For those who tune into this blog for filmmaking stuff, go ahead & skip on for the next time. Today I am distraught and it’s purely personal. In our humble abode, dubbed “Rossdonia”, I have written on several occasions of Brandy’s two cats, Cousette and Spaz, a brother & sister pair of mixed breeds. The reality is that in the past 4 and a half years, they have become just as much my cats too. I mostly work from home & I spend virtually every day with them. Even when I work a 14 hour day, they are not ignored when I get home, or when I sleep.
As I documented in the blogs of the past, when I do spend so much time at home, I would play with the cats on most days. Whether it was mock-trials where we determined who was guilty for the hairballs on the floor and the punishments would range from 15 minutes in the “pillows of persecution” (cushions from the couch & chairs) where a jailbreak was soon to erupt into the cats’ favorite part of the day – “CHASE GAME”! I do have a strict policy of hugs & kisses after all games and I do enforce it. In case anyone misunderstood my entire history of the “Feline/Human Wars”, it was a joke and it was what I do to entertain myself during the day with my two willing playmates – Cousette and Spaz.
I had very begrudgingly grown to love the cats. I am a dog person and have been my entire life. I never liked cats. When Brandy & I first started seeing each other, I was not inclined to take her cats in when we moved in together. First and foremost, I was allergic. We took the cats in at the old house on Indianola aka Rossdom, and they stayed in the basement. The first night I pet them and played with them, my eyes puffed up to the point where I couldn’t see even when my eyes were “open”. Their staying with us was supposed to be temporary, and they were meant to be confined to the basement during their stay. That lasted about a week before they were everywhere in the house & claiming a place in everyone’s heart.
Spaz was anti-social. He’s the black boy cat and let’s face it, kinda ugly and not everyone’s favorite. Combine that with the fact that he was not the sharpest tool in the shed, and Spaz was outcast. Cousette on the other hand is a very pretty, and very outgoing cat that loves company & loves to be pet. When people see them, they always comment on “She’s such a pretty kitty”, and no one says a word about Spaz. It took some time, but I got in there with Spaz. After a few months of seeing this unfairness, I made it my own personal mission in life to make Spaz feel special. In the same way that I see some people are not almost invisible in the crowd, I’ll make a stupid nickname, or put a “the” in front of their name so that other people will notice them, I started to make Spaz feel special. Before we moved from the house on Indianola, I just randomly started calling Spaz “BATMAN” and got excited whenever he came in the room. I don’t think anyone ever got excited when he came in the room, so it took a few weeks for him to warm up to it, and he even started thinking his name was BATMAN.
That nickname passed, and variations of his name Spaz took the form of “Spazociter”, “Mr. Spaz Anderson” (a play on the “Mr. Anderson from the matrix movies, said in the Agent Smith voice for effect), “Spaz-dork”, and so on. Regardless, it was always some kind of greeting every single day, sometimes more than once a day.
I have a semi-normal routine every day. I get up and go down to my computer & check my email. En route, Spaz is either on the couch behind me, in bed with me, or soon to be at my legs and wanting his greeting I had trained him to want. I never denied it to him. Even after I go to lunch or go to a job during the day, even if I was only gone for an hour, Spaz would get excited to see me return home. He would wake up from his fat lump spot and want to have his attention.
The last two years, here at this place, where Brandy and I have labored to make a home, Spaz found a peace and happiness he never had before. He was never miserable, but Spaz was obviously at his most jovial. He was not running away from house guests, and he even would go up to strangers that came in because his self confidence had grown. Spaz had in the past chewed or scratched hair off parts of his body from itches. He always had patches of hair missing, but since we moved here, his fur was thick and clean. Spaz was happy.
Last week, I noticed Spaz had started to have labored breathing. It was subtle and you could only hear it if you put your head up against him. Every day it got a little worse, but sometimes a little better. We held off on taking him to the vet because we hoped it was small & would get better over time, but Brandy & I are not financially well off, so a vet visit is too expensive.
