves, since we've been distracted, and we haven't been able to enjoy him as much as we should have been able to. I told Jake that I want him to promise to live to be a hundred human years old. He just wagged his tale at me. Then he ran off to get one of his toys.

And life goes on. But today—again—our world feels a bit smaller.

The top photo is of Curzon lying in the bush next to our house just this past March. The photo on the left side is from June of last year. Embiggen the photos to make them prettier.


Anonymous said...

Arthur, I am so sorry.

Anonymous said...

So sorry to read this. It makes me sad.

Anonymous said...

I'm so terribly sorry, Arthur. Hang in.

Anonymous said...

I am so sorry to hear this. This is the time every animal lover dreads. You and Nigel take care of each other.

Jason in DC said...

So very sorry about Curzon.

I will just say this. I know you are very sad now. And that tears have been shed. So think of something that Curzon did that made you smile. And smile. After the tears are gone, the smile will remain.

Wishing Nigel and you all the best.

Kalv1n said...

Arthur, I feel so terrible for you. I remember putting down one of our cats unexpectedly a couple of years ago. I don't know if I was as good as you were about not crying before hand as I was balling the whole way there with the cat on my lap because it was basically too weak to move. And I really lost it during the few minutes alone. I don't want to depress you further, but it took me quite a while to come to terms and have a sense of peace about it: probably several months. I can only imagine how difficult things must be having lost one pet after another. I truly hope that you are okay, and I'm sending you virtual hugs across cyberspace. Please, be well.

Tim Corrimal said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of Curzon. I know exactly how you feel and know that our thoughts and prayers are with you.

Walt said...


I'm so sorry for your loss. I went through the same thing about a year and a half ago. I started crying reading your experiences. You and Nigel are in my thoughts.

Reed said...

I am so sorry.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thank you everyone for you kind words of support. We truly appreciate it. Because we've never had to have a companion animal euthanised before, we've both found this to be an especially hard loss. Please know that your support has made this easier for us. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Very sorry to hear your loss, new reader but nothing worse than losing a pet.

lost in france said...

The loss of a dog and a cat in the same year is too much. All my condoleances.

RambleRedhead said...


As I read your gift with words about your loss of your beloved cat - it reminded me of the two I had lost as well. I know how you feel and I truly wish you two the best during this tough time.

Arthur Schenck said...

Thank you Nik, LiF and RR for your kind thoughts. Things are slowly improving, as they almost always do sooner or later.