Can’t resist. Here are twelve more Royal Oak Animal Shelter kittens.

Can’t resist. Here are twelve more Royal Oak Animal Shelter kittens.

Tags: Cats

Last week, I did a kitten photo shoot at the Royal Oak Animal Shelter to help them get their little ones up on Petfinder. Here are twelve of them.

Last week, I did a kitten photo shoot at the Royal Oak Animal Shelter to help them get their little ones up on Petfinder. Here are twelve of them.

Tags: Cats

Talking Heads: “Heaven” (Fear of Music, 1979)

[Caution: post contains thoughts on religion.]

The night after my cat Jazz died, I talked to a friend about it. I hadn’t actually brought it up—he just noticed that I looked a little rough and asked what was up, which is what good friends do. His family had just recently buried their dog after he was felled by a disease, so we had a lot to talk about. He said something that tapped pretty directly into something Jazz’s decline had me thinking about a lot recently, which is what exactly death is. 

I don’t believe in God. I never have. Not even when I was little and my family went to church weekly (which I suppose you could misspell as “weakly” and it would still make sense). Some people—a lot of people—look at the world and see abundant evidence of some kind of willful creator. I do not. I see evidence that there is no such creator. I don’t consider myself an atheist, really, because atheism is itself a form of committed belief, but I’ve never found a reason to believe. I’ll call it agnosticism leaning atheist for the sake of argument.

Anyway, the thing that my friend said that tied into my own thoughts was that he knew people meant well when they said his dog was “in a better place” now, but that it bothered him all the same. In his mind, the best place for his dog to be was with him. This response made intuitive sense to me. I’ve also had people say similar things, and it creates automatic internal dissonance, but I’ve reached a point in my life where it doesn’t bother me. Their beliefs aren’t the same as mine, and I know that they really believe solace will come from saying these things. So I appreciate the sentiment even if I don’t share it. 

So where do I find solace?  Absent a belief in some sort of life after this life, I have to seek it here, where I am now. I find it in my two remaining cats, Darwin and Toast. I find it in my love for my wife and my family, and in my friends like the guy I had the conversation with. I find it in knowing and accepting that this is the way life is. It ends, and the embodied energy and matter of life re-enters the world to become part of more life. This is what I want when I die. To be buried in a simple wrapping so the world can get to me.

Some day, far in the future, I’ll be strung out in the clouds of gas between stars, long disintegrated but still part of the universe that I came from. And I always will be. Jazz will be there too, and I’m sad that he’s not here now, with me, in the best place he could be, but he had a good life, the best I could give him, and there is living left to do, other cats to care for and I have to keep moving.

This Talking Heads song is one of the few songs I can think of that somewhat shares my views on the afterlife. I mean, putting aside the fact that I think the existence of Heaven is highly improbable, all the preaching I’ve heard about the place puts an image exactly like this in my head. How could anything happen there? What exactly is eternity in the first place? Moments—the party, the favorite song—become meaningless in a stream of eternity. We would need an extremely different mechanism for perception than what we have to even register eternal existence.

I’m going to quote a short story I wrote several years ago for a publication called Revelation put out by my friends at Fourth Horseman, even though the prose makes me wince a little bit (had I been reading a lot of Kerouac or what?): 

"I shudder to realize there are no artists in Heaven, even those saved souls who were artists in life, because if Heaven is all bliss and everlasting light and so on, everything is constant and nothing needs creating anymore, so therefore Heaven is the death of creativity (and the death of guilt, one supposes, as they leave those poor tortured souls down below to their fate without a twinge, a twinge being apposite to the whole bliss aspect). What an awful place, then.

That about sums it up for me. The Talking Heads were right. Heaven is dull. This life, though, is not. It’s knowing that an end exists that helps make it exciting and makes it worth doing things. The Universe is big, strange, and beautiful. And you are a part of it. 

Rachel’s: “Water From The Same Source” (Systems/Layers, 2003)

Today, I bought Cheez Whiz for my cat. As much as I never imagined I would do such a thing ten years ago when we adopted him, I can’t say I was surprised to find myself doing it. My dealings with animals, the ones I’ve adopted and the ones I’ve looked after at rescues and shelters, have led me to do plenty of things I never would have predicted for myself.

I never had pets growing up. It wasn’t until I was 23 and married that cats ever entered my life in any meaningful way, when my wife’s childhood cat, Abby, came to live with us, and we brought Jazz, the cat I bought the Cheez Whiz for, into the family a month or so later.

Abby lived 18 years. She was a brown tabby and embodied a lot of the things that people talk about when they talk about cats generally. She was aloof and could be surly, didn’t like to be picked up or bossed around, slept a lot… She picked favorite people, and for some reason I was one of them.

At the end of her life, Abby’s kidneys started to go bad on her, and I found myself in the guest bathroom, giving her subcutaneous fluid treatments. I gave her shots. I tried to get her to eat. On one of the worst days of my life, Labor Day, 2008, we rushed her to an emergency vet when she grew weak and disoriented, and we ended her life as painlessly as possible as her organs began to shut down.

Now Jazz is 16. He’s been getting by with one functioning kidney for two and a half years. He was 20 pounds when we brought him home, and now he’s eight and a half. We keep a veritable buffet of cat foods around, and he goes from one to the next, getting tired of each one quickly. I’ve been giving him pills for years to manage his blood pressure and settle his stomach (his newest pill, a sort of turbo booster for his colon, had to be specially made at a compounding pharmacy because no one manufactures it anymore), and I’ve experienced something I think a lot of parents experience at some point or another. He’s started to resent me.

There is always necessarily a gap between your knowledge and abilities and the knowledge and abilities of those in your care. Without the gap, they wouldn’t need your care. I know Jazz needs these pills to manage his health, but he doesn’t know that. He just knows that I’m shoving something down his throat that tastes bad. And sometimes when I come near him, he flicks his tongue like he’s nauseous, which is what he also does when anticipating his pills. He’s started to associate me with his pills, which hurts, because I know I’m giving him medicine to help him, and he’ll never understand that.

But I do it, and I make sure my wife doesn’t have to because I want him to have one person around the house he doesn’t associate with medication. Lately, his health has declined badly, and we’re in that awful zone pet owners inevitably inhabit where we begin to question how far and how hard we should push these creatures in our care, animals that have trusted us to do what’s best for them, even if they haven’t always understood why we do it. Jazz is the sweetest cat. He never bites or scratches. He loves belly rubs and laps, and in spite of everything, food, but I see his spirits waning and I feel terrible and a little helpless.

That’s what the Cheez Whiz is for. The plan is to coat all of his pills with it, to give him a good flavor for the brief trial he has to endure every day, to hide the bitter edge of benazapril and famotidine. I hope it works.

If it doesn’t, we’ll plug along as we have, doing our best, and at some point, we will have to weigh his quality of life and make the hard decisions. But not yet. He still has enough happiness in his life that I think the pills and vet visits are worth it. And a little resentment is a price I’m willing to pay for that.