It's grown very quiet in the Turtle household. Caleb was my main talker, with an astounding variety of chirps, trills, squeaks, and yowls as running commentary. Sweetie panted all the time (thanks to her advancing years and thickening of heart and lungs) and occasionally barked at a rabbit outside. Simon complained about stuff. Toffee made all kinds of weird noises.
More than once, I considered making a recording of the sounds of the Turtle household. Not sure if I'm glad I didn't.
The remaining three only open their mouths to complain about lack of food. I should be happy about that.
Simon died of intestinal cancer. I'd known something was wrong with him since July. It just took that long to manifest. Sweetie died of lymphoma. She'd been getting weaker for a while, especially in her back legs, so when I felt the lumps in her throat, I knew. The last days were sudden, but the result was expected.
Caleb came out of left field. It now seems he was dead when I took him to the emergency vet that Saturday; we just didn't know it. The treatment that should have worked to flush out the toxins in his kidneys and restored him to stable health and maintenance didn't work on him. The vet suspects cancer was at the root. He was eight, and I'd planned a longer life together. He is the one I'm having the hardest time not being bitter about.
Toffee was my fault. I killed her because I couldn't live with her grief, and I couldn't find a solution for it after seventeen days. She was fifteen, stopped eating in October, and had to be coaxed back. She got better while Simon got worse. After Simon died, she started screaming at night as only a Siamese can scream, for hours at a time, with no obvious trigger or solution. My only weak defense is I truly thought that something physical was wrong with her, something that would take a while to find, like it did with Simon. Something terminal. Maybe I was right, but I'll never know, because she's dead.
I have never believed in killing an animal for convenience, any more than I believe in killing babies for convenience, and I regret the decision hourly. She's having her revenge, though, because she's haunting me. I see her at the table waiting to lick my breakfast bowl. Peering around the door into the kitchen. Sleeping near me or in my chair when I get up. Blinking at me from behind the curtain as I open it for the day. After twelve years of living here, her absence has riddled this house with holes.
I remember when she came, she stayed in the basement, terrified. She'd been traumatized by a Lhasa Apso in a foster home between living with mom and living with me. I knew I could either have a cat that lived in the basement, or I could have a cat I who lived with me, so I spent weeks digging her out of her hidey holes and bringing her upstairs to learn that it wasn't scary up here in the sunlight.
I now have a chair no one sits in, because only Sweetie sat there for nine years. I now have beds that no one uses because the remaining three no longer need to go "up" to get away from the crazy. No one meets me at the door like Caleb and Simon did, and no one says good-bye when I leave.
Stress is the cause, if you need a cause. Seven animals who do not get along cannot live in the same tiny space for eight years without consequences. The consequences are cancer, and kidney failure, and inconsolable grief. I wish someone would kill me, too, because I can't self-terminate.
The remaining three have noticed the absences. I don't know if they're talking amongst themselves or not, but I am walking on eggshells, afraid to make any move that might disrupt the current calm and send someone else into a death spiral. I would predict Skamper, except Caleb had no symptoms until he did. I'm frankly afraid to draw close to them, as if my attention will mark them out for annihilation.
It has been 19 days since the first death, and 2 days since Toffee. I'm only just starting to process some of it, in my dreams of all places. Long dead people are visiting me nightly, now that I can sleep more than an hour at a time.
I must adapt. I cannot be Toffee. I cannot live buried in grief or, worse, fearing the next death. Because there will be more death. That's how life works. None of us are getting out alive.
I hope Toffee will forgive me. I hope she is happy now, and her bad wiring has finally been repaired. I hope by writing this I will gain some peace in confession. I promise you, no one can judge me more harshly than I judge myself.
I'm sorry. I hate when people tell me their horror stories just because I have gone through something horrific. As if sharing their pain with me makes my pain less. Why would I feel better because you've also had trouble? What kind of monster do you think I am to rejoice in your grief? Maybe this is one of those normal people things I don't get.
Anyway, thanks for listening. Despise me if you want. I have no defense.