Getting Finnegan

I’ve never gotten the whole pet thing. I mean, yeah – I had them growing up and I was pretty into it. But now that I’m an adult, pets = pet hair everywhere + unplanned vet bills + cleaning up poop. And I was kinda optimistic that my poop-cleaning days were behind me.

Once I called my friend Beth to go for a run, and she blew me off because it was her weimaraner’s birthday and she wanted to go on a “special birthday run” with him. I hung up the phone ready to break up with her. What a freak, I thought.

My friend Susan will describe in great detail the expression on her bulldog’s face when she talks to him (which she does, on the phone, in her puppy voice). When she does this, I want to shoot myself.

This summer, however, in an effort to stave off my begging-for-a-dog family, I agreed to adopt two kittens. I actually don’t mind cats. They’re fairly self-sufficient and don’t sniff in impolite places. Plus, they can be cute. Two days later, I was in Petsmart when I spotted this kitten:

I called my husband and told him I was pulling the trigger. I had to have this kitten. The long hair poking out of his tiny ears melted me. We picked out an adorable playmate for him — a cool-looking tabby that kissed our noses. We brought them home and named them Angus (the tabby) and Finnegan (the hairy-eared darling).

Finnegan – or Finny McFinnster as we called him — made us laugh daily. He ran crooked, constantly skidding across floors. Whenever I got on my computer, he jumped up on the keyboard and start purring in my face. Then he’d settle down in front of the keyboard and suckle on my shirt sleeve. I think he was taken away from his mother too early. I think he thought I was his momma. It felt nice to have a baby in the house again.

Finny got fat and messy. His tail got big and fuzzy, like a raccoon’s. We made fun of him, calling him “The Fat Raccoon.” With his massive weight gain, I started carrying him around on my hip, like a toddler. Maybe I should get out the old Baby Bjorn, I thought.

Meanwhile, he just kept getting fatter and fatter.

Last Monday I decided he had gotten too fat and should get checked- out. He could have a thyroid problem or need to go on a special vet-formula diet. I made an appointment with the vet.

Laughing at his fatness, I put him on the vet’s table and told the vet to get a load of his girth. “I think my cat needs a personal trainer.” I laughed. The vet took one look at him and said flatly, “Your cat is ill.” Turns out his fat belly was fluid retention from an inflammed liver. Finny had a disease. He was going to die within weeks.

Two days later, we put my fat, raccoon kitty to sleep. He only had five months in our house to run crooked, skid across floors, and purr on my keyboard. Life feels fragile now. My chest is heavy. I can’t bring myself to wash the shirt I wore to his appointment. It still has his messy hair all over it.

My vet sent me a single red rose with a rainbow card that talked about meeting up with your pets in heaven. Instead of mocking it, I cried.

Today I pick up his ashes to put in my garden next spring.

So yeah, the whole pet thing? I get it now. Rainbows, kitties, puppy voices and special birthday runs — I totally get it.

RIP Finny McFinnster.

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14 thoughts on “Getting Finnegan

  1. Oh, pooh. I’m sorry. That is the brutal downside of the pet thing. All we can do is love ’em while we have ’em and treat them right.

    And now I’m paranoid that my fat cat isn’t just fat. But then again, she’s been this fat for four years now, so it appears to be working for her.

    RIP Finny.

  2. Oh my god, I had tears in my eyes reading this post. We had our sweet kitty for 5 1/2 years before he developed this inexplicable liver failure that took him out in two months. We ran tests, had him hospitalized for three days on IVs trying to flush his liver of toxins. To no avail. He died this past January. My heart breaks for you and this poor kitten. At least he had a wonderful five months with your family.

  3. Sad, sad day. I completely understand–we had to put one of our dogs down last year and it totally sucked the light out of me [even though he was a pain in the butt most of the time.] Now even the strangest things remind me of his velvety ears and just…him. I hope you and your family can still look back on your time together with much love and gratitude for those few months together.

  4. Your story is uncomfortably familiar. We lost Shadow in a similar way. My oldest daughter still misses her and talks about her (it’s been a decade, she’s 26 and we’ve had many pets since then). And it hurts remember sitting in the vets office. I feel for you. Pets are great, but some just really touch you.

    My “puppy” Jager is turning seven this February. He’s a big dog and he’s starting to slow down. Sometimes I think about not having the slobbering, shedding, bed hogger around…and it makes my heart hurt.

    You have my empathy…

  5. I only said “I’m sorry” because I didn’t want to get into one of those “I know how you feel.” Of course I don’t. Yes, I’ve lost pets in the past. I’ve had my Fluffy since 1996 and can’t imagine my life without her. I didn’t want to go into all that, still don’t. But I want to hear from you again. Happy Thanksgiving, what are you thankful for?
    PS – I know you’re sharing a computer but I miss your stories/writing.

  6. I’m sorry to hear (read) that. My 10-yr old pug dog, Zoe, spent the night with a dog-sitter the night before I left for a trip, and the house felt pretty lonely without her. My imp really missed her. These furry creatures are really somethin’ else.

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