Sunday morning, I had to go do work at Tavares Teleproductions and had to leave the house at some point. I did my morning routine and I noticed Spaz had no left my bed. He was too tired. After I took a shower, he got to the top of the steps and I sat down & played with him. He was particularly playful, rolled on his back. Spaz’s ultimate sign of affection was to play-bite and he bit me several times and loved being toyed with.
I got home a little bit after 11:00PM Sunday night and Spaz came downstairs to see me, but his breath was much labored. I pet him on his head and then held him like a baby, and rubbed his belly to calm him down. Brandy came home a few minutes later and we immediately decided to take him to the emergency vet. I checked online and found the nearest 24 hour place. I drove and Brandy was to hold Spaz. Spaz is a house cat and does NOT go outside. When we’ve taken him with us to get the mail on the front porch, we squirms and panics, so we knew a car ride was going to be brutal. It was.
Spaz panicked and his breathing got even more erratic. We drove as fast as we could only to find the facility closed. This was traumatic enough without these asshole mis-advertising. We were in the car with no alternate place to go so I tried calling friends, but my cell phone minutes ran out. We pull into the E.R. of St. Annes human hospital. I hold Spaz while Brandy runs into the E.R. to find another place. I held Spaz close to me, held him like a baby and just talked to him. His breathing eased some, but he was still not good, and worse than at home. Brandy got directions and we were off again as I handed him back to her.
We find the other place nearly 20 minutes later and get Spaz into emergency care. We sit in the waiting room awaiting any kind of news for over an hour, hoping for the best. A Vet asks us all kinds of questions about Spaz and tell us that he’s still very panicked and scared, so until the sedative kicks in they can’t get X-rays to find out what the problem is. More waiting. Knowing Spaz, I assume it will be a long while. We left unprepared, so I volunteer to go home & grab some things for our vigil. I also wanted to see Cousette because she & Spaz have never been separated before.
I cried in the car, but we were pretty close to home. I start to grab things when Brandy calls. She said she got an update. Spaz is in an oxygen tank and they gave him some steroids to open up his lungs and he was stable. They wanted to keep him overnight, but we could see him. When I got back there, Brandy had a partial bill that exceeded $1,000 already and the estimate to keep Spaz the next day was over $2,000 more. Our only other option was to transport him to another vet when they opened at 8:00AM because by 8:30AM, when there was a shift change, we’d have to pay the new balance.
They gave us a list of other vets in the area and phone numbers. We could go back & see Spaz. We went to see him and there he was in this cold, sterile room in a little clear box getting oxygen pumped in. My heart sunk seeing him in there. He was alert and awake, and immediately recognized us. Brandy reached in the hand hole and pet his head & I his back. Brandy asked if I wanted to pet his head & so I did. I put my face down into the hole and talked to Spaz and he got up with all his strength and reached his little face out and kissed me. He tried to get out of this little hole and come to us, but they started to close the hand holes. I couldn’t hold back my tears at all. I broke down.
We left together utterly shaken. We came home and tried with futility to sleep. With maybe an hour to an hour and a half of sleep, we went back to the emergency vet’s at 7:45AM to start prepping for the transporting of Spaz to another facility. The vet told us that he had a good chance and that Spaz might come through. They sedated him so that the drive wouldn’t be so bad. Brandy and I switched so that she would drive and I would hold Spaz. When they brought him to me, he was so out of it and still breathing very hard. I wrapped him in a blanket and we hauled ass to the first vet open we had called. It was the longest drive of my life as I talked to Spaz and held him close. He put his little paws on my face, reaching out to me as I talked softly to him the entire drive. I held him like a baby as I often did at the front window, rubbing his tummy and talking to him about anything, the first time I met him, about games we played, anything to keep him calm and it seemed to work, except he was getting more and more labored.
We got there to a place on Morse Rd. that wasn’t very advanced or anything. They spent 5 minutes with him and said, they were not equipped to handle this. He needed an oxygen tank and special care they weren’t capable of. They gave us directions to another facility and we were off. We get to this other place about a mile and half away, and they take him right back. Within 15 minutes, their vet had looked over Spaz and reviewed all the info from the emergency vet and told us that they would continue the therapy started at the E.R. and see what could be done. In a few hours she’d call and let us know how he’s responding.
