Pez — a gentle fellow

Posted in Cancer at 2:03 pm by George Smith

Yesterday my tribe lost an old friend, Pez, a tuxedo cat, who had been with the family for 14 or fifteen years. Cat AIDS, a disease he survived for four years into a very old age finally won. The pharmacy of antibiotics couldn’t do the job anymore.

All my cats have been strays. In Pasadena they found their way into the backyard, liked what they saw when in trouble, and decided to make a bid for residence. Mostly that meant hanging around, taking the handouts gladly and being always happy to see us.

Pez was an unfixed tom at the end of his string when he showed up. He’d been in a lot of fights on the losing end.

As a result he hurt and had become emaciated. In fact, that’s how he got his name. He’d become so scrawny his head was bigger than what came behind, making him resemble a Pez candy dispenser a little bit.

While he fought other males who wandered into his territory all his lfe, Pez was very gentle from the start. I figured he’d been owned by some old person who’d died in the neighborhood and just been forgotten like so many pets when their masters either pass or fall on hard times.

It took nothing at all to restore him. In a family that had four cats he found a place as defender of the lone female, Lily. He was very tough on rodents (yes, Pasadena has a lot). And, of course, he always felt it was his duty to attack any toms from the neighborhood, attracted into the yard by the sight and smells of other animals.

He’d always get scratched or bitten when defending the perimeter. It would mean a trip to the vet for a shot and a week’s worth of antibiotic syrup. And that’s most probably how he got cat AIDS, from another stray during battle.

I moved out of the house about three years ago and the cats, including Pez, could not be separated from the yard they loved so much. But I wasn’t far away — in walking distance — and I continued to care for them whenever the house was left empty for a few days.

During the time, the cat family took losses — from four to two. Pez made the third casualty.

This year the disease had taken its final toll. Medicine after medicine had been used to their full potential. With each new prescription Pez would rally and then slowly backslide with another harsher infection.

On Easter he had one last fine weekend. He was clear for three days and did his favorite things, all revolving around disappearing into the backyard on a sunny day in Pasadena. He was big on looking for lizards along the stone wall and hiding/sleeping in the tall grass in the very back of the plot.

I went to Ralphs and bought an old favorite — the supermarket’s freshly made fried chicken. One breast for me and one for him. Which, for Pez, was about like eating a quantity of meat 2/3 the mass of his head.

Pez loved having his chin rubbed. If you stopped before he wanted you to, he’d let out a little growl. So there was a lot of chin stroking, given gladly and so appreciated.

It’s the last I saw of him before the call came yesterday.

Like people with a chronic and incurable condition, you can tell how well they’re doing by how they eat. If their appetite is great, they’re feeling pretty good. When they stop eating it’s very bad.

If they are engaged, the disease isn’t rolling them. When they hide in unusual places, death draws near.

And that’s how it went. One or two very bad days, medicine providing no relief from disease’s grip, and it was over.

Fourteen or fifteen years is a long time to have a cat. However, when they’re such good little fellows of gentle soul it seems they’re almost invulnerable, that they’ll be with you forever. But then it comes time to learn again that for everyone there’s a beginning and an end. As well as a long period in between in which fond and happy memories are forged.

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