The Dignity of Jazzy


A regal calico feline. 17 years. Old for a cat. An outdoor cat in Los Angeles.  Tough and clever. Possessed of the slow moving wisdom.  Her coat no longer supple.  Her gait no longer graceful.  Wits still sharp as new scissors.

She moves with purpose.

Deep set, aged eyes.

She is very old.

She’s already survived one human mother who passed prematurely from cancer.  She remembers.  For time longer than her ability to total, she’s enjoyed the care and love of another mother.  Daughter of that mother.


She knows she’s in trouble and asks for help.  She comes to the door.  She wants in.

A swollen, painful tumor in her mouth.  Her beautiful face is distorted.  Smeared.  Lopsided.  Blood runs down the pure white fur of her chin and throat when she moves.  She continues to eat, drink and groom, because she is brave and because that’s what she does.

I guess and hope it’s a bad tooth.  An abscess.  The first doctor, an ER doctor, doesn’t think so.

Jazzy understands it’s not.

Still, she spends time convalescing on antibiotics and pain killers in the comfort of D’s bed.  Days go by.  The antibiotics have no effect.

She remains herself and goes on about her business.  There is food and water.  A box of sand.  All indoors.  Not far from the bed.

She purrs.

On the way to the hospital the second time, D says to me, “I have no pictures of her” and it reminds me that I have no pictures of my own two girls.  I love my  girls and I know how much I need to do this for myself.  I need pictures.  I start to cry.  Jazzy is behind us in the back of my car, in a cage.  A cat carrier.  I hate them.

She’s not quite content.  She does ask us about what’s going on so we answer as best we can.  She knows this too will pass.

The second doctor tells us a biopsy will be painful and the x-rays will be uncomfortable.  She will need to be anesthetized.  It’s most likely a particularly virulent cancer.  Fast moving and lethal within a matter of weeks, maybe a month.  She tells us if it’s in her mouth, it’s probably metastasized in her lungs.  She says she wouldn’t blame us for taking her home for a few days or weeks.  She says she would understand if we decided to do this.  She wouldn’t blame us.  Jazzy will deteriorate very quickly when it comes.  She is a kind doctor.

What we need to know.  She’s telling us it’s a done deal.

Jazzy’s mother knows what she needs to know.  Jazzy’s mother tells me what she intends to do.  She tells me this as she holds Jazzy in her lap, comforting her with gentle hands.  I contract.  My throat is full.  I start to cry again.  I find the doctor and ask her the questions I need to ask.  To be sure, even though it’s not my decision.  She answers my questions but I don’t hear or remember because I’m so sad and her eyes tell me what I need to know.

The doctor describes the procedure to us.  She will take Jazzy to insert a catheter in one of her legs.  We will then be allowed to spend the time we need with her in a more comfortable room until we are ready and then she’ll administer a shot that will render Jazzy unconscious before a second shot, an overdose, that will end her life.  She tells us we can take all the time we need.  I can’t help but think how absurd it is.  How compassionate it isn’t.  How much time?

She is a good doctor.  She is kind.  She understands and she does her best to comfort us.  She talks to us very seriously but her eyes.

I spend a few minutes without noticing the room and then leave D alone with Jazzy.  I’m a mess.  D is brave.  I go outside for a smoke.  The Doctor finds me outside to tell me D is ready.  The room is small and the lighting is cheesy somber soft.  I don’t know what to do.  D holds Jazzy in a small white blanket.  I kiss Jazzy between her ears.  I love that spot on a cat.  I like the sides of their heads too, just behind their eyes.  D strokes her softly and I swear Jazzy knows.  She trusts.

It’s here that I hitch.  There, that I start to get it.  Here, the elegance of this proud and flawlessly humble animal.  She asks us please not to suffer.  She puts us in charge of that.  Forgive us for we know what we do.

The doctor pets her head softly after the first injection.  Jazzy sleeps.  Without saying anything, the doctor prepares and inserts the second needle into the catheter.

