Thursday, March 8 2018
I got up early this morning and relocated to the basement master guestroom, but didn't sleep long. Eventually I got out of bed and went out to shovel snow. Last night I'd been working without a headlamp and had missed the 20 or 30 feet of shoveling still left to do near the road. The two youngest cats, Janet and Celeste, seemed excited by all the freakish snow, which was perhaps more than they're used to seeing (especially since the ground had been clear of snow only the day before yesterday), and they stood around in driveway watching me shovel.
The farm road had been plowed, but there was enough of a snow wall on either side of it for Gretchen to walk Neville off-leash for the first time since the surgey on both of his knees. Gretchen thought the snow barricade would keep Neville from "bolting," which is what his surgeon has said that he must avoid doing for the eight weeks following his eight weeks of imprisonment in the recuperation fort (and we're only two and a half weeks into that phase). But things didn't work out the way Gretchen had hoped. Neville and Ramona eventually vanished into the forest and didn't return home with her. And they stayed out for awhile, indicating that, for them, their offleash alliance is just like riding a bicycle.
Meanwhile, the power outage from last night continued, and my plans were to go into Kingston with my laptop to try to get some work done at a place having both electricity and WiFi. But before I left, I wanted to make sure the dogs were okay. If Neville had experienced crippling setbacks to his cyborg knees, I didn't want him freezing to death in the snow. So, after Gretchen left to go do yet more inventory work at the bookstore, I went for a stroll down the Farm Road looking for the dogs. I didn't find them that time, but soon thereafter Ramona returned by herself and, after determining from the tracks in the snow that she had come back via the Farm Road, I repeated the walk I'd done earlier. I came upon Neville on the Farm Road just south of the trailhead for the Chamomile Headwaters Trail. He was trotting at his normal pace and not favoring any of his legs, suggesting he had not done himself an injury.
My favorite public place for remote work is Outdated, the vegetarian café in Uptown that is also an antique store. The problem with a vegetarian restaurant before noon (and even sometimes after) is that all the customers there (except the vegans, and even, secretly, some of them) are super excited about the many dishes that contain eggs. There was an older couple one table from me, and they clearly had nothing left to talk about but the novelty of Outdated's menu. They kept talking about this and that, and every other word out of their mouths was the word "egg" or "eggs" (which they pronounced "aig"). Later, after they'd ordered some food, all they could talk about was the disgusting details of how the aigs were. This made me hypersensitive to the fart-like aig smells in the air, which definitely subtracted from my dining experience; I was eating a not-so-great tomato & cabbage soup (though it worked well as a dipping sauce for the toast that came with it).More biologically potent than the old couple and their runny aigs was a toddler with a tuberculotic cough who kept hacking away in the uncouth way that toddlers always do. Clearly he had some runaway contagious disease, and yet his parents had decided a crowded café was a good place for her to spend some time. When the kid wasn't hacking up her pink little, she was screaming like a teapot, probably from the misery of being sick in public. The internet provided by Outdated's WiFi is always terrible, and it was so bad today that it limited the kind of work I could do. But it didn't prevent me from complaining In Slack about the aigs and the contagious toddler to my colleagues. It being Women's Day (or, A Day Without A Woman), the only colleagues online were male.
When I knew my parking meter was out of time, I decided to go to a different public place for continued remote work. So I drove out to 9W and strolled around in the Home Depot without really anything in mind that I wanted to buy there. Eventually I found some decorative LED lightbulbs and a few other things that managed to add up to more than $50. As usual, at the self-checkout machine, I opted to carry out my transaction in Spanish.
The next phase of my workday unfolded at the Panera (which is across 9W from the Home Depot). I hadn't been there in a long time, mostly because their vegan options are terrible. But one of my colleagues recommended a web page with helpful suggestions for a vegan trying not to starve at Panera, so I knew to order a Mediterranean sandwich without feta cheese.
