Monday, December 11

RIP, Dr. Gonzo

Gonzo came into my life five and a half years ago, hidden in Phil's coat. We had been to the pet store and had gushed over the ferrets there, contemplating finding a companion for Felix, who we'd had for a couple of weeks. One of those little fuzzies at the store — so pretty with a white head and a beautiful darker pattern on his mid-section and most of his tail — had particularly got us squealing. And as we left the store, I was a bit disappointed that we were departing empty-handed, but we didn't really have the money for a new ferret pal and we were still learning how to take care of just one. So when Phil came to the door later that night after "going to the store," and he unzipped his coat just a bit and I saw that tiny little white head peek out, so began a love affair that I can't really put into words. Gonzo was my little ferret homie. Don't get me wrong — I love Felix to death, too, and he is an amazingly smart and obedient boy scout of a ferret — but Gonzo would let me and only me hold him and pet him, and he liked to be cradled in my arms, sneezing every time my hair would graze his nose.

Saturday we did the only thing we could and we had him put to sleep. He had reached the end of his time here after a long battle with lymphoma. He just kept getting skinnier and bonier, with less and less hair and energy. He refused to drink water or eat anything other than extremely thinned-out Duk Soup (which smelled like vomit and looked like shit) in wider and wider intervals. To have let him go on and further deteriorate and enter a period of unbearable suffering would have been too much for all of us. Knowing he wasn't going to get any better, and seeing that the bulk of his days were spent sleeping because he was too weak to get up and drink water, we made the hardest decision a pet owner can make.

When the vet saw him, she was taken aback by his condition. Just a few weeks ago she had seen him and euthanasia was hardly on the table.

Phil was so brave and stayed in the room, holding Gonzo right through his last breath. I caved and stepped outside, sobbing in the hallway, staring at a poster of a cat's bone structure, yet learning nothing. I could hear muffled words coming from inside the room. I ached because I was outside, not there for either Gonzo or Phil, but I knew if I stayed I would have lost my shit and made it worse for everyone. I'm one of those Puritan types who is made uncomfortable by visceral displays of raw grief, so I curtain myself off from everyone else and shake and leak until I can return red-eyed to everyone else and act like I'm fine, fucking fine.

We cried and sniffled and soaked a dozen tissues during the two-hour ride to my parents' house, Gonzo's body curled up, still warm, inside the blue carrier on my lap. I'd open it periodically and we'd reach inside to rub his head, and each time he'd be a little bit colder to the touch, a little further from us, a little more clearly beyond our reach.

When we got to the house, we imagined taking a shovel and heading out into the pasture to choose a spot with a nice view for his grave, the cold ground barely giving as we unleashed our frustration in impotent stabbing motions between cowpies. But, poetic or pathetic as that sounds, there was no work to be done. Physically, anyway. My dad had already dug a grave beside Rhett's (the family's favorite daschund from a couple of years ago, who was hit by a car, and whose demise inspired both my father and my grandmother to lie beside him, next to the road, sobbing and holding him) final resting place. Dad said he dug the hole because we were suffering and we shouldn't have to do any work. Which is pretty much something the Best Father Ever would do.

So we laid little Gonz to rest there, beside the driveway, beside Rhett, and placed concrete garden border pieces around the graves to mark the beginning of a pet cemetery (although there are dead pets buried all over our land, from my father's childhood on). We spent the rest of the day lounging around the house, playing with my dad's neat new digital SLR that takes a good picture no matter WHAT you do. We drove back that night and got Felix out of the cage. He sniffed around, sniffed the carrier, scratched at it, looked at us. Was he smelling Gonzo and wondering where he was? Could he smell death? Did he understand any part of what was happening? Can a ferret feel loss?

We have no idea. But we can feel it.

20 Comments:

Blogger Aunt B said...

Aw, shit. I knew it was coming and it still made me cry. It sucks when the right thing is so terrible, but you did the right thing. My thoughts are with all y'all.

Mon Dec 11, 04:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jilly said...

I'm sorry for your loss.

Mon Dec 11, 06:32:00 PM  
Blogger Serrabee said...

