Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Farewell to Ell

Last week we had to euthanize Ellington, our cat.

Ell was with us for more than 16 years, almost as long as we've been married. We had rescued him from a cat hoarder when he was still a kitten, along with his grey/white brother, Montgomery. Actually, we think Monty was his brother, but there were so many kittens in the hoarder house we could never be certain. We called them brothers.

More importantly, we called them family.

Ellington with his boy
Ellington would endure anything and everything from his boy, Jackson.
Ours is house that loves its animals. I think about our dog almost every day, and she passed away in October 2014. Losing her still stings.

Of all our critters, Ellington was the constant. He lived with us in Alexandria, Virginia; then Durham, North Carolina; Jacksonville, Florida; Holly Springs, N.C.; Raleigh, N.C.; Glasgow, Scotland; and now Bristol, England. Other pets have come and gone, with Ell enduring.

A couple of years ago I wrote a popular post about Ellington A boy and his cat — which described his stubbornness, his fierceness toward dogs, and his apparently limitless patience with our toddler. I noted he had mellowed as he aged, and that's a trend which continued in the last years of his life. Our friends in Scotland simply didn't believe that Ell, who appeared so meek and mild, would go on a rampage against a dog. So they decided to experiment with him, using their own dogs as bait stimuli.

Ellington with a neighbor dog
Ellington cuddled on our friend's lap with her dog. My mind was blown.
We told them they were crazy.

We were wrong. They were right.

Not only did Ellington not attack, he didn't mind the dogs at all. In fact, he seemed to embrace their presence, greeting them, sniffing noses, and one time even rubbing himself up against them. Huh? Did he miss Mattie? Was he merely older, kinder, gentler, calmer, saner? Was he so lonely as the only remaining critter that any animal became a point of curiosity instead of fodder for an attack?

Ellington was a fully drawn character in our lives. And not a static one, but a dramatis personæ with a dynamic character arc from kittenhood to old age.

He's gone now.

Cancerous masses throughout his abdomen grew quickly, as far as we know. We'd been managing his late-onset diabetes for a couple of years, with monthly and bi-monthly checkups to check his insulin levels and other vitals. But then, a week after his latest checkup, he stopped eating his regular food. We tempted him with canned food and chicken broth and tuna juice. After a few days, even those were no longer enticing. Where he had been vibrant and present, loving and needy, vocal and alive, in his last couple of days he turned listless and weak. We didn't know of the cancer (yet) but we could tell the end was near. He was shutting himself down. Euthanizing became the only humane option.

Jackson embraces Ellington
Yet another toddler embrace.
Our house is empty of critters. Sixteen+ years of bowls to fill, dogs to walk, litterboxes to clean, and suddenly the silence and stillness loom.

It's yet another change in a year of big changes.

We're sad, but not heartbroken. Where it seemed Mattie had been taken too soon, Ellington's sixteen good years were longer than you can expect for a cat. His end was foreseeable, though I wish I could have spared him his last week.

Whenever we lose someone — person, dog, cat, and so on — I'm always drawn back to an idée fixe: life is short, so do what you can to make the most of it. Ellington lived his own zany life, chirping instead of meowing, attacking when he should have been fleeing, stubborn to the end. But he also learned and adapted (albeit slowly). He was a strikingly different cat at sixteen than he was in his prime, viewing and interacting with his world in new ways. Children and dogs became playmates instead of antagonists; he expanded his sphere to let them love him. Ellington's unconventional persona enriched all of our lives.

So I'm reminded: color outside the lines. Seize the day. Make it meaningful, memorable, and joyous.

Ellington at rest
Farewell, Ell.

1 comment:

  1. I still remember the time I brought my dogs over to walk Mattie (while Jackson was in the hospital), and I totally forgot about Ellington's hatred for dogs. Things almost came to bloodshed, but I was able to hurriedly usher the dogs out as he flung himself at the door!