I have been on this planet for nearly 50 years and yet I have witnessed very little death. People have died, but I haven’t seen it happen and until this year I had never actually seen a real-life dead person (it happened back in August but wasn’t something that felt appropriate to blog about). That’s a sign of the privilege of the time and place I was born into. How many human beings managed to exist for a half a century without seeing a fallen comrade or witnessed the passing of a relative. I think that’s probably still fairly unusual even in modern day Britain. I have had a sheltered life.
And though I have seen and consumed plenty of dead animals, I can’t remember witnessing the death of anything bigger than a terrified tiny mouse that one of my childhood friends callously stamped on or a bird that someone shot with an air rifle. I haven’t ever looked into a creature’s eyes as it passed from life to death. Until today.
Our cat Liono, who we met back in January 2013 when she about four months old (and called Ella, which I had forgotten until I reread the blog) died today. We had known when we got these cats that due to an unscrupulous breeder they were beset with health issues. Smithers is deaf (and also the stupidest cat in the world) and Liono had heart problems that we were told might manifest themselves if she grew too big or just got unlucky. We thought she might be OK as she always stayed pretty small, but a fortnight or so ago she started to have breathing problems and we were told there wasn’t much we could do about it. We paid for some treatment and gave him some drugs, but we knew she was down to her last few days. And though she’s been coping OK and not in pain, though been incredibly lethargic, she came to the end of the road today. We took her to the vets to be put to sleep.
We were, of course, very sad to lose our companion of nearly four years. She’s been a lovely cat to have around, despite her shitting outside the litter tray on occasion (though that at least led to a comedy routine). She was nervous around us for a long time, a sign of her mistreatment at the hands of humanity for her first couple of months, but I hope we gave her as good a life as she could have hoped for. I didn’t think I’d be the kind of person to get overly sentimental about an animal, but thankfully I am. Because what kind of a dick wouldn’t be. Poor little Liono.
It was strange knowing she had this death sentence over her and that we were taking her to her executioner and before we went she was sitting on our bed, looking tired, but seemingly OK. But by the time we had carried her to the vets it was clear we were doing the right thing. She was short of breath and in a bit of a state and thankfully when it comes to animals we don’t let them suffer on unnecessarily. But still we had to say goodbye and then stand by and watch as she drifted from life to death.
It was rapid and painless. Her eyes didn’t close, but the life went out of them and she was gone. One minute you’re alive, the next you’re dead.
It’s the little shit cherry on the top of the 2016 crap cake. And even though I’d witnessed the whole thing it didn’t seem at all real and I found it just as hard to process the loss as I had with the friends and relations that we’ve lost this year (and before). We will get her ashes in a week or so and have kept her collar. Catie showed it to Smithers and said she thought he understood what had happened. I said I thought it was unlikely and that if he could understand anything it would be - look, we’ve taken Liono away, here’s the proof and if you don’t behave then you’re next.
I am glad we had this sad-eyed little creature in our lives and also that she came to trust people again, if never quite managing to look at me without feline cynicism. We’ve still got her dumbass brother to look after and I am sure other pets will come and go. But on top of everything else it’s been a sad month.
I mean, fucking Hell, I’m 49 and now I’ve witnessed one significant death and it was a cat. So how lucky am I? But there’s now a little tiny, black, randomly shitting little space in my heart. Good night Ella that was called Liono. Sorry for calling you Liono.