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RIP Big Dave - In Praise of Rescue Cats, Euthanasia for Pets, and Hope for us Humans
10 CommentsFriday, 7 February 2014 | Kate
R.I.P Dave a.k.a. Handsome Lad, Big Bad Dave, Mr Biscuits
Big Dave is gone. Long live Big Dave. The vet left the house not ten minutes ago, the nurse carrying Dave wrapped in a blanket. I couldn't watch them wrap him up in it, it was unbearable, but I was there, talking to him and stroking his back while he went. He just seemed to melt onto the cushion he'd occupied for weeks now, as he passed away. I closed his eyes for him, it seemed more dignified, then stroked him for a couple of minutes after the vet had checked to make sure his heart had stopped and that he was truly gone. Then they were gone and all that was left was his cushion and the fur left behind from where they had shaved his leg for the injection.
A few minutes before they pitched up at the house Dave and I had had a moment. He'd looked me squarely in the face and we'd had a moment. I'm not going to pretend I knew what he was thinking. But it was lovely. He even wanted some semblance of a belly rub, just a gentle one mind.
Seeing him go was horrible. Death just is. But we should have the same thing for humans. We really should.
I'm crying so hard there are teardrops stuck to the inside of my glasses but I need to say this, to pay tribute to Dave the Brave, and to ask that I get the same treatment when my time comes.
I got Dave and Pearl a week or so after 9/11, which was three days before my uncle Ben died, way too young, of pancreatic cancer. He could've benefitted (yes, I said benefitted) from the same treatment Dave got this lunchtime. Instead he had to drift away on a sea of morphine while we sat with him and waited, helpless.
I adopted Pearl and Dave, at roughly a year old from the Celia Hammond Trust in Lewisham. All I knew was that they were the last of a litter of nine rescued from a tower block. In the twelve years or so I had Dave he gave me and everyone who knew him endless pleasure.
Dave was the friendliest cat you could get. He'd head-butt your arm if he thought he could get a stroke out of you, or a piece of chicken. I might wake up in the night to see his Batman silhouette of a head three inches from my face so I could have the privilege of stroking it. Once he came home at Christmas with tinsel tied around his collar. Someone had been very careful to tie it to the collar and not around his neck. And he'd just let them. Silly bugger.
But he was definitely his own man. And real men, even feline ones get a shed. Dave hated winter, didn't like being inside, but come the Spring and that was it. You only saw him to eat and occasionally fight with his sister until Autumn came around. Dave was camping in the garden; on the shed roof, only popping his head over for an ear scratch, or the wooden table, or the lean to roof attached to the house. This little roof was ideal for hoping in and out of the house through the bedroom window if it was open. Many is the time my friend Helen O'Donnell came downstairs saying she'd had to shoo Dave out, back into the garden at 3.00am.
One year, we decided that taking the kitchen ceiling down ourselves was a good idea. Through all the dust and crap on the floor we saw Dave, curiously looking down at us from the top of a kitchen cupboard, bricks perched precariously above his head. No sense of danger that cat. On hot days he used to sleep in the middle of the road outside the flat when we lived in London. It was a quiet road but I'm still amazed he made it to this age.
Over the years Dave has brought me endless presents through the catflap. mice, living and dead, a croissant one Saturday morning, and one of them stole a bra from somewhere and brought that in too. He came home once covered in disinfectant, probably disturbed a bin, and me and my brave friend Ging had to wear motorcycle gear made of kevlar to get him showered. And once, at the vets, he sat down when the vet was trying to take his temperature and we temporarily had to retrieve it from his backside. With an implement. I've never seen his eyes so wide!
So that was Dave. He was his own man till the end. And a great friend to have. As long as he had a crunchy carrier bag to sit on – no matter the brand, Dave was not a snob - he was a happy boy.
Ironically, as I went to the post office this morning to take my mind off the inevitable visit from the vet I passed the local Cat's Protection shop. They had piles of yellow blankets outside going for a quid a pop. I bought four for covering sofas, car seats and anywhere Nikita gets to go that I'd like to keep clean. The lady said 'they're washed and steralised but there's nothing wrong with them. They're from an old people's home.' And I thought to myself – Dave gets a dignified ending. A sad, leaves me howling ending but the best ending he could have asked for after a great little life. And what do we humans get? If we're lucky a massive heart attack we know nothing about or we just wake up, dead in our beds or are found, dead in our favourite chair after having our hair done only that day, with a glass of whisky beside us, as happened to my friend Sophie's aunt.
Why can't we have the choice? To go at a time of our choosing, when it's all too much, instead of fading away in a hospice, hospital or care home because we are prohibited from doing what's best for ourselves or our loved ones. I realise I speak at a time of grief, and I know Dave was a cat, but it's what I hope I get to see in my lifetime. It's a choice I hope I get to legally make for myself.
And one of the best things about Dave? He smelled of warm biscuits and he never minded if you wanted to bury your nose in his fur for a fix of his Mr Biscuits smell.
Always loved, sadly missed.
2000 - 2014