Ode to Tonamo

Apparently enjoying the sun, this black cat with white markings on its nose and paws stretched out on the lawn. There are a few cats that prowl our neighborhood, stalking imaginary prey from the garden or eyeing the birds that visit our birdbath.  I was working on the patio in the unseasonably warm early fall weekend and didn’t even notice the visitor. Cats are stealth like that.

Coming back to the patio from a trip to the basement for some tools, I notice the cat checking out the water in the basin of our broken birdbath sitting on the ground. Something about this scene is odd. The cat doesn’t take off when I walk past but instead very slowly lays down. There are flies swarming all around him and his fur is pretty messed up.

I sit down next to the ‘lil guy and pet his head and neck. Skin and bones and no collar. I can feel his collar bone sticking out with no meat on it. I go into the house and get some water and grab some tuna we have in the fridge. My new buddy drinks just a little of the water but won’t touch the fish. By now my wife, Michelle is involved and brings out some crackers that might be easier for our friend to eat, but still nothing.

What brought this troubled soul to us is uncertain, but now I notice he is passing out. I call the animal hospital for some advice while Michelle gets some more water and a towel so we can move him to a patio chair. The hospital won’t give us any advice over the phone and tell us that if we bring him in we have to be prepared to pay for any care or this little guy will be put to sleep.

Michelle asks, “What can we call him?” It’s a little awkward not having a name but our friend can’t even stand up so a name will have to wait. How did he make it to the bird bath in the first place? Didn’t we see him skulking around the neighbor’s yard last night when we were eating dinner outside? But he doesn’t seem to be staying awake and is not drinking anything.

We have dinner guests coming soon and the last minute preparations and repairs I was doing have taken a back seat. This guy is in big trouble. Michelle goes looking for something like an eye dropper so we can feed some water to “our” cat. We’ve only known this pathetic fur ball for about 10 to 15 minutes by now but we’re both all out trying to help him. We can only find a Turkey baster kind of thing to use to feed him and he’s barely responding at all to being picked up. I have to blow in his face to be certain his eyelids will react.

Michelle gets the car keys and I wrap him up in a blanket. We grab a bottle of water, the turkey baster, leave the door open for our guests with a bottle of wine and we’re off. It’s about 3:30 on a Saturday and the closest open animal hospital is a little over 30 minutes away. This is the longest 30 minutes I can remember. While Michelle Andretti does a masterful job of battling Saturday’s rush hour backups I am trying to keep our friend awake.

He stops responding and I take the Turkey baster and try to feed him some water. He turns its head and struggles to swallow. Whew! I thought I lost him. During our trip I have to resuscitate him by gently squeezing his stomach and ribs until he takes a breath. A couple of times I use the Turkey baster to get a reaction.

I say to Michelle that I think I’m water-boarding this poor guy. Maybe we should call him Cheney. Not being a fan of the former VP, neither one of us thought that was a good name.

We get to the animal hospital after reviving him about a half dozen times and quickly blurt out to the emergency room person the few facts we have – he’s in big trouble! While my friend is being whisked off into a doctor’s care the attendant starts the admission process, my name, my pet’s name…

At first I say I don’t have name for him but it doesn’t feel right. He should have a name. He’s in there struggling for his life and the attendant starts typing “no name” into this guy’s record. I just couldn’t let that happen. The whole Cheney thing comes to mind but I can’t do that… and then it comes to me. His name is Tonamo I announce, and I spell it.

The whole waterboarding joke, as sick as it was leads my warped mind to Guantanamo Bay, and so he goes on record as being Tonamo. Soon we’re speaking with the Doctor about Tonamo. She can’t believe this guy was walking around at all. What a fighter. But they’re having trouble stabilizing him. He has no pulse, he’s dehydrated, emaciated, and a bunch of other words that I can’t pronounce or remember.

He’s not going to make it and he’s suffering. They’ll need to do a blood transfusion. He is still not breathing well. His body temperature is extremely low…The doctor tells us “He has about a 5% chance of survival…even with all the money in the world” They checked for a chip but he didn’t have one.  What do want to do – it’s up to us?

We agree to give him the lethal dose of anesthetic.  It was such a tough decision but there was really no other option other than let him suffer and die on his own. We went into the ICU to be with Tonamo when he got the shot. He passed about 4:20 on Saturday, September 25. We don’t know where he came from, whose pet he might have been before taking what seemed to be an extended journey to get to us. We never even took a picture of him.

We’ll ask around. It would be nice to let the owner know what happened. Who knows how they would feel about it but after letting the whole event sit for a couple of days both Michelle and I are certain we did the right thing. And she said a few times that she misses Tonamo. Weird. We only knew him for about an hour but I miss him too.

Tonomo, you were the best cat we ever had, well the only one, but still the best.

1 thought on “Ode to Tonamo”

  1. A sad but beautiful story. I’m glad Tonamo found you and Michelle to help him on his way to taller and greener grass.

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