Schroe has been a part of my family for nearly half of my life. Russell found her wandering the streets during our senior year of college, when we were roommates in an off-campus apartment, and brought her home. She was just a tiny thing at the time, small enough that I could pick her up with one hand, with her front legs touching my index finger, and her hind legs touched my pinky.
When I wrote about Spot, I said that he was temperamentally more like a dog than a cat. Not so with Schrödinger. If anything, she was the archetype of a cat: poised and independent. A friend once said that she looked like the perfect cartoon representation of a girl cat, with her long flowing hair and regal demeanor. She wasn’t into people food, and wasn’t as overtly affectionate as Spot. She sought attention more selectively, and rarely accepted it from strangers. Yet somehow, she always managed to convey the impression that she considered me hers. She was stubborn. For most of her life, if she was annoyed with you, or you picked her up when it wasn’t her idea to visit, no amount of coaxing or cajoling would elicit a purr. It was her way or the highway; there was just no winning her over. When I brought Spot into the house, she gave me the cold shoulder for months. In recent years, though, she mellowed a bit, and would even seek out the attention of house guests. I wondered if she had at some point concluded that life was too short to quibble when the situation called for a nice scratch behind the ears.
And life is indeed too short. At 19 years old, nearly 20, Schroe was a very senior cat, and to all appearances, until perhaps a year ago, the picture of health. Around that time, she started slowing down a bit, and becoming less attentive about grooming. I could tell she was starting to feel the weight of the years. Still, she would bounce up and down the stairs at will, and remained unquestionably the queen of her castle as far as the other cats were concerned. Last winter, before Christmas, she started to lose weight, and in time, blood work revealed her liver and kidneys were giving out on her. Kidney and liver failure are quite common in older cats, and symptoms don’t tend to show until something like 70 percent of the organs’ function is gone. For Schroe, the diagnosis came late.
A week ago, we put her on subcutaneous fluids, the administration of which she endured with impressive patience, but the toxins in her system continued to build, and her red cell count continued to drop. She had a seizure on Wednesday, which was scary and heartbreaking, and really took the wind out of her sails for the rest of the day. A follow up blood panel at the vets office told us that all of her numbers had gotten worse. She had developed jaundice, and her eating had slowed to almost nothing. She could barely move. By all accounts, as her condition progressed, things were likely to get even worse, with more seizures, and in the end, possible congestive heart failure. I wanted to spare her that.
And so I spent as much time as I could with her… gave her water from tuna cans as a treat, which despite her apparent lack of appetite she slurped down happily, and took her outside to play in the yard that she used to study so curiously from the front window. Willful to the end, though she struggled to walk and had to pause to rest every ten feet or so, she still managed to explore the entire yard, and make across the two of the neighbors lawns before I decided it was time to carry her back to familiar territory. On Friday morning, we made her final trip to the vet, and Schroe fell asleep as I petted her, resting her head on my hand as I held her, and scratched under her chine one last time. And so I said goodbye to another tiny friend, who has left behind many wonderful memories, and a little hole in my heart. I hope she was at peace at the end.