Monday, July 9, 2018

We Will Miss You, Black Cat!



Shortly after moving to this neighborhood 17 years ago, we became aware of two black cats who seemed to be the most ubiquitous residents of the area: one scruffy, long-haired, bad-ass looking tom; and one round-bellied, smooth-haired, comfort-seeking guy who we thought at first was a female, and then realized he was a neutered male.  Every time we looked out a window or took a stroll around the neighborhood, one or the other of these two was in evidence. We dubbed them “Book” and “End.”  Bookends. 

“End” was never a friendly sort, and though he would hang around the yard and mark his territory all over my bushes, fences and doors, he would slink away from any chance encounter with humans.  I never could entice him to hang around long enough to start a relationship.

“Book,” on the other hand, seemed to be an affable sort.  He would stay around the yard…sleep in the shed or the greenhouse, consume food I put out for him.  He was not OUR cat for a good long while…but he was around, so we looked after him when we could.  And we learned his story:  A neighbor across the street had moved away and left him behind, probably just after we moved here in 2001.  He had to learn to fend for himself…and he did.  It was a while before we understood how WELL he had learned.

As he grew older and more in need of the comforts of life, we made him a home in our greenhouse.  We installed a kitty door, which we would shut and lock at night to keep him inside and safe from predators.  We kind of believed he had become “our” greenhouse cat.  But he maintained the disconcerting habit of disappearing for days or a week, then showing up back on the greenhouse deck one night as if nothing had happened, waiting for his meal. 

Eventually, we learned that “our” Book was called “Sunny” by the neighbors around the corner; and who knows how many other names by other neighbors who fed, petted and protected him.  He was the neighborhood cat…the Cat About Town.  Everybody loved him.  He loved everybody.

He loved laps.  I would go out to sit on my “coffee deck” in the morning, let the cat out, and he would climb up into my lap for a “pet session.”  This was the morning ritual.  He would get rather miffed if I went out of town or for some other reason didn’t have time to sit with him.

He loved catmint.  In my now defunct fountain garden, I would plant catmint for him every year.  He actually loved one or two of those plants to death.

He loved fried chicken.  We would go out to our favorite local cafĂ© once a week or so, and I would squirrel a chicken strip into my purse to bring home just for him.  I’ll never forget the time I left my purse sitting on the front porch step for a moment, and looked up to see Bookie trotting away from the scene with a fist-sized white prize in his mouth…  “What the hell has he got…OH!  The chicken!”  Well…it was for him, and he knew it.  I did track him down and take the napkin off it, though.

As he got older and more frail, we moved him into our garage.  Eventually, when he got quite old, he didn’t go outside at all anymore.  He was stiff and sore from old outside-cat injuries, and we didn’t think he could save himself from cars or nasty neighbors or coyotes or mean dogs.  He slept in the garage and spent his days sunning in front of the patio doors. 

About 18 months ago, he became very ill, developed such terrible diarrhea that he was nearly incontinent, lost a ton of weight…basically looked like he was done with life.  We knew he was already quite old—had to be at least 14 or 15, which is amazingly old for a cat who had spent most of his life outdoors.  So…we took him to the vet with the idea of helping him on his way to the Next Thing.  But, evidently, it wasn’t his time. 

Instead of saying goodbye, we came home with a couple of vials of last-ditch medicines to try to get his intestinal issues under control. 

Lo and behold, they worked.

We fed him the special food and medicated him daily…with an eye toward hopefully giving him a couple more months.  Long enough for him to see one more spring.  He surprised us all by hanging in long enough to see 2 more springs.  We were able to allow him a peaceful and comfortable old age, King of the Garage, Lap-Sitter Extraordinaire.

Two weeks ago, his old heart began to fail him.  He stopped eating.  His lungs and abdomen began to fill with fluid.  At last, it was his time. 

We said goodbye to him Saturday morning.

I don’t know why the tears keep coming.  He was old.  He had a decent, long life.  We helped as much as we could.

I told a friend that I don’t believe in that Rainbow Bridge stuff.  I don’t believe that there are animal spirits who are “assigned” to be eternal pets of human spirits.  What I do believe is that there are spirits that are eternally connected, who meet again and again as they return to the Creator and are released to new adventures.  Bookie is out there among the stars, now…  Or he could already be somewhere where we will be together again.

I told the same friend:  We have cohabited with a parade of over twenty cats and four dogs over our nearly 42 years of marriage.  The thing we trade for their unconditional affection is that they are bound to leave this life long before we do. 

We lose a loved one every couple of years.  You learn to accept it, but it never gets easier.

We will miss you, Bookie. 

Until we meet again. 


1 comment:

  1. I just stumbled upon your blog.

    I am so sorry for the loss of your sweet kitty. Pets are such special blessings, and sometimes it's hard to remember that all we can do is love them while we have them.

    God's peace!

    Melissa

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