The flimsy cardboard kitty carrier may not be strong enough to hold him if he starts to struggle. Delmar is a very strong cat, and can be very determined. But he simply eases in and rests there. He knows.
He and I have such history. I've had him since he was born, the first cat I owned after my protracted, painful divorce. I had to move back in with my mom for awhile, and Delmar was there. I got a job, moved into a tiny apartment, got a better job, kept the same apartment, and he remained my constant companion. Mom died, I was in despair, he comforted me as best he could, mostly just by being there, which was always enough.
It's a gray day. Not cold, but a dampness in the air. Not that I notice it as I take him out to the car. I reach through the air holes of the carrier and touch his coarse, spiky fur. "It's okay, Buddy. We're going for a ride."
A few blocks later, we're at the vet's office. They wave me right in to the exam room. The table is covered with a little blue blanket, and it looks so much like the penguin blanket my mom had, the one I inherited, the one Delmar so frequently used for naps. I start to lose it.
Del was born pretty much fully-formed. He never had a cute kitten phase. He was awkward and gangly from the very beginning, and always would be. He could be cranky, he could be sweet, he was never quiet and restful. I could usually anticipate his moods, but he couldn't tell me when his kidneys started failing, not until he started drinking massive amounts of water and eating less, and by then it was too late.
I set him on the table and he immediately curls up, as if he's bypassed all the other stages and gone straight to acceptance. The doctor comes in and explains the procedure, asks if I'm okay with it, has me sign some forms. I hold Del as they give him a sedative, then they leave the room while it takes effect.
I talk to Del, I sing the lyrics I invented for the first season instrumental theme from Walker, Texas Ranger ("Hey! It's Delmar and he's great! It's Delmar and he's grea-ea-eat!"). The doc comes back in, shaves some fur from his hind leg and administers the IV. Del puts his paw in my hand. I grip it as tight as I can.
And he's gone.
"Do you need some time?" the vet asks, and I nod. "We don't need this room for the rest of the day. Take as long as you need."
His paw is still resting in my hand. He looks like he's asleep. I don't know what I expected. I talk to him some more, running through his many, many nicknames. (Del Star, Delmar Von Delmington, Li'l Feller, My Special Little Guy...) My tears are falling without control, hitting the table, dotting the blanket all around him.
There is a thoughtfully provided box of tissues on a stool beside the table. I blow my nose, then again, and I turn back to Del. "Not so bad, was it?" I say. "See you, Buddy. See you whenever I can." A final tissue to wipe my eyes, and I leave.
Driving home, I'm listening to Ben Folds' Songs For Silverman because it's the album that happens to be playing, and I know I will always unfortunately associate it with this. Janie will be there when I get home, and two other wonderful cats, and my beloved beagle.
But Delmar won't be, and he never will be there again.