Fred is old. Sixteen years old, the best I can guess. He’s cuddly and loving. He’s a great companion. He’s also a ruthless killer.

I worried about how he’d adjust to moving to the ridge. He’s been an inside cat all his life. The move meant he’d become primarily an outside cat. I took him to the vet for the first time in years to get his shots. I bought him an expensive seresto flea collar. After we moved, I gave him his favorite treats repeatedly to reinforce the idea of home. I did everything I could think to do to make the transition successful.

I shouldn’t have worried. Fred loves his new freedom.

One morning while I was away, my landmate sent me a picture of Fred under the house, standing over the fresh kill of a rat. I looked for the rat when I got home, but it wasn’t under the house. I knew before I found it that the rat would be somewhere in the house, and I was right. Fred left the headless rat on the floor beside my bed.

Yesterday, I walked into the bedroom to find a decapitated mole and two, kidney bean-sized aborted babies. One of the babies squeeked and squirmed as I grabbed it with a paper towel.

Fred is a murderer, and it seems he’s proud of it. Just look at him. His stare is paralyzing. I’m afraid to go to sleep at night, not because I’m think he’ll hurt me, but because I’m afraid of what new dead offering he might bring.

Good Dog, Joe

Joe, my husband, and I will go to the vet this morning to euthanize Joe. My prayer last night wasn’t answered the way I wanted. I wanted Joe to die at home in his sleep.

I can count on one hand the number of times Joe has been to the vet. I’ve taken him for drive-through rabies shots, and once a few years ago for a growth on his leg that wound up being nothing. I used a rubber band from Ruth’s braces to get that off (he kept licking at it and worry over it) rather than to have it surgically removed. Joe’s not going to like this trip.

Joe was always nervous, or really, more like antisocial. We adopted him forever (but of course not forever) ago at Pet Smart. His favorite place was either on his bed or under our bed. He’d really only come downstairs when he needed to go outside or when he’d smell good food. He’d take a piece of ham, a slice of turkey, or the crust from a pizza and go back upstairs under the bed to eat it.

Joe was a single-minded dog. Sometimes I’d throw old bread or cornbread out in the yard for the birds. My backyard birds are spoiled on black oil sunflower seeds so I’ve never actually seen a bird eat the bread I throw out there. But Joe would see it. It’s as if he counted the pieces. He’d bark to go out, grab a piece of bread, then come back in, climb the stairs, and eat it under the bed. He’d do it again, one piece at a time, until the bread was gone. He’d do the same for pizza crust scored in the living room.

We started thinking Joe had gone deaf. I’m not sure about that. I think he may have just stopped leaving his bed unless the need to go outside, ham, turkey, bread, or pizza was involved.

Honesty, I don’t know if Joe is going to be upset about this trip to the vet or not. I’ll hold him the whole time and tell him what a good dog he is. He’ll think that’s strange, but he’ll like that. I think it’s more that I’m upset. I’m projecting my death, the husband’s death, all my loved one’s deaths onto Joe. When I die, I want to die at home.

We don’t usually die at home, basically because it’s too expensive. That just seems like a stupid reason to me. Not that it’s too expensive, I can understand that it would be, but that we turn to doctors or nurses to help us die.

For a long time I haven’t been afraid of death. Of course it’s sad, truly mournful, but I do have a problem with the process of dieing and with funerals and burials. Nothing against the professionals, but it seems to me that we’ve added these unnecessary layers to it to remove ourselves from it, too make it easier on us, the living.

That’s not going to work for me. There’s nothing easy, and everything is easy, about it. One minute you’re alive, and the next minute your dead. What happens after that is a mystery. I believe it’s a wondrous mystery, but no one knows.

So I’ll do this weird thing and take Joe to vet to die. Then I’ll bring Joe’s body back to the house and bury it on the hill. I’ll cry some more, I’ll mourn. I’ll wonder at the mystery.

But first, I’m going to go get Joe a piece of bread.