In the past, I've noted that morbidly obese people love to hang out at Panera, at least at the one on 9W outside Kingston, NY. As I'd approached the Panera, I saw an incredibly fat and deeply unhealthy-looking woman in the window with a large collection of crumpled paper and crumbs in front of her. She had many additional chins and bellies, one of which made it impossible to determine where her face ended and her neck began. She was facing the corner table I prefer to sit at, but I knew I would not have a good experience if she was in the foreground of all my people watching. So I took a seat behind her, with my back to her. She was only a few feet away, but at least I wouldn't have to see. Soon thereafter, the fat woman made a series of horrible sounds that resembled hiccoughs but could've been either pulmonary or gastrointestinal. That certainly didn't make me too excited about my Mediterranean sandwich, whose hummus really left a lot to be desired. Still, at least her face wasn't pointed in my direction.
That corner table is a popular place, and four or five different people attempted to sit there while faced by that mountain of a hiccoughing woman, but they all fled soon after she went into a fit of noisemaking.
At some point I checked the Central Hudson website and saw that the power outage on Dug Hill Road was anticipated to be over at 4:00pm, so I packed up my stuff and hit the road by about 3:45PM. (My laptop was still doing a batch job at the time, so I left it open and running in the passenger seat.) I went out of my way to swing by the Tibetan Center thrift store, where, for only a dollar, I picked up yet more LaserPeg units, which allow one to illuminate transparent Lego structures from within.
Back home, I found the house completely electrified. This would make it possible for me to carry out a much more effective second half of my workday.
At 5:00pm, Gretchen drove off to that prison down near Gardner, where she volunteers as a professor for a SUNY-Ulster college program taught behind bars. I turned my attention to the paperwork necessary for recouping the expenses from my last trip out to California, which included a $522 airplane ticket. For some reason I couldn't find the receipt for the parking I'd done at the Newburgh Airport. I thought I'd brought that into the house, but it wasn't in any of the usual places. So I thought, hmm, maybe it's still out in the Subaru.
I looked out into the parking area where the Prius had been and saw Janet the Cat stretched out as if asleep. That was odd. Lying in the driveway is a normal thing on a sunny day, but not at 5:30pm in early March. Wait, was she dead? Had Gretchen accidentally run her over on the way off to the prison? As I drew near, I was horrified to see her face in a pool of her own blood. But I wasn't yet believing all I was seeing, and I continued into the Subaru and glanced around briefly for that damn parking receipt (it wasn't there). Then I snapped out of it and went to gather up Janet. She was limp and warm and I could hear her breathing through her own blood. Though clearly the Prius had injured her head, it hadn't mashed it dramatically. Still, she was unconscious and seemed likely to die soon. I briefly considered somehow putting her out of her misery (though she actually seemed peaceful), but instead I went into the house to look for the phone number for a vet. But all the phone numbers that had been there were gone, and I didn't feel like I had time to hunt them down. I lay her limp body in the passenger seat of the Subaru and let the dogs climb into the backseat. When Ramona wanted to come up to the front seat, I shouted at her not to, and she didn't try again for the rest of the short ride to the Hurley Vet.
I didn't have an appointment, of course, but the people at the front desk at the Hurley Vet were very accommodating, even though Janet wasn't even in their records. A green profile sheet was rapidly added to a binder and Janet's basics were written into it. She was a black short-haired spayed female of about eight months of age (actually, probably older). Immediately she was seen by a vet, the same one who had recently removed that lump from Neville's face (the resulting scar is already almost invisible) while I waited out in the front, updating all my colleagues on Slack (and apologizing for a being a bummer). Thursday night is happy hour night, and there was nothing happy happening at all. I also left a message on Gretchen's phone, though (because she was in a prison) she wouldn't be near her phone for hours.
The vet apparently did an xray and determined that Janet's skull wasn't obviously fractured, though the source of the blood from her mouth and her unconsciousness were unknown. She had low blood pressure and weak pulse, and her eyes were unresponsive to light. He suggested putting her on some strong medicine to reduce brain swelling as well as intravenous fluids and exposure to a heating pad to fight hypothermia, which appeared to have set in. I told the vet that if Janet looked hopeless that I was all for euthanasia, but he thought we should at least give these techniques a chance and that, when the Hurley office closed at 8:00pm, Janet should be transferred to the emergency vet (which has the ability to do overnight intensive care). At the time it was only around 6:00pm, so I went home to wait until 7:30.