I feel my face twisting and my chest ache.  My tears are hot.

I will always remember this cat lounging in a planter furious with bees.  She didn’t care.  Drooling whenever I pet her.  She didn’t talk much.  She didn’t feel the need to tell me she owned the place.

Animals don’t even think about death until they are dying.  It’s why they are far more gorgeous than humans.

A half minute and Jazzy goes gentle into this goodnight.

Then, the deepest sob I ever remember hearing.

A few minutes pass and the Doctor comes and collects Jazzy’s body quietly.  She looks at us and I want to smile.  She holds her gently, careful to keep the blanket wrapped around her.

I keep thinking how tragic it was.  But it wasn’t.

Early one Saturday morning my own cat, lying in the middle of the tile floor, a small puddle of urine behind her.  Early one Saturday morning.  So sudden.  No reason.  She was only six and I was crushed.  Months went by.  She was a star.

This wasn’t tragic. It was beautiful.

No perfidy here.

It’s the innocence, the immaculate benevolence of kitties, that breaks my heart.  They don’t even think about death until it’s on them.  Are they pretending to be that cautious all the time?  It’s a good thing they don’t have money.  I love kitties.  I adore them.

Rest in peace Jazzy you old rip.

Drinks for my friends.

33 Responses to “The Dignity of Jazzy”

  • Glad I stayed up late working and this showed up. Replace cat with a dog and you and I are in the same place a year apart, it sucks, but it was beautiful. Drinking for you right now, and on through the night; it brings out this architect’s creativity. My new dog is asleep now, smart animal. The dumb animal is drinking and still working. Till next time……..

    • Michael Douglass:

      It’s weird. If they aren’t smarter than us, they are most certainly wiser. We take them for granted. Animals are precious. Just because the life span is shorter is no reason to take them any less seriously. There is nothing like a wet curious nose or a sand paper tongue. They are here for a reason and sometimes it’s as simple as the potent example of unconditional love. I love my two girls, soon I’ll add another. At the very least, when one dies, I’ll still have two to love. I love them. They are pure. Even if they understood money, they wouldn’t care. Kitties understand that the the love they take is equal to the love they make. They get that.

      Thanks for wading in Jeff.

  • Teresa:

    It’s very difficult going through this. I had to put my Samoyed dog (looks like a happy polar bear) down 2 years ago. He was in pain, he bled when he dribbled pee.

    We had a kind doctor who also convinced us that our “Flex” was in way too much pain and that by medicating him, was only prolonging his pain. As we sat by for the IV to go into his leg and wrapped with blue medical tape to hold into place…both my daughters and I had huge drops of pooled tears about to stream down our faces. My son, who was technically the one in charge of Flex, sat in the corner being an ass saying we were all acting like babies.

    Flex was a large white dog, too big for a table. Me and my girls sat down next to him while he looked up and conforted us with his beautiful eyes telling us he was ready. We said our last goodbyes as the doctor came in and asked if we were ready. We said yes. My son came down to the floor as the doctor administered the dose that would take our boy away. Flex, with his undying smile (Samoyed’s are known for), slowly lowered his head, never shutting his eyes on on…until his chin touched the floor, then they closed for the last time. My girls and I lost it…but more surprisingly, my son buried his head in Flex’s soft fur and cried uncontrollably.

    For this reason alone, I dislike becoming attached to animals…they have such a short life span and hurts deeply.

    I feel your pain!

    Love you.


    P.S. I lay here typing this, as my daughter’s cat comes in promptly and plops her whole body down while her tail continues to sway back and forth in front of my screen!

    • Michael Douglass:

      Never dislike becoming attached. Never fear it. Death is part of life. We don’t think about the end when it’s a puppy. When it’s a soft furry kitten. There are lessons here.

      We will all die some day and when we do, we will remember the people AND the animals that buoyed us when we were sad or in despair. Life is richer when we share it with people and animals. It’s gorgeous to treat an animal well and get it back in full. Love and care for a dog or a kitty and it becomes an investment with a guaranteed return. Nothing in life will ever be as simple as that. Nothing will ever be as golden.

