Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Our household lost a member today. Bartholomew, our eldest cat, went to wherever cats go when they die. He had been sick for a while now, and it finally got to a point where he just needed to be done. For about the past two months we've noticed that he had slowed down a lot, and was losing weight. At first we just kind of chalked it up to his age, although we've never been sure just how old he was.

But as time went by, we noticed that the weight loss didn't stop, and he was getting skinnier and skinnier, which is significant, because he was a BIG cat. Over the past two weeks he literally became skin and bones. And over the last week, I don't think he was eating or drinking. I tried to give him some milk on Tuesday night (something he would usually kill for), but he showed no interest. He was also having trouble standing up, and his walking was kind of strange too. To top it off, he would lie around in the weirdest places. Last night I found him lying in the kitchen, with his face right up next to the kitchen cupboards. I'm not sure if he knew where he was. He may have been losing his eyesight too. His eyes had sunk very far back into his head. Kind of creepy looking, actually. I asked the vet today what could have caused that, and she said it was probably due to dehydration.

But through all of this, Bartholomew remained in good spirits. He never seemed to be in any pain. He could still walk well enough to get up and down the basement stairs (although his appearances upstairs were few and far between; he had pretty much been living in the basement for the past two months). He even kept purring, even up till the minute he died. Because of all this, we originally decided that we would just let him go naturally. If he wasn't in pain, why not just let nature take its course? Turns out watching something slowly die is not a very pleasant experience.

Earlier this week I was sitting with him late one night, and he just looked haggard. I decided that I would take him in to be put to sleep on Thursday, which is my day off. My plans changed last night, though, as I sat with him again, and he just looked miserable (it was at this time that I became pretty certain his vision was almost gone). I decided to take him in first thing today (Wednesday) and to just let him be done with life. He was ready.

Before I left I took Jamie aside and told him that I was going to take Bartholomew to a special hospital for kitties, and that he wouldn't be coming back. He was going there to die. Jamie looked sad, but said he didn't want to pet Bartholomew or say goodbye. I can understand that. Over the past couple of weeks, since the time that I first told Ferg that Bartholomew was sick, Jamie has wanted to pray for him every night before bed.

We went to the vet at 9:00 this morning and went to the room designated for this kind of thing. Barth and I sat in the room while the doctor got ready. He sat next to me on the couch, purring, while I scratched the underside of his neck, which was his favorite. After a while the doctor came in, and I put Barth on the table. He lied down without any protestation, which was another sign of his deteriorating condition (nobody tells him what to do!). They shaved a bit of hair off the inside of his right hind leg, and slowly injected whatever it is they use to put cats to sleep. He was gone within a minute.

What is affecting me the most about his death was probably the fact that Bartholomew was one of the first things that Beetz and I "did" after getting married. He's about the one thing that has been with us throughout our entire marriage so far. So I wasn't just putting a pet to sleep. I was putting to rest something that's been a part of our lives and marriage for the past seven plus years. It's almost as though Barth symbolized something about our marriage (I know that sounds weird, and maybe even sappy, but that's the best way I can think to describe it).

After Beetz and I got married we decided we wanted a pet, and she had a cousin who was looking to get rid of a cat. So Bartholomew first came to live with us while we were still living with Beetz's parents. I remember that when he first came to our house he ran immediately into our closet and refused to come out. But we were able to lure him out with some Ready-Whip. He liked whipped cream.

Bartholomew's original name was "Meowzer," which neither Beetz nor I cared for. We decided to rename him, and to give him an obscure name. We were going through names one night, and Betsy came up with Bartholomew. It stuck.

We were told that he was "around 7" when we got him back in 2003. He had been with us for almost 8 years, so I guess that made him "around 15." While certainly not overly aged, I guess around 15 is a good run for a cat.

He was famous around our house for his condescending attitude and his propensity to hiss at us. But still, he was a lot of fun. I used to play with him by walking my fingers toward him, which he hated. He would his and bat at my fingers with his paws, and even try to get my hand in some kind of a death grip so he could bite me. I don't know if he was actually annoyed or if he was just having fun with me. I like to think he was having fun. I was.

I was also probably his best friend in the house. He would always want to sit with me, and he'd sit on my lap and then head-butt my chin to get me to pet him. Sometimes it got annoying, but I'd pet him right now if I could. He also enjoyed sleeping on my chest while I was asleep, although I didn't enjoy it at all. I don't know how many times I woke up in the middle of the night with his extremely loud purring literally right in my face.

We gave him the nickname "Barfy" for reasons that you can probably guess. He had a very sensitive stomach, and even though he liked milk and whipped cream so much, his stomach couldn't handle it. He'd puke it up within a few hours. In fact, he puked a lot. Hence the nickname. It was a common occurrence for us to come home from somewhere and find a pile of barf on the floor. Even though we'll miss him, we certainly won't miss his puking!

This is one of the last pictures of Bartholomew that we took, taken probably a few days ago. I wanted to get one last shot of him with the kids before he went.

Since Barth was a long-haired cat he tended to get a lot of knots in his hair. Because of this we actually got him shaved a few times while we had him. They always gave him the "lion cut." This basically means that they shaved everything on him except his mane, his paws, and the tip of his tail. I don't think he liked it much, but it was pretty funny looking.

Bartholomew was also the subject of some of the de-motivational posters I've made over the years.

This one features both of our cats - Bartholomew and Martha. The caption is in reference to a bit of an inside joke between Beetz and I.

Martha is now lying in the middle of the living room floor as I type this. I wonder if she's wondering where Bartholomew is. They were never really buds, but who knows.

Thanks for the memories, Bartholomew.


megan said...

awww, a nice eulogy of sorts. Thanks for sharing.

nannyray said...

Thanks Joel for sharing about Barf. He was a beautiful cat with an attitude. Remember when he bit my Mom and we had to get her to the hospital because his bite infected her? We still loved him but Mom kept her distance.
Pet have a place in our hearts but family still takes first place. Loved the pics. Keep writing your thoughts. You are a very good writer.