This past Sunday, our cat MacGyver finally succumbed to the feline leukemia virus with which he had been born some 18 months before. His short life was marked by several coincidences which seem worth noting.
The coincidences began on the day we got him, as I mentioned in the comments to this post on my other blog.
Yesterday we adopted a semi-stray kitten (homeless, but there was a man who left food out for it sometimes). When I asked the man who had been feeding it whether it had a name, he said he called it Diandian (點點). That evening we took the kitten (which we renamed MacGyver) to the vet, and while we were waiting to see the doctor we started chatting with another woman in the waiting room. It turns out that she had also adopted a cat that same day, and her cat was also called Diandian!
Then, just as we were leaving the veterinary clinic, another woman came in, and we overheard her talking to the receptionist about her sick sugar glider. The vet couldn’t help her, but we were able to jump in and refer her to a good exotic-animal vet in the area. Sugar gliders are a very unusual pet, and the chances of two glider owners running into each other at a dog-and-cat clinic neither of us had ever patronized before are obviously very low.
Just a few months later, MacGyver was diagnosed with feline leukemia, and the vet told us he could live anywhere from a few months to a few years.
A day or two after the diagnosis, my wife was taking her keys out of her motorcycle and dropped them on the pavement. Her keychain has a figurine of a seated black cat (the Egyptian goddess Bastet), and when it hit the pavement, one of the cat’s legs broke off. I remember thinking at the time, “Oh, man. That’s an omen.”
I was thinking in general terms — bad news for the cat — but the omen turned out to be a pretty literal one. Several days after the keychain broke, MacGyver, whose eyesight was the first casualty of the leukemia, wandered off the edge of a staircase and fell, injuring one of his legs. It wasn’t the same leg that the Bastet figurine lost — you can’t expect that kind of voodoo-like precision — but it was close enough to seem uncanny. Fortunately, the injury was not serious, and he recovered quickly.
As the disease progressed and MacGyver’s quality of life deteriorated, I suggested that perhaps it would be best to have him put down, but my wife wouldn’t hear of it. In her mind, we didn’t have the moral right to make that kind of decision.
One week before he died, MacGyver’s condition became so awful — he couldn’t stand up, couldn’t eat, had no bladder control, and was having seizures — that my wife finally agreed that we should have him put to sleep. We took him to the vet with that intention — but, the vet suggested one last thing we could try before turning to that last resort. It would involve having him stay overnight at the animal hospital, hooked up to an IV, after which we could take him home but would have to inject fluids through a catheter every two hours round the clock. Even with this treatment, the best we could hope was that he would live another 24 or 48 hours (or so the vet predicted; in fact he lingered for a full week). I was extremely reluctant to go along with this plan, but in the end my concern for my wife trumped my concern for the cat, and I agreed.
We left MacGyver at the vet’s and came home. I went to the bathroom and picked up my current bathroom book: Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. Finding my bookmark, I opened up to the beginning of Chapter 13 and read this:
The line that caught my eye was: “Montmorency thinks he will murder and old tom cat — But eventually decides that he will let it live.”
Only later, looking the page up again in preparation for writing this post, did I notice a second coincidence. The last line before the beginning of Chapter 13 is “and put up for the night at the ‘Crown’.” The hospital where we had left MacGyver for the night (his first and only inpatient stay) was called Crown Home Animal’s Hospital.
On Saturday night my wife and I were staying at a hotel in Taipei for a conference and had left MacGyver in the care of our niece. That night I dreamed that I saw MacGyver walking along with a spring in his step. I thought to myself, “Wait, how can he be walking? He can’t walk” — and then suddenly I knew what it meant. When my niece phoned us the next morning in tears, she didn’t tell me anything I didn’t already know.