But I can't quite bring myself to touch it yet, or put away the food and water dishes that still have food and water in them. At least we can leave the bedroom doors open now, since there's no worry an ailing cat will seek out a substitute litterbox.
By the numbers: 14 years, 7 homes, 2 states, 5 jobs, 1 marriage, 2 kids and any number of car rides. I drove her back and forth between my first (and second) apartment and my parents' house countless times. I worked nights and was physically unable to wake up early, so sometimes I drove us down after work -- at 2 a.m.
We drove her down to Florida when we moved because I refused to bring her on a plane. (Although I reversed course on that when we moved back, because that was the year four hurricanes hit the state one right after the other, and I'd already moved back to start my job, so I flew down and got her. Nice how I left DH there but came back for the cat, right?) We let her run loose in the car because hey, 14-hour trip, and she bopped around and eventually settled on the back of the back seat, that little shelf under the rear window, and stared at the cars behind us. We only ate fast food that trip, because we needed to be able to bring food back to the car.
So I guess it's appropriate that she died in the car, on the way to the emergency vet, radio off, moving quietly through the dark. I had a feeling she was gone, but I kept driving, just in case.
She never liked traveling much, especially not in the carrier, but she liked being places. She knew every hiding spot in my parents' house. Her first trip to my mother-in-law's house upstate, she saw a bug outside and leaped straight up to grab it, attaching herself to the screen door three feet up. (I still wish I'd gotten a picture.) She liked the high living room windows in my second apartment, the huge living room/dining room in our third apartment, the year-round balcony in our Florida apartment, the sunny living room spots in our New Jersey condo. In the new house, she'd claimed the big window in our bedroom as our own and was apparently taunting the neighborhood dogs from it. Plus our bed. Always our bed. Frequently on top of me. The only times she was evicted were when we had a newborn in the room, and she did not like that whatsoever. Anytime I wasn't holding a child was fair game for lap time.
She liked to play fetch and hunt bugs, and then eat them, even though they didn't agree with her. She destroyed nearly every couch we ever owned, plus a recliner, the sides of our mattress and several patches of carpet. She also destroyed about half the knickknacks I owned when I first got her, along with all the plants. Including an aloe, normally unkillable, just by knocking it over repeatedly until it gave up. And I'm pretty sure she scared the iguana into a premature death, because she loved the heat lamp on top of his tank and kept hopping up there to warm herself.
She was also sweet and friendly and loved being petted by whoever. Even people who didn't like cats, liked her. Which says something.
We knew for a few years that the kidney failure she was suffering from would eventually kill her. But we could never get a firm read on when, or which medications meant something and which were meaningless, or which tests were necessary and which were padding the vet's apparently bottomless pockets. She wouldn't take pills. She wouldn't eat special kidney-diet food. The only thing that ever did anything was injecting her with fluids -- a fun time, really, I'd recommend that to anyone -- and it got more and more difficult to do, what with all the scar tissue on her shoulders.
Don't for a minute think I'm claiming to be Saint Pet Owner here. I'm not. Minus the kids, minus the jobs, with an ounce more free time or sleep, we would've taken better care of her. She got so emphatic about not being medicated that I quit, well before I should have. I got tired of waiting for her to die, which is a horrible feeling to have. I'll never know how much longer she would've lived if we'd done everything right.
As it is, her last conscious memory may well have been being medicated one last time, because she went limp right afterward. I hate that.
But at least I never had to make the conscious decision to put her to sleep, which was my deepest fear all along. I didn't want to choose to do that to her.
There are worse ways to go, I think, than a quiet ride in the dark.
Goodbye, Pigeon. I'll miss you.