Baby F(ph)at: Vicks, love, and excerpts

I'm eight chapters from calling it The End on Baby F(Ph)at. I know, I can't believe it, either. To tide you over until I wake up in Dream Come True Land with an agent and a book deal, here's another little piece from inside my head. Remember Cat the Dog? This one's all about her, my reaction to having to let her go, and Buttercup's attempts to mend my pain.

*****

It’s okay, Mama. I make you feel better.”

I hear the words. But I’m not sure if I’m dreaming them or if I’m actually awake and Buttercup’s having a one-sided conversation with me. Two hours of sleep seems to have that effect on me.

“No move, Mama. You’ll feel better. Shhh.”

I feel a teensy little finger tracing a line on my cheek. My brain momentarily registers the sensation of something wet, but I’m immediately and inexplicably comforted by the faint scent of lavendar and find myself drifting further into a dream state. I know I’m in Buttercup’s bed. I know she woke up at t3 a.m. this morning fussier than usual and was convinced she knew what was going to happen when Daddy came home. So I climbed into her little bed after arriving home from a rare evening out with a friend and let myself believe that I was the one doing the comforting once her little body was snug against my own.

“Mama, just a leetle bit more. I take care of you.”

Cat’s grace period is officially over. The vet notified me at Monday’s appointment that her normally healthy 85-pound frame was down to a shocking 67-pounds and that the fluid filling her chest cavity was showing no signs of slowing down. Her best guess was cancer.

Today, after The Husband arrives home from work, we take our baby to the vet for the final time. It might be humane, but it’s the shittiest decision I’ve ever had to make.

I’d rather stay asleep and let my daughter make it all better while I sleep. What the hell is she putting on my face?

I swear that the moment Cat heard me tell the vet we had made the decision to let her go, she began to give up the fight. I’m also sure that she was fighting on our behalf and would’ve given it her all until she had no more to give.

“Pauline, where did that limp come from?” My mother asked me when Cat suddenly couldn’t put any weight on a hind leg.

“Her breathing sounds worse,” Pati pointed out before I left to hang out with my local twitter pal and pretend my dog wasn’t dying.

But she was. So she had rib-eye steak, grilled just for her, and vanilla ice cream for dessert last night. And there were plenty of pictures taken and posted to Facebook. And hugs. And no reprimands to Cat or Finnigan and Francis for barking at the neighborhood kids passing by our backyard on that pain-in-my-ass shortcut through the wash that connects our subdivision with the one behind us.

My mother also took one for the team and gave up her comfy bed in her upstairs room for a night on the lumpy sofa sleeper on the first floor. Cat’s back leg was no longer strong enough to put weight on and we didn’t want to aggravate the situation by obligating her to follow my mom up a flight of stairs.

In short, we did our damndest to make sure her last night with us was as kick-ass as possible so she could brag to the other dogs she runs into at the Pearly Gates that her mama cooked her a fucking steak!

“Mama still sad?’ A pause and I hear something being opened. My brain is registering a screw-top, but I’m still too emotionally and physically drained to actually do anything. “It’s okay, Mama. Here, you’ll feel better.”

More fingers tracing my cheek. More lavender scented comfort. Then my mother’s voice and both she and Buttercup giggling conspiratorially as they leave me to sleep off the sad.

Then the front door opening. The dogs barking to greet The Husband. My mother’s voice as she relays something I can’t quite make out to The Husband as he heads upstairs to find me in our daughter’s bed, with an inch-thick layer of infant Vick’s on my face and chest.  I wake up smelling like my Abuelo, who has a “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”-like appreciation for the powers of Vick’s and what it can cure.

My baby thought it would fix a broken heart.