A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a lifelong friend:
Sarge, the cat we've had the longest, has had crazy health issues that have been like playing whack-a-mole. We find something, diagnose, treat, repeat.
Eat a wad of easter grass. *WHACK* Digestive problems. *WHACK* Mouth ulcers. *WHACK* Bladder stones. *WHACK*
She ate some plastic (again) and threw it up. She was fine for a couple of days, but then suddenly stopped eating. We were worried about a blockage so we took her in to the vet. The x-rays then told us that one kidney was five times the size of the other. It was possible it was a bladder stones problem, i.e. blocking the tubes between the kidney and bladder... that could call for removing the kidney, or putting in a stint which is two surgeries... But it turns out that's not the case. Nope. It's fucking cancer.
I went into some details, then apologized for the depressing mail and told him to hug his kittens.
Sarge wasn't our first cat. That honor went to the grumpy old man, Boo. He was Annette's cat before we got together, but he couldn't live with her due to her living arrangements at the time. When I agreed to take him in, I had already been thinking of getting a cat. I'd planned to get a younger cat, but it worked out pretty well, timing-wise. He had a heart condition that cost us thousands of dollars (and taught us about why pet insurance is a good idea) and needed to be medicated daily. His final act of defiance against the world was passing away on Christmas morning, many years ago. I think he had a good laugh about that before he went to sleep for the final time.
Sarge wasn't even our second pet together. That honor went to a couple of rat-faced... Well, rats. A lot of people recoil at the thought of rats as pets, but that's fine. That's how I feel about poodles. Rats are great pets, for the record, and Stoli & Scurvy were no exception. They were smart, social and affectionate. I wish they lived longer
Sarge was, however, the first cat that we'd get together. Although, truth be told, Annette fell in love with her picture on the adoption organization's website and it was all decided before we decided. We went to an adoption event they held at a local pet store but they didn't have Sargent with them. The cat lady who was fostering her wasn't there so we made arrangements to go over to her house and meet Sargent.
Kathy was the epitome of a crazy cat lady. She had a ton of cats in the house. A whole room dedicated to ferals. She explained to us that Sargent wouldn't ever be ok with dogs or kids. (While Sarge never really loved the idea of dogs, I do have a picture of Sarge and Liam hanging out together just a couple of weeks later.) I have to admit, though, that Kathy did give Annette some advice that probably changed Sargent forever.
When Sarge was still in the OMG-new-place-freak-out-hide-under-teh-bed phase, Kathy told us to not let her. Drag her out, snuggle. Enforced cuddling before food, etc. Sargent went from scared street-rescue to total love-bug and she remained that way the rest of her life. So, while I feel like we rescued Sarge from a crazy cat lady who was very wrong about some things, I do have to thank Kathy, wherever she is, for what she helped us bring out in Sargent.
The rescue org named her Sargent with the assumption that whoever took her would change it. They were a little a shocked when we opted not to change it. Despite the fact that it's spelled like the name and not the rank (i.e. Sergeant), we felt it somehow fit her and her stripes. Of course, we'd forever have to correct people on her gender, but oh well.
They didn't have to know about the spelling.
Later came Freyja, the greyhound. Sarge was not impressed with the new addition to our family, but she transitioned from "WTF" to "meh" in a decent amount of time. They would never be friends, but toleration was all we asked of her and that's what we got. All Freyja had to do was not chase her. Which was easy enough, except for that one Cartoon Chase. Back to that in a moment.
I often refer to Sarge as my war buddy. We fought in the Great Mouse War together. An abandoned house next door, plus an abandoned bag of dog food in our garage led to a mouse invasion. Sarge knew they were coming first. It took us a while to catch on, but she knew. She was staring at the walls as if something was in them. (Turns out there was.)
The Great Mouse War was a long and violent conflict. Sarge held the line inside the house, while I dealt with the invaders in the garage. Fairly early on, Sarge learned that while she had excellent mousing skills she didn't really enjoy mice as a cuisine. It only took half a mouse for her to figure that out. That didn't put a damper on her killer-instincts though. She racked up quite a body count.
M*A*S*H taught us that even war can result in a humorous situation or two. The Cartoon Chase was one. Loud ruckus in the kitchen, then mouse comes flying out, chased by cat, chased by dog. It was a perfect Warner Brothers scene. (In my memory of it, I can hear Carl Stalling's score.) The other moment also followed a ruckus in the kitchen. That one resulted in Sargent trotting triumphantly through the living room and into our bedroom, mouse in her mouth. Fearing another bloody casualty to clean up, I follow her in to find her laying contently on her cat bed, staring up at me with complete innocence. "I don't have a mouse," said her body language. The tail sticking out from underneath her cat bed gave her away though. I will forever remember that image.
For years following the Great Mouse War, I would remind the other pets that Sarge had paid her rent and that they needed to start paying their way as well.
When we brought Pixel home, Sarge objected. She was indifferent to the hound at that point, but a Bengal? What were we thinking?! She greeted her with a loud hiss. At least I think that was for Pixel. It might have been for us. Eventually she got over it and accepted her. Years later when we brought home Saucer, it was Pixel's turn to hiss. I have to think Sarge had a laugh.
Sargent was seven. We had her for six years and we are very thankful we had those years, but it was all way too short. She was way too young. I'm glad she's no longer wasting away and I'm trying to focus on all the good parts of her life. I still feel cheated though.
Fuck cancer. In cats, in people, everywhere.