Disarmed

The options were simple--amputation or euthanasia. There was a tumor, one that grew fast and starting splitting the bone open at the ankle. "I'll take it off behind the shoulder blade," the vet explained. "Stumps are useless and without a stump she won't need a shoulder blade." She cooed to Tiny in a cute voice as she gently stroked her side, "She'll just be a flat kitty." That's what disarmed me, "kitty" and the cutesy voice. It softened it all; made it seem okay and easy--a caricature of what was to come. I pictured her hopping around a bit awkwardly, but with the enthusiasm that Tiny would forever have at dinner-time and second dinner-time. "Okay," I said.

So when we picked her up the afternoon after the surgery, I was unprepared for the shaved side and the 10" whip-stitched suture-line that ran from chest to no-shoulder and a slack sack of skin that once held much of what was just removed. Naively, I had come to pick up my "flat kitty" and I was instead handed a monster in a carrier. A small dose, but a dose of reality nevertheless; this was unrelentingly "real" in its way. We couldn't give her back and let her heal a bit. No, we took home our three-legged monster. And dealt with the licking and with the staggering and with everything until the wound was no longer raw and seeping, just a gnarled snake of gathered flesh that ran from chest to no-shoulder. 

Like most wounds, it healed, and more quickly than you'd think. And fur grew, but more slowly than you'd think. Now, 4 years later, as promised, she is a flat kitty. Old and running out of life, but a leg worth given. It seems so distant now, as I pass by her sleeping-chair and glide my hand down her flank, she wakes and I ask for the hundredth time in a cutesy voice, "Where'd your leg go?" She twists, belly-up and stretches the other out long, kneading the air.