My neighbor Margery Elfin knew Sylvester, our tuxedo manx, as the guardian on our front stoop, and Emmy, her dog and a contributor to this publication, would often greet him with a friendly bark. A while back, she came over and instead saw Dickens, our grey and white manx (a tailless cat). She asked where Sylvester was. I told her Sylvester had died in December 2011.
Sylvester had been part of our household for 15 years. We found him at the animal shelter on New York Avenue in response to my younger daughter Julia’s request for a ferret, after trying a turtle and a guinea pig, which she had called “not real pets.” We counter-offered a cat. Sylvester moved in with us in October 1996, around Halloween.
Like my older daughter when she was little, he had tons of energy. I had him running up and down stairs like Erica, throwing a ball for him to chase. He slept with us and pounced at our feet. He loved chasing squirrels, but was not very successful.
He often hung around the office when the weather got cooler. Nothing was more enticing than attacking copies being ejected from the printer, and they were much easier to catch than the squirrels. As he got older he learned that this was not the thing to do. But when I left the office with the printer going and forgot to close the door his attack instinct often got the better of him. There was a good chance I would find some of the copies mangled.
As for feeding him, he only had so much patience as he sat by his bowl. Nipping me at the ankles would be sure to get my attention which was not an infrequent occurrence. Then there was the 6 a.m. morning scratching at the door to be fed. But he would not eat before I picked him up to give him a hug.
As he got older he spent more time with us at night going upstairs to join us for some TV. In fact, if I puttered around downstairs too long, he would be jumping up in my lap or putting his paws up on my chair to let me know it was time to hang it up and go upstairs.
After Thanksgiving 2011, Sylvester’s appetite diminished and he spent more of his day sleeping. When he stopped eating altogether, I took him over to the Friendship Hospital for Animals. Now Sylvester never liked going to the vet and this time was no different. He put up quite a fight getting into his crate, and then cowered when removed at the hospital. They took blood, gave him hydration shots under the skin, and dosed him with anti-nausea medication and an appetite stimulant. When we got home he did eat, and then cried what seemed like for hours. The vet called and told me he was in kidney failure. I could bring him back for intravenous hydration overnight so that they could arrest his condition, but there was the chance he would go into heart failure.
The end was near, and I did not want Sylvester to suffer. I knew he did not want to go back to the vet, and the thought of his dying there was too much to bear. I went online to see what my options were. I found a vet who would come to our house to put our pet down. At this point Sylvester was spending all his time sleeping, and not eating or drinking. I knew it was time. I called Jim and the girls to confer and they all agreed. I called the vet, and he agreed to come the next day to put Sylvester to sleep.
Jim and I Skyped with the girls that night, and we cried together as they said good-bye to Sylvester, who was on his usual perch on my lap. The next afternoon Dr. Perl came and gave Sylvester one shot while he was on my lap, which put him to sleep, and then Jim took him and the vet gave him the next shot which stopped his heart. We sat and cried together as the last vestiges of the Sylvester slipped away from us. In the days after, memories and tears washed over me at odd moments. We all felt the hole he left in our lives as we grieved for our loss.