August 15, 2013
The ingredients of life, of actually living and breathing, are remarkable when that life begins to ebb. Daily I read anecdotes about the determination of ordinary individuals. But watching Pablo has been nothing less than astonishing.
The morning is downright brisk. It is, after all, August, and 60 degrees is chilly in our part of the summertime world.
Elijah has to be at school at the godless hour of 7 am, so last night his mom nudged him upstairs pretty early. I lingered on the sofa to finish a row of knitting.
I noticed Pablo teetering at the foot of the stairs, looking up at the activity on the landing. My heart stung for a minute: Pablo sleeps upstairs at night.
As I was mulling over whether or not to get him up those stairs and how best to do that, I saw Pablo manage the first step, and then the next. I walked over to stand behind him and marveled as he made the long climb to the top to Elijah’s dark room.
“Pablo!” Elijah cheered.
Rachel, kneeling by his bed, cried, “You made it!”
She kissed her son good night and bustled about, making certain that Pablo’s food and water were available in the hall and then she took herself to bed. I knew she was exhausted; I doubt she’s slept much since we left the vet’s office.
I went to my room to wind down. About 11 pm I heard Pablo coughing. I found him in the living room, facing the side porch door at an odd angle. It’s not a door we use much, and I wondered if he thought it was the front door.
I spoke to him and he walked toward me. I let him out for a pee and settled myself on the sofa for the rest of the night. I knew he wouldn’t try to go back up the stairs.
Pablo began his ritual of endlessly pacing to and fro. As I coaxed him to lie down. I remembered times on that very sofa when he would plop his big head on my knee, eyes dancing, whole body wagging, begging for attention.
I remembered his colossal farts that would cause me to shove him away with my toe and sometimes drive me from the room. I remembered him pulling on the leash on walks and standing over Daisy, Rachel’s first dog. I would loop those memories until I stopped weeping, until he finally settled near me and I drifted off to sleep.
I woke to the sound of Elijah coming downstairs, dressed for school. I walked into the kitchen to see his mom dressed for work. She must have picked up a shift; ordinarily she doesn’t work on Thursdays.
I went upstairs, checked messages and made coffee. After my first cup I came down to check on things.
Pablo was at the front door, looking outside at Vincent, who was looking back at him. The three of us slowly greeted the morning on the porch.
The yard was alive with sound: street traffic, leaves swishing around in the breeze, the skitter of Vincent’s claws up the crape myrtle in pursuit of an imaginary squirrel.
Pablo’s legs are so shaky he stumbles over twigs in the grass. But his expression is more alert than I’ve seen in days. This is the first time he has been outdoors for longer than five minutes in a long while.
I’ve inexplicably become patient in 48 hours. I sit as I once did behind a camera, waiting for the image to arrive in my viewfinder. I’m calling on all the pet whispering in my lexicon — I don’t want to rush him, but I don’t want him to feel he must remain outside to watch over me.
I follow him at a distance, noticing life, new growth on the lilac I planted in June, liriope suddenly in bloom, a bluejay feather in the grass, fresh critter tunnels in the dirt.
I am still in my nightgown. I step inside to grab a throw from the couch, a notebook and a pen. My laptop, phone and coffee cup are upstairs, but I do not want to leave Pablo to go get them.
I pull a rocker to the edge of the porch and sit down to write. Pablo slowly sinks into a patch of Bermuda. His head follows the vehicles as they transit the street. I can see his sides heaving as he draws in the cool fresh air. His entire body lurches forward with each breath. But he is no longer gasping.
Vincent has grown tired of looking for moles and wants to go back inside. My nose is cold and I need to check with my editors. I pause in my journal to look at Pablo. He turns his head and looks toward me. There is relief and peace in his face. I pull my wrap a little closer. Vincent sits down at my feet.
We can stay here a while longer.
The last time we saw Pablo was at the vet’s office. Rachel and I took him; Elijah stayed behind with his father. The clinic doctors and staff are tender souls and gave us all the time we needed.
Pablo’s spirit seemed to whisper out of his body. Today it lingers near the door of Rachel’s house, in eternal vigilance over the kind woman who rescued him from a bitter existence and loved him every moment of her life.
This record is a tribute to that love.
The CatWirks, © 2013, “Watching Pablo”