      Let me put it this way; if Dick Cheney has a dog, he kicks it viciously every day. I’m just saying.

  • Rhonda Z:

    RIP Jazzy. Thank you for sharing and I am sorry for the loss of Jazzy. It’s never easy.

  • Carol:

    I hate all of it, because they are so sweet, so good, so trusting. If there is a God, I can’t worship him: hurt US, not them— we hurt others, but they never do.

    • Michael Douglass:

      It’s true, they never hurt anyone unless they are conditioned to do just that; or in the wild to survive. I’m an agnostic, needless to say I don’t worship.

  • Lisa:

    “the immaculate benevolence of kitties”


    Hard to read, but so cathartic. Truly one of the most moving tributes to a pet companion I have ever read.

    Still dabbing my tears. But happy that Jazzy was so loved. All should be so lucky.

  • Michael Saraceno:

    Hello Mike. It’s been awhile. I am very touched by what you had to say. I have four animals (two pugs & two cats) that I love dearly. Being a pet owner and lover more importantly is bittersweet. I know when the day comes when I have to say goodbye to any one of them it is going to be devastating. People who really love animals understand that pain. I certainly understand and have experienced it in my life. It’s rough man. Really rough. Hang in there. I’m looking forward to hanging with you again. Hopefully it will be soon. Take care buddy.

    • Michael Douglass:

      I really look forward to hanging with you too my friend. There is something about bittersweet that captures me. I think I covet it in some ways because it’s absolute proof I’m alive. Miss you.

  • So beautiful – and the timing couldn’t be better for me to read it. I’m about a month or so away from doing the same for my beloved canine companion of 15 years, Kingdom. I’m going to miss him… but still loving him as much as I can for now. Your words are giving me the iron that I need to do what needs to be done. Bless you.

    I’ll be co-conducting a blessing of the animals at a local humane society next month. I have a hunch they’ll be the ones blessing me.

    • Michael Douglass:

      Wow. I’m more than a little overwhelmed by the depth of emotion in the comments for this piece. Be strong and understand what you are preparing yourself for is among the most humane acts you will ever undertake. Best of luck to you. Thanks for sharing.

  • A lovely and fitting tribute here, Michael … I’ve cried more tears over the cats I’ve lost than I have over humans … not sure what that says about me, but I can certainly relate to this … thanx for sharing it …

    • Michael Douglass:

      What it says about you is that you’re human. Be happy about it. It’s a good thing. People who don’t love animals are suspicious to me, there’s more than a little wrong with them.

  • Janet Carter:

    Thank you Michael. I have seven kitties and they are my babies. Except for one, they are all getting up in years and I know won’t be around a whole lot longer. It breaks my heart to even think about losing one but I know it will happen. I hope I can be as gracious and accepting as you were with your loss.

    • Michael Douglass:

      You can and you will. It won’t be easy but real life never is. My advice to you is to get more. Never ever pay for one, always rescue them. My youngest was personally rescued-washed off in a bathroom sink just a few days old before taking her to the vet and my ex bottle feeding etc. I try to rescue one at least every five years or so……a selfish cycle that will mitigate the inevitable pain of loss.

  • Janet_Reyes:

    I had tears streaming down my face as I read this. I’ve had to face this excruciating situation twice and I know the sheer pain of it. Thank you for sharing. It’s beautiful.

    • Michael Douglass:

      Thank you for reading. The pain is excruciating, but eventually it’s replaced by a glow that is loving memory and a compassionate precursor to unnecessary suffering.

  • Celiene:

    Oh Michael – that was so beautiful. I’m so sorry for your’s & D’s loss. You made me cry buckets of tears. I’ve been there once too often. Always alone. You are a good friend to your ‘D’. You write like no one else. I do love you.

