JIM THIELMAN: Can’t Die; I Haven’t Figured Anything Out 

Jazz the Cat thudded to the master bedroom’s wood floor followed by rapid tapping at 3:30 a.m. It sounded like a seizure. I went to college. Turning on the light proved me right once again.

Cats with cancer migrating to their central nervous system don’t come home from the emergency veterinarian. There, they stopped the seizures with valium at 4 a.m. Who knew a drug that interferes with a driver’s car wreck defense system also interferes with seizures? Within another half hour, Jazz had floated to the ubiquitous but hazy “Rainbow Bridge.”

About 36 hours later, the mail brought a sympathy card with condolences from the four people who had worked that night shift at the clinic. Even though they didn’t know Jazz, it was nice that each person wrote a few words. The wow factor came from the card arriving in our house 36 hours after Jazz left. I mean, “wow.”

I couldn’t find much on the Internet about the sales trends of pet sympathy cards. I’m sure it’s an upward trend. I found websites that sell these cards to veterinarians. “When a client’s faithful friend goes to moggy or doggy heaven, the pain can be unbearable,” reads the marketing literature on one site. I had to look up “moggy.”

The “Rainbow Bridge” poem was not included in the card for Jazz. Maybe it’s become cliché since we said au revoir to Bob the Remarkable Cat in 2017 (here). Unlike the sales trend in pet sympathy cards, I did find a Washington Post article about the Rainbow Bridge (here). Three men lay claim to writing it.

That Post news story segues into the bigger picture of Americans loving their pets now the way everyone loved Lassie in the 1950s. It’s good that we love the animals in our homes the way we used to love one we knew only through black-and-white TV. Despite this expanding embrace of pets as family, as for humans, life is still the luck of the draw.

I was exposed to deep thoughts in the only college philosophy class I took. I took this deep thought of why life isn’t fair to my pal Danny The Starving Artist, who hasn’t drawn a lot of face cards in life, believes in a handshake deal and is at worst tied for least materialistic and least hypocritical person on Earth.

Speaking as a multiple gold medal winner in The Overthinking Olympics, I told Danny the money I spent on Jazz might have been better donated to an animal shelter. Hell, Danny could benefit from the money I spent on Jazz. Instead of saying that, he said, “I’d rather you spent it on him than a lot of other things.” Danny never took a philosophy class.

Jazz was dropped at the Humane Society in the fall of 2018 after 16 years in the same house. Not sure who does that, but I don’t want to know them. I hear varying stories on the prospects for a geriatric animal who has been “surrendered.” Rather than decide which story is true, I focus on “surrendered.” Because that person sure did.

Jazz had kidney disease, which made him eligible for the Humane Society’s “hospice program.” To the chagrin of their marketers, I’ll cut to the essence and say that means when the animal is near the end, they will do the coup de grâce, gratis.

Jazz was at home in the vet’s office. Which was good, given he was there often.

Instead of settling for the free vet exam that comes with a Humane Society adoption, a full blood panel seemed wise for a cat with kidney disease. Tests revealed that Jazz had multiple myeloma, which everyone told me was “a bad cancer.” They’re all bad cancers.

Jazz had drawn an ace, though. Without the couple of hundred dollars’ worth of tests, we would have learned of Jazz’s cancer after he showed clinical signs, vaporizing bonding opportunities.

The Humane Society lets you return animals within two months of adoption. Jazz drew another ace. Jazz was home. In a single word, he was “sweet.” In another, he was smart.

Face cards kept Jazz in the game for eight months. His 4 a.m. appearance at the ER vet was his 25th vet visit during his 33-week stay, during which he needed medication that he tolerated well. He had an oncologist, an eye specialist and a nearby vet he visited often, usually briefly and inexpensively. The grand total was anything but.

Neither Danny nor I could take the nascent discussion further regarding why the aces stack up for some of us and not for others, but my quest for enlightenment persisted. What was gained by giving a random cat another eight months of life?

Danny, who talks to birds, didn’t bother to respond to this. He said he just was happy that Jazz kept pulling face cards for eight months.

I wish I had never taken that philosophy class.

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