Cole, one of my three pets, has passed on at the veterinarian's office on Tuesday morning.
Cole was born wild, almost twelve years ago, and captured along with his mother and siblings. Two of the litter, Cole and his brother Porter, came to live with me. I had a spare room that has a loft and I put the two in that room at first, with food and water, to allow time for the other pets to get used to the idea of them. After a couple of days I left the door to the room open and sat with my dog Zeke at the end of the hall opposite the spare room. After some time, two curious little kitten heads gradually emerged at the top of the ladder leading to the loft. Bit by bit they descended the ladder steps, eventually arriving at the floor. Slowly and tentatively they crept down the hall while Zeke and I sat motionless. At long last they approached and then boldly pushed themselves into Zeke's fur and instantly bonded with him. After Zeke was gone and Bear came along a couple of years later, they accepted him as well.
About a year after that Porter disappeared, probably a victim of the coyotes that inhabit the nearby canyon. Cole managed to evade the coyotes even though he hunted every evening. In fact he didn't need me at all up until he got sick. He could find enough water and food for himself and even enough to share with Bear on occasion. His list of hunting conquests was impressive, including rats, mice, rabbits, gophers, snakes, the occasional lizard, and once, sadly, a young hawk. He had a cat door and came and went at will, but he always came home at night. If he wanted attention he would gently, but firmly, bite my hand until I woke up.
Cole was diagnosed with kidney failure in January and began a regimen of prescription food, medication, and fluid treatments. He had to have an abscessed tooth removed and during surgery a feeding tube was implanted in his neck so he could receive nourishment while his mouth healed. Maintaining him during his illness was time intensive and complicated. He had to have water every hour, and food every four hours. He had medication twice a day and eventually another medication an hour before meals. His neck had to be cleaned and disinfected every day and the yards of soft stretchy gauze that held his tube in place had to be changed. The overwrapping comes in assorted colors and I thought he looked very dapper in the red. He had routine visits to the vet for subcutaneous fluids. While I was away he stayed in the hospital so that his treatment could continue. His attitude during this intense human intervention was incredibly sweet and cooperative. Even though he occasionally growled his disapproval - especially at the vet's office, he never lashed out or so much as snapped at anybody.
It was quite an experience to take care of him and I was happy to continue with it as long as it made him feel better - anything to keep him happy and comfortable. He slept a lot near the end. Sometimes I'd have to wake him up to feed him. I would hold his head up with my hand while feeding him. One day while leaning his head on my hand he placed one paw over my arm and then the other and fell asleep. There was nothing else to do but just lie down next to him while still holding his head so he could finish his nap. I will miss him greatly now that he's gone.
Suzanne de Toit wins £30,000 BP Portrait Award 2013
12 hours ago