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Lukaska: The Emotional Post

posted at 10:49 pm
on Jan. 16, 2005

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Yesterday, I woke up to the sound of Lukaska throwing up.

Today, I put her down.

If you think that’s raw and painful, you should feel what the inside of my eyelids feel like.  I haven’t been blinking as much today, because of how bad it hurts me to see the images I see when I close my eyes.

It’s not a gruesome image.  It’s placid.  It’s peaceful.  It’s very, very still.

I see myself, I’m on my knees in the vet’s rectangular facility, leaning into the shelf cage where Lukaska is resting serenely, chanting “forgive me forgive me forgive me” as she pressed her head into my cupped hand.  She didn’t answer me, she just purred.

That was the last time I saw her.


She was feeling no pain.  The doctor had done what she could. Then we had to do what we could.


Why does it hurt so much worse when you stub your toe compared to when someone drops something on your foot?

I’ll tell you why.  Because when you stub your toe, you do it to yourself.  That hurts way more. No one can hurt you the way you can hurt yourself.


I told Susie I felt guilty (guilty, your honor—my goodness, the courtroom metaphors were out in full force today) about being more emotional about this than I was when I was told my grandmother died.  Actually, I told her it was worse than when I heard my parents were divorcing, but that’s because I didn’t feel quite so bad admitting that.

Susie’s quick.  She said—because that was distant, and it was telegraphed, and it wasn’t your responsibility.

I still wonder.  I always felt that people who went crazy over their pets were a little, well, I didn’t admire that.  Now I think I simply didn’t understand.


One thing I don’t ever remember taking a class in, one lesson I don’t ever remember learning until today, is the disconnect between the state of the world and the actions we need to take as we move through it.

Almost everything in the world exists on a continuum: health, wealth, happiness, age, hunger, power, tips, progress, faith, beauty, knowledge, love.  They have no top and bottom, no beginning and end.  Hope is not yes or no.

And yet, so many of our decisions are black and white.  Should I get married?  Do I believe in God? Which college should I go to?  Do I want lunch?  Will I or won’t I?

I have to appraise the state of the world around me, I have to take in as much information as possible, i have to weigh all the contributing factors, and then make a decision that is yes or no. Even when I understand a situation perfectly, and perfectly accurately, sometimes there’s no clear answer.

And when that question is “Should I buy an iPod?” or “If I leave now, will I be on time?” it’s easy to fudge a bit and think, this decision’s not black and white, and I’ll be able to fix things later, or deal with the consequences.  In other words, this decision isn’t final. But it is, and they don’t teach you that.  Decisions are final, even if they open other possibilities or are reversible.  They get made, and never are unmade, no matter how fuzzy the world around remains.

Today, I looked at the grayest of gray questions: What is pain and suffering? What is the value of a life? What do these dark smudges on a dark x-ray mean?  I was really being asked, What does the future hold?

And from those questions, had to come a single answer.

And suddenly, I think that if in fact there is a God, above all else, I feel sorry for him.


You forget the pain so fast.  But there’s so much to forget.  It’s Monday now, and already I feel less like shredded paper, more like cardboard.  I still feel awful, but the mind has ways of protecting itself.  I find it hard even to remember what I felt as I was writing yesterday.  I have half-finished sentences that I now no longer remember why I started.

I’m glad I feel better, but I hate that I’m numb.  I don’t want to remember, but I hate that I’m forgetting.


Susie and I want to comfort each other.  But we both personally just want to be left alone.  It makes for an garnish of tense on a bed of hurt.


Looking around the apartment, I note that Lukaska left very few traces.  She didn’t have her own water bowl, litter box or bed.  She didn’t have her own collar or toys. She was a simple cat who didn’t care for things.  She cared for people.  She cared for us.  The hardest thing for me to do with Lukaska gone is to go to bed, because she was always there ready to snuggle up like a stuffed animal in the crook of my arm.

She was with us since we were married.  In that time, she was a constant when many things changed.  And yet, the most tangible thing left now are wisps of cat fur under the furniture.

I’ll never vacuum again.


My mind keeps trying to make up plausible narratives that put Lukaska’s death in the best light.

Things like:
* at least it happened on a Sunday, when then vet’s was closed and peaceful, and we had a quiet day at home, too, even on Monday because of MLKS Day instead of getting phone calls and other disturbances
* at least we didn’t call earlier on Saturday and reach our own vet directly, or her last night would have been in a kennel instead of in her favorite sleeping spot
* at least I stayed up and held her on her last night
* at least we had eight good years
* at least we knew she was sick and had time to prepare ourselves
* at least she went gently into that last night
* at least we were there to be with her when she passed
* at least we had the privilege of ending her pain, instead of knowing she was hurt and being unable to help
* at least we had a little extra time

I can feel my defenses craft these soothing thoughts, they creep into my head and reinforce each other.

But frankly, Lukaska should have lived longer, and I’d have much rather had another year, day or hour even if it meant that things weren’t as “right” at the end.  Period. The rest of it is just icing on a turd.


When I would sit on the couch under a blanket, Lukaska used to paw at me gently to ask to slip under, like an airline flight attendant waking me to see if I want dinner.

She had a bizarre habit of eating long stringy plastic, like fishing line and broom bristles.  She also liked to chew on the corner of paper file folders.  She destroyed a phone cord by chewing it gradually over several years, and the cord on my headphones would have been next, if I hadn’t put tabasco sauce on it. Somehow, she knew to avoid power cords.

She liked guys more than girls.  She liked laps more than chairs.  And she liked dry food, and never got into people food, other than tuna.

She rarely meowed, and moved very quietly.  Her definition of playing was to eat the tail off a toy mouse, or maybe to bat it once or twice across the room, and then walk away from it.

She loved to be touched and held, even wrapped up, but she could tell when she was being restrained, and she would object to it violently.  Because of this, she often had a red sticker on her file at the vet’s.

She was very clever about not eating pills.  Though I got pretty good at it, it was never certain that she’d swallowed it, and I’d have to follow her around for at least a few minutes to make sure she didn’t spit it out.  I found pills in the bed, the carpet and stuck to the wall.

Aimee and Lukaska were together for three years, but never got along, though they did sleep touching each other at least twice.  Both times, it was very cold out.

Lukaska would clamp onto your skin with her teeth when you were petting her but not paying attention.  She wasn’t biting, exactly.  She just wanted you to be actively loving her.

We got Lukaska at the pound on a trip there with Debbie.  Lukaska was left there by her previous family because they were moving.  I wonder if they knew what they were leaving behind.

Lukaska was a medium-hair tortoise shell with a white belly.

I miss her. She was the best cat.



Previous entry:
Bookshelf Meme

Next entry:
Lukaska: The Intellectual Post


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