Wednesday, March 20, 2013

In Memory of Figaro - (or Figgero...)

We had to say goodbye today to our Mighty Black Hunter Figaro. (Or Figgero, as Emily spells it.) About two years ago, we found a tiny growth on his neck that at first we thought was just a tick. But it continued growing until it was as big around as a quarter, and about an inch tall. Then it opened up. (I won't gross anyone out with any further description of that...) Since then, we have just lived with it. Or rather, Figaro has just lived with it. We debated whether or not he was in pain. We debated whether or not we could afford $700 to have it removed, with the warning from the Vet that it would most likely just grow back. Mostly, we avoided the thought of saying goodbye. 

A couple of weeks ago, I was petting Figaro when it occurred to me that he was skin and bones. I could feel every vertebrae in his spine, and ever rib in his side. There was no way we could deny anymore that this ugly growth was much more than simply a messy inconvenience. It was sapping the life from our loyal friend. It was time.

Figaro made a couple of appearances in my writing. Once simply as inspiration in a science fiction story and once based (very loosely) on an actual event

In Memory of Figaro, here is the pertinent excerpt:

*      *      *

A plaintive meow came from somewhere in the pile of stuff, and I stuck a finger through the airhole in the cat carrier that formed the foundation of one of the sides of the canyon.
"It's all right Figaro, just go to sleep. We will be in Utah in a few hours, and then you can get out and explore Grandma and Grandpa's house." I had tried to figure out an affordable way to sedate the cat for the trip, but the vet's suggestion of medication was way beyond the budget of a lowly Corporal. So I called my Dad for advice.
"Try cough syrup." He said.
"Cough syrup?" I asked. "What kind? And how do I give it to him?" I was incredulous, and Mariah's eyebrows arched as she heard me ask the question.
"Probably Nyquil, or anything that says Nightime or warns of drowsiness. That way you can be sure it will put him to sleep." Dad sounded pretty confident, so I shrugged my shoulders. "OK, we'll give it a shot." Mariah was not so optimistic.
"You can't just give a cat cough syrup!" Her voice was slightly scornful. However, my newlywed sensibilities were just a bit offended at the way she so easily dismissed my father's advice.
"My dad knows what he's talking about. He grew up on a farm, and has been around animals all his life. It'll be just fine. We'll test it out first, to see how it works. My Dad usually knows what he is talking about." I said, daring her to disagree. She looked at me for a minute, and then shrugged her shoulders.
"OK, give it a shot. See what happens." She said, walking away.
That settled it. I could not let her simply dismiss advice from my Dad that way. I immediately ran to the store and picked up a bottle of Nyquil. I hated the stuff, personally. It tasted to me like a cheap version of Jagermeister, and it never failed to keep me up most of the night with night sweats and confused, frustrating dreams that never fully materialized into something restful. Nevertheless, it was time to show my wife that I was more than capable of solving problems and providing for my family, and I had to at least conduct the test. I found a measuring syringe with some kind of pink substance crusted inside it, leftover from whatever medication we had given the baby last. Apparently whoever used it last had been too lazy to wash it out afterward. I did seem to have a hazy memory of finding some infant pain medicine in the middle of the night and guessed it was probably me. I rinsed the syringe out, then filled it with the cough syrup.
Then, I found the cat.
He already hated me, for reasons we had tried to guess but which generally eluded us. His hatred was generally expressed in the form of urine, which he particularly liked to place on any Army gear I left within reach. I had to be very careful to keep all of my gear up and off the floor, lest it acquire a very distinctive odor which would take several thorough washings to get rid of.
As I approached him with the syringe hidden behind my back, he gave me his normal baleful glare and stalked away with his tail stiff in the air. I decided that a little bit of strategy was in order, and I went to the fridge and got a piece of baloney. I knelt on the floor and tried to be as inoffensive as possible. The cat approached gingerly, sniffing at the outstretched meat. I drew my hand in slowly, drawing him closer until I could reach the scruff of his neck. Then I sprang the trap.
I picked him up by his scruff, and brought the hand with the syringe out from behind my back. The cat was struggling to escape, making angry growling noises deep in his throat. I thrust the nozzle of the syringe between its slightly open mouth and quickly depressed the plunger all the way. The results were, to say the least, spectacular.
Figaro climbed up the arm holding him, and down my back, then ran full speed into the wall behind me. He turned about forty five degrees and took off full speed again until he hit the wall, this time at a glancing angle. He continued this bumper car routine as I followed him, frantically trying to catch him and keep him from injuring himself. It was lucky that the movers had already taken all of the furniture, and that the house was empty. Otherwise, he would have caused even more chaos. Eventually, I stopped pursuing him when I saw the futility. Instead, I just stood there, watching and imagining ways to dispose of the body without the ASPCA finding out what I had done. Mariah was also watching, laughing out loud.
"That sure calmed him down! He won't make a peep during the whole trip now!" I glared at her while dodging the cat which streaked past me, now dangling strings of slobber from its mouth that looked like shoelaces. I tried a new approach to catching him.
"Here kitty, come here, I am sorry, sorry for that, let me help you with that slobber..." visions of our cleaning deposit going up in smoke as the strings of slobber left their tracks across the carpet.
Eventually, the cat calmed down enough that I could catch him and wipe the drool from his mouth. He seemed no worse for the wear afterwards, though his hatred of me seemed doubled.
So it was no surprise that as I tried to comfort him through the airhole, he responded with a hiss and a snarl. I snatched my finger back quickly, and muttered my wishes for his quick demise under my breath.
*      *      *

Good-Bye my friend. Rats and birds the world over may rejoice at the news of your demise, but we your humans will remember you with fondness.