lundi 21 novembre 2011

I lost him

At the vet's

He didn't make it through the evening. I didn't think the vet thought he would die, and so I settled him back into the clementine crate with the hand towel and a bottle of hot water, to keep him warm. I stoked the fire, like I have been doing for him, and I left to get some groceries and dry the clothes.

When we returned, I had a feeling. The fire was burning brightly in the wood stove, my husband was watching the trotters, and I could see his small form in the corner of the little crate where I had left him to let the antibiotics take their first effect. But, I had a bad feeling.

I crossed the room and knelt down in front of the fireplace, and I could tell already that he was dead.

How do we know these things before we even touch? I took him to the vet because I felt him failing today, but I thought he would pull through. I imagined him getting better, learning to take his antibiotics from the little syringe Dr. Zumsteg went to find for me because it work better in his small mouth that the one that came with the bottle of powder I won't need now. I imagined him learning to trust me. I didn't flatter myself to think that his relaxing in my hands today meant he trusted me already. I knew it meant he was failing.

I waited too long, and only because I was afraid the veterinary office would laugh at me, the animal lady, with my dogs and my cats, with the cat we saved, and the toad, Eugénie G. Toad, I saved from the pool pump basket, just in the nick of time I think we'd both say, and the birds and the duck I tried to save. I always fail with the birds. Birds are hard. And, now, I failed again. If I had taken the little hedgehog in right away, he'd not have gotten so sick, and he'd not, perhaps, have died.

I reached my hand down, not wanting to know what I'd find, but already there was no sound, no movement of his sides, no breathing that I could see. He felt hard. I lifted him out, and there was no softness. His body curled in the position in which he had lain there.

"Il est mort," I said.

"Non. Il ne peut pas être mort," said my husband. "Il bougeait il y a quelques minutes."

"Il est mort. Il est rigide. Il est mort depuis un petit moment déjà."

He said he had heard him moving, like he does, you know, in his little nest bed, just a half hour or so earlier. Then, I said, he died shortly after. Had I known, had I not felt relieved, safe in the knowledge that he had just been to the vet, I would have stayed.

"Ca n'aurait rien fait," he tried to reassure me. It wouldn't have made a difference. He was sick. "Tu as fais ton mieux," he said.

"Non, si j'avais fait mon mieux, il serait probablement toujours en vie car il aurait eu l'antibiotic déjà depuis quelques jours, et il aurait été en train de guérir. Mais je ne voulais pas qu'on me trouve ridicule."

No. If I had done my best, he'd still probably be alive because he'd have had his antibiotic and deworming since days ago, he'd have been getting better already. But I was afraid to appear ridiculous.

He'd have been eating better and drinking more. I knew he wasn't drinking enough. I realized too late that I was being ridiculous by not taking him. How can it be ridiculous to care about a small animal?

Nothing is sadder than a body from which the life is gone. Baccarat, Chloé, when we found her where she had gone to die, under a car in the restaurant parking lot just up the street, Nuts after we had him put down. People I have known, and others I wished I had had a chance to know.

"Au moins," said my husband, coming to give me a kiss, where I sat, typing this, "il est mort aimé et pas tout seul dans le froid."

Somehow, I don't know if from wherever he is now he sees things quite that way, that he knows that he died loved and cared for, rather than alone in the cold. Maybe it was worse on him. Maybe it was the stress. I hope not. I hope the Hedgehog Preservation group is right, and that it is better to take them in and to try.

I will bury him tomorrow, poor little hedgehog. This evening, I feel very sad, and I miss him.
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