When I was 4 years-old, I used to hang out in the meadows behind our apartment in Milwaukee, WI and capture grasshoppers in jars. The first group died from suffocation.
The second group lived a few days longer with air holes popped in the lid, but died the next day.
I tried everything; food, water, air, companionship. They all died. So I stopped capturing them.
For a year and a half, I have been able to rescue pit bulls and keep them separated from my cats. In 2009, I lost my cat of 7 years, Frances, to the dogs. I still don't know what happened. I left to park my car, came back and they had her in the living room.
I perfected a system of safety and in 2010, I adopted a cat I named Murray.
I liberated him from the shelter after his owners surrendered him. He was suffering from an upper respiratory infection and an ear infection. I took him home, got him on antibiotics and loved him.
Belle never took to him, but Murray made himself at home. When he ate, you could hear him almost purr while chewing his food. It sounded like "num-num-num". He just fit into my life so naturally.
Always greeted me when I came home, always talked to me about what he wanted . . . a character. My neighbors smile when they talk about him.
Murray, for some reason, last Saturday night, kept hanging out by the kitchen door. This door is the only barrier between my cats and my dogs. The tall kitchen trash can and 4 folded, wood TV trays are kept against the door as a barricade.
I went to grab some food, and in a split second, he jumped the barricade and wandered into the living room like he owned it.
I quickly grabbed him and made a dash for the door, but by the time I got there it was too late. Three pit bulls were pulling on me to get him.
I fought. I thought I had control, but the dogs wore me down. The cat clawed at my face. And in a matter of one minute, they had Murray on the ground.
I was able to pull them off. Two at once, then the last one who gave him one good shake before I got her off and drove Murray to the hospital.
Its a fucking nightmare, ok. I am not sure if reliving these details is helpful at all. A friend told me to write down everything. So I am going to do it.
After getting to the ER, I called Abe. It would take him 50 minutes to get there from Costa Mesa. Em was in Minnesota. So I called the Comic who was there for me when Frances died. He left a party and showed up in a nice suit.
At the Animal ER, they told me he was stable and what I should be concerned about is his glucose levels. His heart was hanging heavy and the doctor advised that he might be diabetic. All I heard was that he was stable.
He had one major laceration in his back leg from the dogs which looked like red meat. They were taking him into surgery to repair it.
I came out to The Comic and Abe, both dutifully waiting for me. My face was bloody, my nose suffered a gash that wouldn't stop bleeding. My hands were swollen from all the nipping and scratching.
We all went back to my home and the Comic left shortly thereafter. He and Abe parted on the most painfully awkward fist bump ever.
Abe and I spoke. I asked him if he would still love me if my eye ball was ripped out.
He said, "I was thinking about that on the ride up."
I said, "And!?!?"
He said, "Of course I would."
I also thought, would I have signed off on a $2100 bill if I wasn't in the moment, instead of putting Murray down. Then I thought of the Murray Man, of course I would.
The next morning they said I should pick him up. I signed a legal waiver acknowledging that he had to go to a regular vet. I couldn't get my regular vet to see him without a pay deposit. Abe and I agreed Murray would be ok for a day or two at home. They didn't give us meds for him, nothing to fight infection or pain. I thought the surgery sedative would keep him comfortable for the rest of the day.
After setting Murray up in the bathroom, I had a Little Caesars' commercial audition as a 50s mom type. I couldn't drive, or clothe myself or do anything really. So Abe bought me white gloves to go with my 50s ensemble, did my make-up to cover up the gash on my nose and the few puncture marks along my hair line. I was very lucky. Then Abe drove me.
We rushed to the audition. Then we rushed to my play rehearsal. This was my life, not having hands wasn't going to stop me.
Abe said while fighting through Los Angeles traffic, "Now if anything else happens, we have to stop. We just have to stop. Car accident, ANYTHING! Ok?"
I agreed. Though . . . I am unstoppable.
At the Reservoir Bitches rehearsal, Evie asked, "Whoa, were you in a fight?" Yeah. I was in a fight.
We got home to check on the Murray man. He was weak, vocal, and using my shower as a toilet while we kept him contained in my bathroom. I was exhausted.
Abe cooked me dinner. He showered me. Shaved my armpits. Dried me off.
He said, "I am not much of a caretaker."
I said, "Well I am not much of a dependent, so I think we're fine." I thrive on my independence. I wasn't even sure how well I would do with the toilet. It was troubling.
With only a few hours sleep, we laid down to rest.
The next day, I made a round of phone calls to vets. Same thing . . . needed to leave a cash deposit or working credit card.
-I had no money. The surgery went through on a Care Credit for low income people and I was maxed out (probably why Murray was discharged).
-My rent was due and I was $482 in the red.
-Abe's credit card was tapped into and flagged for fraud. He was awaiting a new credit card.
-Abe's rent was waived this month due to flooding damage in his apartment. His parents knew this and did not deposit money in his account for his expenses.
