Sept 8th, 2011
Today, Tony died. Men, women , children, animals die every day by the millions but Tony was part of my world. I loved him but more importantly, I needed him. Simple words that don’t describe the consuming grief that fills my body at this time. I feel like I’m going to vomit. I think it would bring relief but maybe not.
Today is also my deceased husband’s birthday. How fitting. Perhaps now is the time to admit that Tony was a cat. Ah, how that changes perception in the eyes of most humans. Oh, just a cat? How could one have such emotion over a cat? Let me count the ways.
Tony was an exceptionally gentle animal. He was always in a good mood and he could never seem to get close enough. He would jump onto my shoulders as I passed by, then gently wrap himself around my neck, purr loudly and press his face against my cheek. He never used his claws in these close encounters. It just wasn’t his nature. At night Tony was first in line to my pillow. He would touch my face with his nose, begin purring and settle him self in a comfortable manner with one paw outstretched to rest on my cheek. That is how I went to sleep and how I woke up, with his warmth ever beside me. The other cats were often jealous of the time we spent together but any attempt at being a copy cat always left me with claw marks on my back so I discouraged them. Eventually, they gave up and just glared at him or spit and slapped if he was near them.
Human emotions are often attributed to animate and inanimate objects but may also tend to be misguided. The opposite is true of cats. They are said to be indifferent and casual in their interaction with people.There is no use in discussion with those who chose the clinical outlook but they are unequivocally mistaken. Cats are merely specific in their likes and dislikes. Abuse them and they are, unlike dogs, gone forever.It takes time for a grown cat to display trust but when they do it is usually by the physical act of lying down at ones feet; however, it is a gesture of goodwill, not submission.
These actions are not those of a kitten who is born into an environment. With them, the trust is a given unless it is broken by bad treatment or hunger.Then they will look for friendlier pastures. But ah, when they decide they love you, there is no greater outpouring of affection, interaction and even attempt at protection. I once had a cat who liked to sit on the window sill at night and play with the shadows on the screen.
This particular night was hot to the point of sultry, causing us to leave windows open and even the door, with only a latched screen between us and the porch. There was an unsavory neighbor that had decided to make an uninvited visit to our house. He was not at all like that when sober but this time, he was very, very drunk. His dark intentions were never fully revealed but he knew there were two women alone in the home as we were friendly with his parents down the street. Somewhere in his tiny brain, he had decided to enter our house by cutting the screen and climbing in. It was the tiny little black stray we had befriended only weeks before who fouled up his disgusting plan. With loud snarling and spitting and her repeated pops to the screen with her claws-out paws, we were awakened to the efforts of this young man, who by then had scurried around to the front porch to try opening the screen door.
He was met with a loaded rifle and a warning that one of us would be visiting his parents house the next day. He ran off with some speed and I knew he was regretting this bad move by the look on his face when my sister mentioned the word “parents”. His reaction filled me with delight and I ran over to my still growling kitty and gave her every treat I could find for the next half hour, to say nothing of the hugs and unwanted smacks of affection between her ears. She was a beloved member of our household for many years thereafter.
Given the time, there are several powerful tales of bravery, sacrifice and unrelenting love that could be written concerning cats, even the wildest of the wild breeds but now is not the moment for that. Now is the time to grieve the loss of one of my favorite friends and to express how grateful I am to have shared such love with him.