About fifteen years ago Finola arrived home from a visit to her friend Deirdre bearing a cardboard box. Air holes had been cut in the box, to allow the kitten within to breathe. Our dog Bran was highly suspicious of the box and its mysterious contents and barked loudly at the intruder. Colm, our eldest son, suggested that taking the kitten out of the box and letting Bran see it might allay his suspicions, as indeed it did. He seemed happy enough to accept the kitten, as this was not the first feline to share our house with him. He stopped barking and settled down now that the answer to Schrodinger’s paradox of quantum mechanics had been solved to his satisfaction.
We called the kitten Sweeney, as this was the custom in our house. My sister Muriel had been married to Andy Irvine of Sweeney’s Men, so she called their cat Sweeney. She later gave a kitten to Eamon Morrissey, who in turn gave one of her kittens to us. We too called her Sweeney. But that line died out eventually.
Our new Sweeney was an aloof cat; she did not make friends easily and did not wear her heart on her sleeve. She grudgingly accepted petting and signs of affection. I felt that she thought she had come down in the world by being taken from the lovely leafy marine resort that is Howth, to the less salubrious environs of D15, and that she regarded the two baskets in the garage and her own armchair and chaise longue in the living room as her entitlement and the many choices of cat food and other delicacies as no more than she deserved. Her haughty demeanour caused me to add to her name the sub-title ‘Eva Braun’ (Hitler’s mistress)
Recently she has been unwell, so we took her to the vet. On hearing the symptoms and giving her the once over she outlined a few courses of action: one set of tests cost about € 500, the other menu, which included a colonoscopy, cost about € 700. This might lead to chemo-therapy if the results of the tests proved positive for cancer.
This week our very kind vet did an ultra-sound and took a sample of the growth that had been revealed. We will have the biopsy report next week. The vet mentioned in the gentlest possible way all the probable outcomes of the case, up to and including euthanasia. She gave Sweeney an injection of steroids to tide her over, and some medicines for us to administer to her.
We took our cat home and she headed out to her usual sunny but sheltered spot in the back garden. A few hours later I opened the back door and found the dismembered remains of a sparrow on the mat; Sweeney had practiced some euthanizing herself; Briseann an dúchas tré shúilibh an chait, mar a déarfá.(Breeding breaks out through the eyes of a cat)
The vet reckoned that one way or the other Sweeney hasn’t got too long to go. We are not going to inflict enemas and needles and chemo-therapy and long periods in a strange environment on our fifteen year old family member; she will stay here with us, lying out in the sun, being spoiled, and when the time is right we will ask our kind vet to come to the house and send her to sleep, in her familiar place. She deserves no less.