The Murray Man seemed ok. I could hear Abe feeding him and telling him what a good job he was doing. Murray is a strong, 20 lb cat. He was strong and even during the incident, I knew he would make it through. He has presence, you know? Not just personality and charisma, but soul.
I was worried though. I left a message and email with the Sam Simon foundation, who does free surgeries for low income folks. That day we spent here with him, comforting him, telling him how loved he was.
I couldn't offload my shift at the doggie daycare, entirely. So I drove myself to rehearsal and then work afterward. Abe went to his band's practice in Huntington Beach and his home afterward.
The next day, Murray was vocalizing a lot. Not only did he get out of the bathroom, but on to my bed to sleep next to me. He was at the back door crying to get out, then in my closet. I knew something was wrong and I couldn't keep him contained. So I called more vets, and went to a low income one I knew of in Pasadena.
I was holding a paycheck for $215 in my glove box. I will always wonder if I didn't hold on to it, and just cashed it in for a deposit on that first day, would it make a difference?
Murray was rushed in and they asked if I wanted to wait or come back. I had my own doctor's appointment for poor people, which already required a 3 day wait. I told them I would come back.
At the doctor's office, the vet called and said Murray had less than a 5% chance of living. I fell to my knees and cried. I asked them to do everything they could. They said it would be $800. I said ok.
The next couple hours were excruciating. Not only did Frances have to pay the ultimate price for my burning desire to save dogs, but now Murray too. I only had him for a year. No time.
After crying to the human doctor, who cut over my whimpers, "I am proud of you for saving all those animals. Its not your fault! You did the best you can, he knows that!" I rushed over to the vet. Murray was stable again.
They told me to take him to an ER but knew I didn't have the funds, so they advised I keep him warm until morning and bring him back in. They are not an overnight facility.
The Vet Techs and I all cried over Murray, his spirit and personality are unique. He was a fighter. His body temperature was too low to even read on the thermometer and somehow he recovered. He also tried jumping off the exam table and leaving the clinic.
I went back to his little cage where he was hooked up to an IV and gave him a few crystals and a cross my parents brought from Assisi in a warm blanket off my bed. He looked like he was going to be ok. He wouldn't stop yelling at me.
I cashed in my paycheck. $200 went to them. (I left a little for cigarettes.)
However, the clinic was demanding I pay the balance before leaving with Murray, $200 more. I called a few people in my car, and begged Abe to find the money. He did but it would have to wait until tomorrow.
I came in to carry Murray home. He was smaller, his eyes crusted. He was shrinking like my grandfather just before his death. Murray was vocalizing all over the place. I said, "Its Mommy, you're with Mommy now."
My name means life in Latin. I just poured my soul over him and wanted to give him every drop I could, all of it. What good is my name if it doesn't give me power, right?
He settled in back of my car and I drove us home. I called my mother to tell her what was going on.
She replied quasi-cold, "I don't know what to say. There are too many animals for you to take care of."
I said, "I know, can you just say something inspiring? Grab a copy of Chicken Soup of the Soul off a shelf and read me a passage."
She laughed. "I wish."
Why couldn't she be more like strangers? The doctor who scolded me for being hard on myself. The Vet techs that cried and comforted me in the lobby.
We were home in less than 10 minutes and I carried him up to my bed. He wasn't vocalizing. I pressed my head against his chest and thought I heard a heartbeat but his eyes were open and his tongue was a little out.
Em was coming over for support.
I held him and talked to him. I asked him to hang on. I touched his head.
I kept checking for a pulse. I couldn't find it.
Em came up and said we should take him to the ER. We did.
We were called into the room shortly after handing him over. The vet said, "He has been gone for about 30 minutes. His body is cold."
I hung my head down, and started shaking. Then I found both a scream and a cry between my knees.
Em held my hand. She was calm and so together. My head was vibrating between my hands. Another one! I lost another one! GOD DAMN IT!
I got some kind of lecture about liver failure, but they couldn't figure out how it connected to the incident. Though, most certainly, it does. He turned yellow. Some other things I couldn't hear.
He waited to die at home, with me.
I went in to say goodbye to his body. I rubbed the center of his forehead and said, "I am sorry. Go be free, ok? Go be free and say hello to God and Frances for me. I will see you again soon. What ever you become, make sure you stop by and say hello. I love you." I kissed him goodbye.
I felt peace. I felt him in the room. And I felt him say, "Already said hi to them for you. See you soon."
We bought some brewskies at CVS on my way home. We sat on my kitchen floor and drank. Abe showed up. I called him from the ER.
We sat there for a few minutes before I lost my shit. And when you lose your shit . . . its surreal. It started with the hyperventilating, the crying first from the throat, then the chest, then the gut until you are broken at the hips screaming for your baby.
I couldn't stop. I sensed Em and Abe around me, trying to calm me down. My breath was gone. It was all gone. Murray was gone.
