Eleven Cents in the Bank

Yesterday, we took Prussia to the vet. We’d called ahead, letting him know that we wanted to set up a hospice plan for her.

He was kind, gentle, and nice, and Margaret was coping well at the time; I was almost able to keep my voice modulated normally, and my eyes were just a little moist. He explained that cats are very good at conserving their last energies, and that Prussia had used up most of her reserves by now. “It’s like you’re used to living on a dollar a day, but then you have no income, so you figure out how to live on a penny a day. Now you only have eleven cents in the bank, so you figure out how to live on a quarter of a cent a day.”

On the way home, we stopped at our friend Margaret’s house. We’d lived there for a year with Prussia, and she and Margaret’s cat, Clingon, were mortal enemies. When the van door was opened, Prussia started walking toward it like she was ready for a walk. So I put her harness and leash on. She walked me up the front steps, around the house to the back door. She knew the house, and wanted to be let in. When she saw her nemesis through the glass door, suddenly she showed her old aggressive streak, growling and hissing and almost lunging at him. I said to Prussia “Those eleven cents are yours to spend — do whatever you want with them!” We kept them separated, because this time, he might win the fight.

I don’t like the price I’m paying for all this, but I am amazed at how I have a much better understanding of what really is important. I remember saying a few years ago that I would be really sad someday because Prussia would eventually die, and I’ve been failing to groom her well enough to keep her coat clean and free of mats. (She did the job very well when she was much younger.) I was afraid she would die with her fur all a mess. It would have been easier if Prussia liked being groomed, but she doesn’t. Now I regret that just a week ago, I groomed her until she got mad at me.

Margaret has often told me the story of how this little tiny ball of fluff with a huge voice and every parasite known to feline-kind appeared outside her apartment. Since she had no cat food, Margaret gave her tuna, which figured prominently in her own menu at the time. Prussia has loved it ever since; she always got the water drained off, while Margaret got the fish (sometimes, Prussia got a little of the fish too). Menus have changed, and I never really liked canned tuna, so it’s become a rare treat for her. It took us five days after Prussia stopped eating cat food to realize that it was time to feed her anything she would eat. At first, we tried ice cream, milk, and cheese. People recommended Fancy Feast and baby food. But you should have seen her perk up when we brought a can of tuna to the bedroom and opened it in front of her. She slurped down the water and started eating again. She came into our world with canned tuna. She’s probably going to leave our world on canned tuna, too.