  • Hey there Mike. First of all, my dang ol’ condolences, and especially to D, whom I’ve never met, but you know any girlfriend of yours is a girlfriend of mine. You remember Jezebel of course. The scratchy hissy lovely hefty sack of midnight we used to live with, too indifferent to chase a mouse. Or too full of fancy feast. She went out the same way. I know the last thing she saw in this world was me. Our vet did it in one shot, so there was no putting to sleep before the Big Sleep. I was scratching her head and trying to communicate my absolute love to her with all my psychic cat powers. So the last thing she saw was me. And the last thing I saw in her eyes was a wonderful lifting of all the pain and discomfort she’d been living with. I think she felt a note of the bliss before she felt nothing anymore. I hope she did. That’s what it looked like to me anyway. Leslie saw it too, she was right behind me in the cold room holding newborn Zeke. And yeah, it really is a beautiful thing. But the enormous weight of the moment, and the long letting go goodbye of it is a tremendous, impressive period of sorrow. I guess melancholy would be a truer word than out and out sorrow. Happy she’s gone and out of strife, but a hole left un-cuddly in the center of your life. And then we move on. It takes a little while to untangle all those heart strings, but we do move on. I still see her in dreams sometimes. The last time that happened I remember addressing her as a ghost cat and so she turned white. I was happy to see her. Crazy little creatures.

    It was a nice piece of writing. ‘It wasn’t tragic, it was beautiful’ about summed up how I felt the day we put ole Jezebel down. I’d certainly like to have the option of going out that way. In fact, I wish there was a Kevorkian (sp?) Clinic next to every Medical Marijuana Clinic. Medical Marijuana can help, I’m sure, with a lot of human ailments (lack of the munchies for example), but eventually time trumps all that weed can do. Fill me full of heroin (for the first time I assure you) and then give me shot of what the cat had…

    Here’s to you and D and bon voyage Jazzy Cat.
    Drinks for me,

    • Hey yeah, and for the record, I lost a lot of fucking blood to that beast of a pussy cat. She was a feisty demon straight from Hell, until I won her over that is. Then she was my feisty demon straight form Hell. I do love the kitty cats, but lets all be thankful we aren’t the size of mice. Those slit pupils dilate open wide until the cat can see a few moments ahead in time, and the claws come out so they can snag you no matter which way you run. And it’s never a clean kill, they toy with you, bat you back and forth, hold you in their fangs, drop you lick you and pretend to ignore you. Go ahead, I was just kidding, you can go now, sorry about all the puncture wounds, I think you should be ok though. And as you get up and scramble for the doll house, PSYCH, you’re snagged and batted, tossed and biten again…

      Part of why I love cats so much is because they are cute and cuddly psycho killers. I’ve never been a Garfield fan, I’ve always leaned more towards Fat Freddy’s Cat. And Jezebel, she was my wifes’ Familiar, she didn’t love me until she tasted my blood sacrifices and then we listened to ‘Stairway’ backwards together knowingly…

      • Michael Douglass:

        Man I just love you, this makes me miss you and LZ. Of course I remember that little demon Jezebel. First time I met her I went to pet her and you were both NO NO NO! She loved but two humans and that was it. I recall she’d been abused. It was that lovely evening The Fish and I traveled north to have thanksgiving with you and friends. I’ll never forget. I got pretty tore up and wanted to leave at three a.m. and you talked me down in the front yard.

        Damn I miss you.

  • TJChristie:

    I have been there, more than once… and will be there again, more than once… over and over… and will continue to be there until the day comes that I am the one who finally makes my departure. I can only hope I am treated with as much love and respect when my end comes.

    Salute, friend.

    Never stop loving.

    – TJC

  • Ria Zsigmond:

    You gorgeously talented SOB! I fought it, but I could not escape my tears rolling down my feverish face under the influence and impact of your words. The very purpose of art/writing is to make one feel.
    Yes you can – write.

  • Michael Douglass:

    Thank you so much. It is high praise from someone like you and I am flattered and humble.

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