Very sorry to hear it. Wish I had something profound to say, which of course I never come up with in time, but I do feel where you're coming from.

Mon Dec 11, 09:07:00 PM  
Blogger Palm Tree said...

He's lucky to have had you two.

Mon Dec 11, 10:08:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thanks, y'all, so much.

Mon Dec 11, 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger Lynnster said...

I'd already read it elsewhere too and I still cried too through the whole thing. I'm so sorry for your loss here. I've never had ferrets, always tons of dogs and cats, but I've always thought they were so precious and the little white-faced ones I see always tug at my heart and always wished I could have one. He was a little cutiepie. I hope your good memories of him will comfort you thru what I know won't be an easy time.

Tue Dec 12, 04:22:00 AM  
Blogger Paul Chenoweth said...

Great pet families like yours are a treasure...'so sorry for your loss.

Tue Dec 12, 06:24:00 AM  
Blogger Anonymouse said...

farewell, little gonz...
i remember babysitting those rascals...felix would sprint from some location inside the bedroom when his ferret kibbles were poured, yet gonz seemed completely oblivious due to his absence...but when i gave those bandit treats a shake, i would see his slim, ivory head peek from under the washer/dryer door and start sniffing the air...
i love you guys...

Tue Dec 12, 07:44:00 AM  
Blogger Cheryl said...

I'm so sorry to hear about Gonzo. It's always so hard to let them go. Just rest in knowing that you and Phil did all you could for him. I'll be thinking about you.

Tue Dec 12, 09:12:00 AM  
Blogger Kat Coble said...

I am so sorry. I couldn't even read this yesterday because I knew it would break my heart.

I appreciate your bravery in being able to let him go when your heart wasn't ready to say goodbye. That's got to be the hardest thing but one of the greatest acts of love you could give him.

Tue Dec 12, 09:17:00 AM  
Blogger John H said...

man, doing the right thing sometimes is so hard. Losing a cherished pet is just a shitty thing. I'm really sorry.

Tue Dec 12, 09:18:00 AM  
Blogger ceeelcee said...

You have softened my hard heart. I'll admit that I never got ferrets as pets, mainly because the people I knew who had them didn't take good care of them and treated them like oddities to be let loose all over the house spreading their musk.

But y'all's obvious affection for Gonzo is all the convincing I need. So some good has come of this, in addition to all the love you shared with your pet through the years. Gonzo was obviously a lucky guy.
Take care.

Tue Dec 12, 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger grandefille said...

Oh, hon. Y'all are so brave, and so was Gonzo. He loved y'all as much as you loved him, probably even more (if that's possible). You did right by your boy, and he's waiting on the other side for all y'all when you get there. (Saint Peter's probably already had to pull him out of the recycle bin twice.)

We're so proud of you and send you snuffly kisses of comfort.

Tue Dec 12, 11:16:00 AM  
Blogger Sonia said...

I am so sorry for your loss. My thoughts are with you.

Tue Dec 12, 12:40:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Tue Dec 12, 05:11:00 PM  
Blogger mike said...

Animals do understand loss, but they also know when they are loved, protected and doted on, so I don't doubt Gonzo was one happy little guy while he was with you.

Tue Dec 12, 05:15:00 PM  
Blogger phallicpen said...

Ba bo, my fuzzy friend. Ba bo.

Tue Dec 12, 08:45:00 PM  
Blogger LeftWingCracker said...

My condolences; know that he was happy that you were there for him.

Tue Dec 12, 09:55:00 PM  
Blogger theogeo said...

Thanks again, everyone.

Jimmy, that is such a cute story. You and Theresa and Lydia need to come visit some time.

And to everyone who's never had ferrets, you guys don't know what you're missing. :)

Wed Dec 13, 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Justin W. McGregor said...

We had to put my ferret Eddie down for much the same reason the summer before I went off to college... His cancer started in his tail of all places. I couldn't even bring myself to go into the vets office building (my parents had to do it).

I'm so very sorry for your loss. Make sure to give Felix a few extra scritches... it'll likely make you both feel better.

Wed Dec 13, 09:29:00 AM  

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