Friday evening, I had decided to stay home while msmemory stayed up at Birka. This was simply to assuage my paranoia about the pipes. As it happens, it looks like insulating the oil line properly was the main trick -- we haven't had any problems since then, despite temperatures down around five below zero. Anyone have any good recommendations for the right way to tape up something outside like that? Now that I have some confidence in it, I want to wrap it in some tape to make it more secure and sightly. I don't know if electrical tape is the right thing to use, or if there's another alternative that is hardier for outdoor use.
The pipes weren't a problem. But Merlin was.
You have to understand that Merlin hasn't been completely healthy in many years. A good five years or more ago, he developed a case of irritable bowel disorder that wound up leaving loose stools all over the house. That's one of the reasons we generally haven't been having people over in recent years: while we've tried to stay on top of it, there have always been messes in various places that we haven't gotten cleaned up yet. But he's been the sweetest and liveliest cat, so we cut him slack for his intestinal problems.
He's been slowing down steadily, though, and it seemed like, after Comet died, something of Merlin went with him. He got much more skittish, and much clingier; for the first time ever, he started sleeping in my lap. We noticed that he seemed to be losing a little weight, but his appetite was fairly healthy, so we just didn't fully register it in the crush of other crises.
But on Saturday morning, it really sank in: he hadn't eaten *anything* to speak of in two days. He's skipped meals occasionally before, but he's always made them up on the next one. This time, though, he just wasn't into it. He'd meow for some food, but when presented with it, he'd simply walk away. I presented him with some of the leftover Hills i/d from Comet (the highly-digestible kind), and he was willing to nibble a little of that, but that was it.
So I took him down to the vet and was presented with what we'd been in denial about. He hadn't just lost a little weight, he'd lost a *lot*. He was down to five pounds, from a peak of fifteen five or six years ago, and was pretty well emaciated. The vet said that she could take him into the hospital and do a full workup, but she honestly thought it was unlikely that they could do anything for him. So for the second time in less than two months, I made the call to ladysprite. God bless her -- with very little notice, she figured out how to make it work at her new practice, and arranged to come over on Sunday despite her plans.
And then I went up to Birka. It's probably a good thing the event was there, really -- it forced me out of myself for a day or so, distracting me away from what I knew was coming. It was really just the right event for the purpose: a good con where there was stuff for me to do, and people to socialize with, but no real responsibilities.
Today was home, and responsibilities began to crowd in again. We spent as much of the day as possible with Merlin, scritching and hugging him. He was pretty listless, and still mostly not eating, although we managed to get him to eat a bit of the shrimp for our dinner.
ladysprite came over at 9 o'clock. Having just been through this with Comet, I knew what to expect, but that didn't make it any easier -- I still sobbed like a baby as she put the needle in. In a way, it was even harder this time. Comet was capital-d Dying, and certain to not last the week. Merlin was fading much more slowly, but both vets agreed that his quality of life was likely to keep declining, and I had to agree. He was already weak and shaky, walking carefully and scarcely able to climb at all. And I could tell that he could tell that something was wrong: when he wasn't sleeping, he was clearly uncomforable and out of sorts.
Still and all, it was the single most difficult decision I've ever made. While Comet could be an onery cuss, Merlin was always an incredibly sweet cat, who I could roughhouse with and get a good purr all the time. Letting him go hurts horribly, even knowing that it was right and necessary.
My new year's resolution was to have a year that didn't suck as badly as the last one. That's been pretty well blown by now -- the universe is no respecter of our whims. I've now run out of shoes that I expected to have drop: pretty much everything that I imagined might go wrong this winter has done so. Hopefully I don't have any more surprises waiting around the corner -- I've pretty well run out of tears, and I don't think I can bear any more stress.
It all feels remarkably like the end of a chapter. For several years now, we've been saying that we would move once the cats passed on. Fixing up the house was difficult with the cats in it. Now, I think it's time. More on that anon, as it develops. Time for us to find a place that suits us better than this one has done...