After seeing how Spaz looked, I think we both knew in our hearts that Spaz was going. He was trying so hard to breathe. Our brave little boy was too far gone. The vet called us and said he was more alert, and had gotten better, but was not really improved on breathing. We got in the car & went to see him.
Poor little Spaz was breathing so heavy and it looked exhausting and we knew we had to let him go. We had come to say goodbye to our little boy Spaz. We told the doctor it was time and they took us into a private room. I carried him in, holding him and telling him that I loved him. I didn’t think I could even be there in the room when he passed. I gave him to Brandy to hold and say her goodbyes too. I was going to leave the room, when I turned my back on Spaz, he cried out & reached his little paws out to me. I couldn’t leave him then. I pet him on the head and Brandy held on to him when the doctor made the injection. We felt his little body go limp and the doctor took him. Curled in a ball, exactly as he spent most of his days on the couch or on my lap, or on Brandy’s, that’s how he looked when he left us.
We couldn’t go home just yet, so Brandy and I went to the park where we go often. We tried to remember everything good and pure that we ever knew about Spaz. What occurred to me then was something I never realized. I have spent my whole life trying to create a surrogate family, or join one. My own relations with my family are estranged at best. Brandy to her own family is not that different. What we had created together was a family. We live together, we treat her cats as our kids and everything really was familial for us. I had not thought of it in those terms until Spaz passed. We’re family and we lost one of our own.
We came home after the walk. The house seems so much emptier. It didn’t help that they were working on the roof, so the electric was supposed to be off for a few hours. I tried to sleep in my bed, but the thought that Spaz was not jumping on the bed drove sleep from my mind. Later I tried sleeping on the couch, but then the realization that never once did I nap on this couch without Spaz with me kept sleep from starting.
Brandy had to work at 6:00PM, so she left, brave as she could be, and I was left alone with Cousette. Cousette hasn’t figured it out yet, but she’s looking at all of Spaz’ spots. She started crying and howling, so I just pet her and talked to her. She doesn’t understand. They’ve never been apart, so it’s slowly dawning on her that she’s alone and he’s not coming back.
I have the notice from the Condo association clearly stating that the power would be off from 10:00AM till “no later than 2:00PM”. It was 10:45:PM when the lights came on. I spent several hours in the dark, alone with my misery. I wanted to try to distract myself, anything to keep my mind from losing my friend, my boy, Spaz. I can’t ask Brandy not to work, plus we would have both been stuck in the dark. It compounded my sorrow and I miss him so much. When Brandy got home, she left work early and came home because she was so distraught. Spaz and Cousette had been with her since their birth and he was 10 years old. Brandy couldn’t sleep. It’s still very deep.
In the end, I made several realizations. When I set out to make Spaz feel special, it was for no real reason. I had told the little bugger several times that I loved him over the years, especially the last year or two. What I didn’t know was how much he loved me back. He was a part of my daily life for 4 and half years. I didn’t take him for granted, but that doesn’t really ease my pain. Brandy’s still very shook up.
I’ve faced death of people that were close to me. In the years since, I have built up buffers and emotional barriers to prevent me from feeling like this. I don’t know how, but Spaz cracked my armor. I’ve let Brandy and the cats form a family of our own and together we have made a happy home. Here, it was a four way street. Our mutual love of each other made the spirit of our home a happy one. Without our buddy Spaz, it’s a little less happy.
Today I started my routine, but there is a hollowness that I have not known in many years. He’s not on the couch or in my bed. Brandy left for work and Cousette and I are alone. Today is the first day without Spaz. It seemed like such a small thing, but what it really is to me is a little hole in my heart where Spaz used to be.
Many thanks to those who called and emailed us with your condolences. It has meant a lot to us and we’re glad you’ve shown your care. To those who knew Spaz, I’m sure you meant a lot to him too. The last years of his life were very happy, and that’s the best gift you can give to anyone or anything.
– Peter John Ross