Eleven and a half years ago my sister-in-law's husband worked at a lumberyard. A stray cat decided to have kittens there and then did what so many stray cats do: got killed. Two cats from that litter survived. A scrappy little brindle and a sweet black and white, both female. First they went to my sister-in-law's house but her assortment of strays didn't care for the competition. So they went out to my mother-in-law's house to become barn cats. The existing barn cats beat the crap out of the new kittens. The next Sunday my children went to visit BeBe and PaPa and came home in tears at the plight of the kittens, who were both injured badly and miserable. They wanted to bring the little kitties home and rescue them.
|She loves fleece blankets as much as I do.|
Now I've always been an animal over and it was the first time in my life I had actually been without pets or livestock. But that was because I had my hands full with a toddler and a 3-year-old. But what could I do? I promised to go look at the cats and see what we could do. I expected to possibly come home with a kitten. What I found was a fuzzy brown bundle with one luminous eye and one eye scrunched shut. I tried to check that there was an eye in the socket but the lid was firmly sealed and it was going to hurt her to look. She was huddled in a ball on the porch, safely away from the barn cats. Next to her was an adventurous black and white kitten who was playfully exploring the world but darted back every few minutes to cuddle and comfort her sister. I'm a soft touch. I couldn't break them up and I couldn't turn them away.
Both cats came home with us. They had already been named by my sister-in-law and the children insisted we couldn't change them. So Izzy and Tux became part of our family. Safe and sanitary conditions soon healed up Izzy's eye and today she has two luminous golden eyes. She's a playful, active cat who sometimes rolls over on her back as if demanding belly rubs just so she can sink her claws into your hand and bite the crap out of it. Tux wasn't playful anymore, though.
About six months after she came home with us we got some new furniture. During a kittenish game of chase, Tux slid under one of the new bookcases and cleanly snapped one of her rear hocks in two. Though it healed in time, her playful kittenhood ended that day as the vet wrapped a plaster cast around the leg. She became, in the words of Shannen, "a lump of meatloaf." She was a matronly cat and like most old ladies, she had a temper. Most of the time she sat on the back of a chair in the living room or in the doorway between the dining room and the laundry room where all the air from the central cooling system seems to get caught in an eddy and just watched the world go by. But sometimes Izzy or Bass (the dog that later joined our family) would walk by and Tux would growl and reach out and swat them.
Eleven isn't very old for a cat but it was all the time we got with her. She was a good cat. Izzy has always been Mindie's cat, but Tux has always been mine. It wasn't something anybody agreed on, it was just what Tux decreed. She put up with the rest of the family but she loved me. When I've been in the midst of a deep depression, Tux would leave her sacred places and find me wherever I was in the house, and comfort me. When I've needed love, she's somehow always sensed it and come through. And I do the same for her. Sometimes when I wander through the house I can almost hear her calling for me. I detour and find her rolled over on her back, waiting for some belly love. She revs up that creaky purr that's almost always on as soon as she feels my fingers on her tummy or back and the next thing I know she's rolling around like a kitten again making sure I pet all the places she wants pet.
The last week with her has been rough. I've been keeping her hydrated with an eye dropper. Every half hour I go force as much water into her as I can before she refuses to swallow any more. Usually half an ounce or so per watering. Antibiotics twice a day. And lots of love and attention. She hasn't been well at all. She's barely even been conscious. To be honest, I've thought more than once that she was dead when I went to give her more water. The vet left me so hopeful that any minute she would turn a corner and be ok, but she's just slid farther and farther down. The last two days have been the worst. She would be alert in the morning, moving around a little. But within an hour or so she had exhausted her reserve of energy for the day. This has been the worst weekend of my life.
|Tux, forefront, in one of her sacred places.|
And now she's gone. It's not the same kind of hurt that I felt when I lost a parent but it still hurts. And I'm sad. It nearly broke me to carry her out to the truck and say goodbye. I want to tell my people friends what a hole I have in my heart tonight but everybody's already really down and stressed and asked to stop focusing on the downer stuff and I don't want to add to the burden anymore. So here it is. Here's my goodbye to my furry friend. I miss you already, Tux.