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About two summers ago I had to take my Mum’s cat, Rupert, to the
vet and have him put down.  It was an experience I had not
bargained for.  I never liked the cat; he was huge, but so timid.  You
walked into the room, he scarpered.  It was annoying.  However,
Mum loved him, and that is all that matters.  He had reached the end
of his autumn days when a strange thing happened.  Certainly, he
had been unwell for some time, the signs were clear, albeit now he
allowed me to approach and stroke him.  He had overcome himself,
and all for a good fussing.  He loved it.  He purred anew.  Without
noticing the time-shift, and while professing still to not liking him,
the weeks passed and the whispers grew louder, until the stark fact
declared now was time to put him to sleep.  I volunteered, quite
casual about it.  So a week or two more passed.  Destiny had been
booked.  The appointed time arrived, and I entered Mum’s bungalow
where the dreaded cat-box lay before me.  I took a look around,
alone.  I think Maureen the Christian next door had said her
goodbyes earlier, and Mum being the brave soul that she is did not
need to hang around; she was losing another friend.  So I must
needs put the poor creature into his box, lock it, pick it up, place it
on the car back seat, get in and drive to the vets.  As a child I spent
many hours at the vets.  We used to use the one along London
Road, Wellingborough, but now I was to go the new one along
Northampton Road.  Quite plush, modern ‘an all.  They did not keep
me waiting long; soon I was in with the ‘consultant’.  To be fair, she
was not a consultant but simply a vet, but this was a swish new
practice and she was a tall blonde from Germany or Norway, and her
accent kind of did something to me.  Already this was a surreal
experience; meanwhile, poor Rupert counts down the minutes and
seconds.  The vet does not want to do it, the dirty deed - she sees
life in the old cat yet.  But I am under instructions, Mum said
enough is enough.  “No, really,” the vet responds, and she makes for
a good protestation.  Imagine, then, the freakiest thing occurring:
I’m suffering here and she starts adding up the bill should we
choose to keep him alive; but the choice cannot be made by ‘we’,
since only I am present.  Have you ever seen those 1960’s Batman
TV serials?  “Ka-Pow!”  What a dilemma.  Tip good cash down the
loo, since obviously this cat’s days are numbered, or let him live on
in pain?  We always had cats.  We know how they degenerate, and
in the old days vets knew when the game was up, what was for the
best, and they spared you the pathetic sight your pet will become. 
They would insist on taking the choice off your hands, the load from
your conscience.  These days the gloves are off: “Give us your cash,
you heartless fuck.  And you know you are.”  A part of me did think
of the money, so the cat had to go.  Besides, I convinced myself that
Mum had spoken the final word.  Eventually, Missy ‘porn-chick vet’
had to swallow it and do the dirty deed.  Goodness knows how, but
by now it begun to feel like a contest.  She asked me, was I going to
hang around?  “Biff!”  A bruising upper-cut, there.  She was up to
the task, too, although not without some compassion for the
creature.  Her professional training then kicked in, and she set to
the task with all appropriate composure.  If ever my shallowness be
recorded, here read my words: I requested to stay and watch, but
she was to dispose of the body.  Rupert’s front paw was extended, a
receptacle injected and strapped into place, awaiting its deadly
poison.  Whether or not he knew what was coming the room had a
vibe - no way was he not gonna’ pick up on that.  He seemed to me
quite resigned, though.  Indeed, time becomes meaningless.  A
syringe connects with the receptacle, the shot is pumped.  I hold
and comfort him, but no punch-line can describe what followed, or
at least how I saw it.  A shimmer took flight from Rupert’s body -
that was it, gone.  Instantaneous.  Now his body lay lifeless before
me, an inanimate, furry, fleshy, rubbery stuff.  Time ticks once more. 
The vet keeps the body and I’m out of here, pure and simple, driving
along in the July sunshine but with nothing to say.  What had I
witnessed, maybe a trick of the light, or maybe a mirage of soul
dashing away? - it still had an effect on me.  It hurt.  I’m blown
away.  I hardly liked the cat, and he gives me this poignant
experience?  Now I love him.  And now we come to a profound
question.  In cases like these we give animals death as an ease to
the pain, and yet we prohibit this for people.  It appears a universal
of human culture.  Why, then, at root do we expect from ourselves
the will to push into, through and beyond a full sense of dying when
we consider it cruel, whenever we have a choice, regarding an
animal?


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The Death of Rupert the Cat
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