Saturday, July 05, 2008
Most of us have them or at some time in our life have had them. To a greater or lesser degree they take their place in our lives, most often bringing us considerable joy and camaraderie.
A few weeks ago my close friend Jenni lost one of her dogs to cancer. He was six years old. According to a calculation I learned some time ago, that’s like forty-two in human years, if I remember right. Still way too young to die. Hearing about Jen’s loss got me to thinking about my Great Dane who died back in 1999. She was twelve years old - about eighty-four in human years.
Like my good friend Jenni, I was devastated by the loss of my pet and my grieving process lasted a long time. Even now, nine years later, I still experience sad moments when I think of her. I grieved more for my Great Dane back in 1999 than I have grieved for human losses in my life, including my parents.
Yesterday morning (Thursday, June 12th) Mam and I went through a horrible experience with the untimely death of our cat. “Cat,” our very original name for him, had been poking around upstairs in the early morning and unfortunately found the poison-laced tidbits we had placed on a piece of newspaper intended for the invasive rat we were trying to get rid of. Mam and I both, in a rush, had forgotten to put the poisoned food out of reach before letting our cat and dog into the house.
Although I was not as devastated as when my Great Dane died, I still feel a lingering sadness over his absence. “Cat,” was a temple cat. Dumped by the side of the road in a fertilizer bag with his brothers and sisters, in front of our local Buddhist temple about two years ago. When I first brought him home he was only about two or three weeks old and fit neatly in the palm of my hand.
Initially, Mam wouldn’t allow him in our house so I made a bed for him outside and fed him kitchen scraps by hand until he would take dry kitten food. Mam put on her best “grouchy face” whenever I would try to coax her into holding or petting him.
“I don’t like cats,” she announced, refusing to even acknowledge the cat’s presence.
Seemingly terrified by the world around him, he retreated inside the tiny ashbin of our barbeque grill, only coming out after considerable persuasion, and only when I had a delicious treat for him. He emerged a filthy, black smeared, ghostly grey vagabond with dull listless eyes oozing a thick green goop until I rubbed him clean with a moist towel. This act of kindness on my part was met with vicious little “puffs” and “fifs” from this tiny ball of fur, whom initially I didn’t figure would live to see next week.
About a month later I brought home a “temple puppy” that had undergone the same unceremonious dumping as the cat. Mam was much more accepting of our new puppy, with whom she immediately became attached. Meanwhile, “Cat,” was managing to survive quite well beyond my predicted week and ever so slowly began to win Mam’s heart, although she would never have admitted to it.
Puppy and Cat literally grew up together. The two of them seemed to sense their Buddhist Temple connection and became quite inseparable as the months wore on, playing together like two of the same species rather than much larger dog and tiny cat. Their bond was undeniably close, the two of them often laying down together cuddling and grooming each other. Eventually, Mam began to accept Cat into our house, but she drew the line at having him on the bed or on tables.
Our recent loss prompted me to write about the imprint our pets leave in our lives. Unlike human beings, animals appear to be so much simpler. By “simpler,” I don’t mean less intelligent, but rather the opposite. They don’t appear to possess the ability for harboring resentment nor live complicated lives full of worry, stress, hate, mental defects, depression or excessive fear. Their love for “humans” appears to be unconditional and I, for one, have learned quite a lot from my pets.
“Cat,” in my opinion, lived a fairly simple life. Every morning (except on weekends) I would wake at five a.m. and go downstairs to make coffee and read the Bangkok Post newspaper. Around six a.m., Mam opened our downstairs windows and “Cat,” would jump up on the windowsill yowling for “me” to come pet him (Not Mam, but ‘me’). After our petting “session” was completed Mam would put food down in our kitchen for him to eat.
While Cat was eating and Puppy was off visiting his neighborhood buddies, Mam would push our motorcycle outside. After the cat had been fed he would promptly exit the house and mount the motorcycle, sitting on its seat in peace until somebody moved him. We never completely understood Cat’s love for the motorcycle, but surmised that it was some sort of “refuge” for him. A place where he could retreat without being bothered. So, we began referring to him as, “Motorcycle Cat.”
During the day, if Cat wasn’t stealthily scouting the immediate area around our house for skinks, lizards, frogs, birds (especially doves, which he never could catch) and small snakes, he was either sleeping or hiding in some hollow of vegetation, or was roughly playing with his close buddy Puppy. If Puppy was gone from our house for a wee bit too long, Cat would begin crying as if saying, “Where is my friend?”
Now, when Mam opens the window in the morning, I feel a loss.
There is no more yowling for me to go to the window and scratch Cat behind his ears. At certain times I swear I see him out the corner of my eye causing a double take that leads to disappointment when I see he isn’t there. Today I thought I heard him yowling, believable enough that I went downstairs and looked outside. At other times, I could swear I hear the little bell around his neck dingling.
There will be no more poison brought into this house. Mam and I both have learned our harsh lesson. Meanwhile, I’m thankful for the joy and camaraderie Cat brought to us, and I miss him greatly.
Exist only in sweet peace my good friend.
Mused by Jeeem at the following date and time: 7/05/2008 11:13:00 AM