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morte d'arthur

sadly, earlier today, we had to say goodbye to arthur, the king of our urban camelot, the little lion, the sweet-faced sovereign with the great big snowshoes for feet and, on the sly, a total nip-head. he was a real ruler and it was an incredibly difficult decision to let him go, but the sad fact was that in the last few months, he hadn't really been himself. i mean that in the most literal way, too. he hadn't been social with his brothers and sister, he hadn't wanted to be groomed and hadn't groomed himself. wracked with diabetes and its myriad side effects, including perpetual dry skin that left him with open wounds where his fur had matted and pulled away, increasing cataracts in his bright eyes that left him unable to see in anything other than bright light and increasing dehydration that left him constantly thirsty and frequently incontinent, he was not the beautiful, regal spectacle he had always been. 

still, there were flashes of his old, haughty self. when i approached him- saying his name or a familiar greeting out loud so he knew who i was- he would still raise his proud head and i could see some of the  spark in his bright gold eyes. and for that reason, i put off the ultimate decision repeatedly, until it finally registered that what i was doing was supremely selfish. someone as dignified as arthur had always been could not possibly be happy in his current circumstances. and most of the time, he looked terribly unhappy, lost, hurting. by prolonging the final choice, i was indulging my own desire not to be without him.

a lot of people would be surprised at how deeply we mourn arthur's loss, because in some ways, he could be a really horrible cat. in his young life, he was almost frighteningly aggressive. he didn't especially liked to be touched and woe betide anyone who came close to laying a finger on his belly. given his size and strength, he could be flat out dangerous, because, even when theoretically playing, he never held back. blood loss was just something you learned to put up with.

when he was young, he was pathologically shy. he didn't much care for people at all and would try to break down a door [literally] rather than tolerate a stranger. as beautiful as he was, he didn't like to be held or cuddled and, whereas most cats will attempt to comfort their humans in moments of grief, tears were repulsive to him. whenever i was depressed, i could count on arthur to keep at least six feet distance between us.


he never clawed at the furniture very much, because he far preferred to shred shoes and books. the first time i had a guest stay over at my place in toronto, he decimated the book said guest was reading in a couple of hours. and, yes, several pairs of my beloved shoes fell victim to his talons.



and, of course, there was his habit of using urine as a debate strategy. every cat has some occasional accident, but arthur's were far from accidental. he did not like to have his brand of litter changed. if that was not respected, he'd simply go on the floor next to the pan until you corrected the situation. he was incredibly particular about the litter being cleaned. way more particular than someone who washes his ass with his tongue has any right to be, but he was insistent. if the litter didn't meet his standards, he would find something belonging to his humans to pee on. and if he didn't know you and recognise your scent, you could count on him giving you a little wet present. the first time dom stayed over at our place, he awoke to find that his socks had been irrigated overnight.

but despite all that, we do mourn him, because we remember everything else that made it worthwhile enduring his moodiness and stubbornness. when he was a kitten, he would sleep wrapped around my hand for the first few weeks he was in my home. as he aged, he mellowed and started to very much enjoy affection- ironically loving to have his belly rubbed more than anything. as aloof as he was, when he wanted your attention, you felt special, you felt chosen. the king had taken notice of you. i never stopped feeling that way about him.

but even better than that was getting to watch his interaction with other cats, because while he might have come to enjoy human company, his true love was always reserved for his own kind. he idolised his elder brother morgan from the time he joined our family. he would sit for hours and watch morgan do anything. and when walter- actually arthur's real nephew- came to live with us, he found a best friend for life. the two of them were inseparable. they were both huge and hearty and took their orders from morgan, who weighed less than half of either of them and had no claws to boot. the two of them were the dynamic duo or the odd couple, depending on the moment. and despite the fact that their personalities could hardly have been more different [walter was an affection-crazed clown who avoided any trace of dignity like it was a disease], they adored each other. both morgan and walter passed on earlier and, left alone, arthur was bereft.

but late in life, he found renewed energy through the little ones who became part of the family. after an initial grouchy hesitance that lasted all of twenty-four hours, he took on the role of mentor to his little brother seth with a passion. as seth grew bigger and stronger and arthur's health started to fail, the two of them remained close and not once did seth ever show any sign of disrespect to the king. and when simon and hecubus arrived, arthur seemed happier than at any time since walter had been with him. with so many subjects, he really did feel like a proper monarch. when he first grew sick, it was his siblings who seemed to pull him out of it, succeeding where insulin injections and blood tests had failed. and it was when he started slinking into corners and avoiding them that it became obvious that he really had reached the end of his strength.

when we took him in to be euthanised, the vet began by giving him a sedative. in the time that the sedative took effect, we held him, petted him and played him his favourite music [muslimgauze, if you're curious]. his ears twitched a little in time with the beats and he purred softly but surely. whatever pain he had been in before, i'm pretty sure the drugs took it away in those last few minutes. he was happy and relaxed. i held him, my head pressed against his chest the whole time and his purring continued until his little heart stopped.

and so we mourn our lost leader with the great big snowshoes for feet, a king like many others, who could be terrifying in his capriciousness and in the use of his own power, but who still inspired love by simply being his brilliant self and by allowing you, occasionally, to feel the radiance of his favour. the grieving is for our loss rather than his pain, which is over.


Then Sir Bedivere cried: Ah my lord Arthur,
what shall become of me, now ye go from me and leave
me here alone among mine enemies?

arthur :: 12 april 1998 - 28 september 2012 :: rest in peace

Comments

anahdara said…
so sorry about your loss.
but thank you for sharing arthur's story with us!
lola seicento said…
Oh Kate, I am so profoundly sorry for your incalculable loss. I can hardly believe that you and I lost our babies one day apar (and that they were a year apart in age, and were both diabetic).

Your tribute to Arthur was very beautiful, and profoundly moving. He was a very lucky king to have had you as his human mom! My family grieves for you. <3
Kate MacDonald said…
Thanks very much. it really helps hearing encouraging words. Today was hard and reading your comments made it easier.

Dom's been great and we're thinking about new projects to distract ourselves, but having a friend for that long, through so much, it's a definite rough patch.

Lola- I was absolutely shocked when I read your blog post today. And all my remaining sympathies go to you for your loss.
Biba said…
Oh, I'm so so sorry for your loss!

;(

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