Back at the house, it was impossible to focus on anything except the unfolding tragedy. I gathered a cardboard VitaMix box in which to transport Janet and returned to the Hurley Vet earlier than anticipated, though I stopped off along the way at the Stewart's in Old Hurley to buy a sixpack of Sam Adams Rebel IPA (the closest thing to my sort of beer that they presently stock). I was sure a dark cloud floated over my head as I walked, but when the cashier asked how I was, I said, "fine," just the way one always does. A plump woman in the parking lot made a comment about how cute Ramona was (she didn't even notice Neville) and that brightened my gloom briefly.
As Janet was being prepared for the move to the emergency vet, something bad happened with her vitals, some sort of minor heart failure that suggested her brain damage was now affecting parts she could not live without. The vet, who had been suggesting heroics up until then, suddenly changed and said it was best to put Janet out of her misery. I immediately agreed, and within seconds he had a syringe full of familiar pink death juice at the ready. I was sad but not really emoting; I was still too numb for that. The vet's assistant asked what I wanted to do with the corpse, and I said I'd just take her home and bury her in the yard. She then asked if I wanted a little coffin, but I said there was no need, that I would be putting her "in that box right there." I'd already paid a nearly $500 vet bill and they didn't even bother to ask me to pay for the euthanasia. I returned to the Subaru with my cardboard box containing a dead cat.
Back at the house, I broke the sad news to my colleagues and then called Gretchen to leave a glum message saying that Janet had been euthanized and that I was so sorry. Janet had been Gretchen's favorite cat; indeed, of all our cats, Janet was the only one who seemed to like her. Cats almost never snuggle with Gretchen, but Janet had frequently joined her on the couch to watch television. That Gretchen had inadvertently killed her was likely to haunt Gretchen the rest of her her life. I too had had a special relationship with Janet, who had demonstrated a much greater range of what it means to be a cat. She always demanded to have a sample of everything I ever ate and frequently sat watching me work at my computer from atop the stack of laptops to my left. She frequently slept at the top of the cat tree in the teevee room, though often called out a greeting to me whenever I walked past. I'm really going to miss her.
I put the box containing Janet's corpse on a chair in the living room and lay on the couch staring up at the ceiling. I was unable to do anything at all, not even cry, though I had sobbed momentarily in the laboratory. Now the waiting had begun. Gretchen had gone into that prison having no idea that anything was wrong with Janet, and by the time she came out, Janet would be dead. But until she checked her messages, in Gretchen's head, Janet was very much alive.
Eventually the phone rang and it was Gretchen, who had heard the somber "Janet has been euthanized" message first. She said she was numb, too numb to process the enormity of the tragedy, and thus was good to drive home.
When Gretchen came in the door, she was just a shell of a person. She immediately went to the box to look at Janet's corpse, which still didn't look damaged enough to have been killed, not even in her face. We sat and talked, pausing for long periods and then repeating things we'd already said. Gretchen thought I'd be mad at her, particularly given all the times I'd warned about the possibility of cats under our cars. In the past, I'd thought Gretchen thought me crazy for obsessively checking beneath them. But that was mostly something I did in the summer time. In the winter, the cats don't spend much time outside. But today had been different. Janet had been loving the new snow. And she's also a big fan of exploring small, dark spaces. Evidently she'd been under the Prius (or atop one of its wheels) when Gretchen rolled out of the driveway. Perhaps Gretchen could have done so more slowly; I certainly am in the habit of never goosing the car to get out on the road, because there is almost no upside and, as today makes clear, there is a huge potential downside. But in this case, it was winter and Gretchen couldn't've known Janet would be under the car and unable to escape in time. It was a horrible accident, and that was really all there was to say about it.
Janet this morning, enjoying the snow. 8 hours later she would be dead. 10 hours later Gretchen would know Janet was dead.
Neville and Ramona returning home with me on the Farm Road late this morning.
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