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Subject:  More from my mom Date:  5/19/2000  12:15 PM
Author:  cmonkey Number:  5288 of 122731

Of course, I was fine until this arrived in my mailbox. Now I'm a mess. My mom just got a new job that will take her to Seattle for at least five months, possibly permenantly, and our Mouse is gone for good. One or the other would be bad, but the two together is harder than I thought it would be. On the bright side, however, 6 helped me find a retirement home for Rita, and she seems to be doing pretty well. So the circle keeps spinning.

Last night I drove down to Dairyland through the long light of mid-May to put Katie to rest. Jan Schnell worked over her for an hour yesterday morning and an hour the night before and two hours while I was there yesterday afternoon, but all her efforts failed to break the cycle of Katie's coughing. By last night, Katie refused to come out of her crate, so Jan called me about 7.15 p.m. and said to come down, that it was time.

The drive down was beautiful but sad. I was saying good-bye not only to Katie but to Douglas County, and I knew there was a good possibility I wouldn't be back. The deciduous trees had leafed out completely, and the air was soft and warm, and the light was low enough that the woods to the right of the road lay in deep blue shadow while those to the left were sunlit and golden. I passed over all the familiar boggy streams: Black River, Tamarack River, the sinuous, repeated crossings of Chase's Brook. My mind bounced back and forth between Katie and the seven years we'd had together and this place, this northern place in flyover country that's still quiet and affordable and almost wholly off the map of twenty-first century life. Most of the people down there are doughy and large, the women fuzzy haired and hefty in their stretch pants and car coats, the men apparently grafted to their seed caps and Carharrts. They drive beater 80s American cars or shiny new American pickups, and they live back in the scrappy woods with bunches of dogs who stand along the roadways like grave sentinels.

I've spent over nine years getting to know these people, first as a part-time resident of Wascott when I had the cabin, then as a resident of Dilute. They're stoppered in a way that few people I've met on the West Coast are-stoic and very reticent, but mostly open hearted and kind. They have time, which in my experience is a far scarcer commodity among city people, both in San Francisco and in Minneapolis. It's losing time that scares me the most about this move to Seattle-that, and being sucked into the spendy sort of life I witnessed there two weekends ago.

I think I have unfitted myself to city life pretty thoroughly, which is one of the reasons why I'm hoping to find a place in the rural part of Vachon Island or Bainbridge Island. If I stay on the West Coast, my aim is to move either to the West End of the Olympic Peninsula or somewhere inland that's within a two-hour commute of Seattle so that I can drive in when necessary to keep the work flowing my way but otherwise be outside the loop and the lure of the city.

All this was fluttering lightly through my mind as I drove south to Jan Schnell's. By the time I turned off Wisconsin 35 onto County T, the sun had, in the way we humans describe it, sunk below the horizon, and the fields and young forests lining T were a compressed, almost even green-gray. Ahead of me a faint orange still blushed the horizon, but otherwise it was dusk. I turned north again on South Swedish Highway and drove between the lush columns of young popple to her driveway.

Katie would not come out of the crate, so I gently lifted her out. It seemed clear to me that she didn't know who I was, that she had passed over some bar and was now rocking on a sea that I couldn't know. I carried her upstairs, her eyes glazed, her breath ragged and heaving. I held her in my arms, and Jan administered an intramuscular injection of a powerful anesthetic. At the first jab, Katie jolted out of her stupor-the injection hurt-and I had to readjust my hold on her so that I grasped both her hind legs. Jan reinserted the needle.

I thought about Jan's immense kindness and patience. She had worked on Katie for an hour before leaving for her house calls at 7.30 a.m., and did not return from those until 6, and here she was at 8.15 p.m., helping my little Katie die painlessly. We sat and talked while Katie gradually went under. By 8.30, she felt heavy as stone in my arms, and her breathing quieted, became more shallow. We waited for another 15 minutes, and Jan asked me if I had watched many creatures die. I said that I had. Certainly she has. I think doing so vanquishes much of the terror and mystery that death holds for so many people. At the very end, we become wholly physical creatures, which is why the analogy to infancy remains so pot