Thoughts run through your mind like a ribbon through scissors . . . I rescued two cats so they could die in my home . . . I brought him here to this death trap . . . there is no cat like Murray . . . my kids will never meet Murray . . . I will never come home to Murray again . . . I yelled at him once . . . Murray suffered and slipped away from me. No time. No time to give him more of the life he loved on the Pasadena rooftops, laying on his back while squirrels jumped over him.
Em was trying to get me to scream it out and get it through my system, so it would all get out. It is a never ending pit of regret, heartbreak, anguish, and anger. Abe came in and held my head up. I looked in his eyes and felt my head vibrating. I was trying to say, "I can make it stop." As in, I can stop hyperventilating and crying but I couldn't make it stop.
After 40 minutes, Em went home. Abe gave me pot, I took sleeping pills and he laid me down. The crying didn't stop. I fell asleep crying, woke up in the middle of the night, sweating suddenly remembering why I was crying then I fell back asleep and woke up in the morning crying.
At one point, I could hear a voice in my head say, "Stop! Your body can't take anymore. Rest so you can cry later."
This must sound so very dramatic to a non-cat person. You have to understand, animals have all the spiritual value of a person in my life. And though I have never had a child, these animals are souls brought to me by fate, bodies I have nursed and fed, and personalities I bonded with and unconditionally love. They are my kids.
The next day, the only thing that calmed me down was going to rehearsal. I showed up in sweats, with my hair pulled back, swollen eyes under my glasses and did my monologue. A few laughs and a clap afterward got me to smile at the very end of the scene.
Sometimes, I caught myself shaking so hard, I thought there was an earthquake. Then I got used to it. My ears were ringing, all the time.
Another day came and went. Another day without Murray.
The only way to keep sane is try to make sense of it. How could I be such a complete asshole, that two of my cats were violently killed in my care? How THE FUCK is that possible?
Things I think about:
-There was a family in Washington who lost their infant. The mother accidentally ran over the baby while she was crawling down their driveway. I don't know the details, but my first thought was, how does that woman go on living?
-The average life span of an indoor/outdoor cat is 6 yrs.
-I wonder about whether he would have lived if I took him to a vet immediately or left him at the ER for the rest of the day, instead of running over to pick him up.
-I realized I could have jumped on the couch and propped him on top of the bookshelf to safety.
-I am some kind of stupid grown up kid who tried to manipulate nature and force harmony in an environment that any responsible adult would never have attempted.
-I am not afraid of death, why am I afraid of others dying?
I am dying to know what lesson I am supposed to take from this. Up to yesterday, I really didn't know how I could live with myself.
In these quiet hours in my head, I think about the lesson.
I texted Em last night, "You can't save lives from life." We all find an end at some point. When and how really don't matter all that much. And though I rescued these animals, desperate to give them longevity and happiness- fate takes the upper hand.
I think the worst thing I could ever imagine is watching someone I love die by violent means. Even worse, I facilitated the violent means.
I am vegan. I am 33 and go to petting zoos. I can't even watch ANIMAL PLANET. I have seen video footage of a person being killed and an animal being killed. What is it that makes the animal death so much more disturbing? Something to do with an innocence.
But animals kill. Its one of the elements I have chosen to ignore. It is a great part of who they are and what they are, and only now do I acknowledge that they are not me. We are not the same. At all.
Everything you have can be taken away in seconds. While Murray was sick and recovering, I found out the option for my script fell through. Then I found out CBS ordered a pilot on almost the exact same premise as the pilot Lana and I invested a shitload of money into producing.
Those pinched me in the gut, but I looked over at Abe, cleaning my kitchen. Sneaking out the back door for a couple puffs off a cigarette. Cooking a meal for me and forcing me to eat. As long as I have Abe, I think I can make it through anything.
Often crisis can make or break a relationship. When Frances died in 09'- I spent the weekend chain smoking and swimming through an entire bottle of Tylenol PM alone. It was hell.
This time, Abe was making sure my clothes were washed, my dishes were done, the dogs were fed, making sure I was hydrated and eating. He calmed me down when I broke down where ever I was standing. He would walk me to the bed, hold my hand and say, "I am really worried about you."
Where ever my mind went the last couple days, part of me stayed here for Abe. I can't really explain that right now. I feel like my body and emotions boiled over like a cauldron, but part of me saw angels.
What if Earth is where we only initially connect with the spirits in a broader plane of time and existence. There must be so much energy out there. What if in this life and the next, we are just finding one another.
Fuck, I don't know.
Belle, my cat of 10 yrs, just started to paw at the glass window like Murray. She has never done that.
Abe said, "Hey, Belle is acting really weird. She is acting like Murray."
I buried my face under the pillow and said, "I know."
He said, "You notice that, too?"
I whispered, "Yeah."
He is stopping by to say hello.