The vet and his people did everything they could, and for awhile it looked like the feeding tube would help her regain her strength, and the I.V. antibiotics would conquer the pneumonia. But she remained weak, and her white blood cell count stayed stubbornly high, and then imaging revealed a large mass that was pressing on several organs, and finally we were out of options...
The vet went on to say some other things, explaining her condition in detail, making sure we understood, but I was trying so hard to keep from sobbing that I only heard every other word. But I wept anyway, and I noticed the silent tears splashing on her uncomplaining little back, and remembered all the times she would lounge on the edge of the tub as I soaked my spine in the bath, eventually leaning down to lick up the hot, soapy homo sapiens soup, and I'd flick a little water at her to interrupt this weird ritual before she developed a taste for human flesh, and Riley would just lift her head and stare at me with a blandly pitying gaze that seemed to say, "That all you got?"
We were there with her at the end. Riley, as you know, liked to cross-dress a bit; she'd wear Mary's sleepmask as a hat, her bra as a saddle, and would use my underpants as both a chamois and a Thigh-Master. So when the moment came to say good-bye, Mary took off the denim blouse she wore over her t-shirt and used it to swaddle our girl, and Riley left this world wrapped up in something warm that smelled of home.
Mount Laundryhamper, chewing meditatively on a piece of jerked sherpa, and pausing to order the hapless Jennings to give that piton one more whack with a hammer.