Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Champ (1997-2008)

Andy lived life on his own terms. He loved being a cat, and relished every minute of life in the yard. He filled his days with sleeping in the sun, stalking (and unfortunately, catching) songbirds, and rolling in the dirt. Nights he would prowl the neighborhood, starting fights with other cats. Some he won, some he lost, and it was his last fight that ultimately led to his demise. He went to his grave, however, insisting that the other cat had simply gotten lucky that night, and if given a rematch, he would kick the other cat's butt.

I spoke with two vets, both of whom suspect that Andy had some sort of cancer, lymphoma, maybe, that we didn't know about, and the stress of his injuries was just too much for his weakened system to overcome. The weeks have been a blur--Teresa and I have lost track of time and were astonished this afternoon, after burying Andy, to realize that it was only yesterday that we brought him home from the vet. It seems like three or four days. I cannot imagine how people deal with a human loved one whose death drags on for weeks and months. I am exhausted.

His last two days were not bad. His eyes remained bright and he seemed comfortable, though weak. He rested peacefully on the sofa this morning while we were at work. At lunchtime, when I came home, he struggled to his feet and found the strength to go outside, where he lay in the sun for a while, then made it over to his favorite sleeping spot behind the nandina bush.

I brought him in because I had to go to the dentist, and I could tell that the exertion had taken a lot out of him. I feared that he might pass away before I returned, but he was still alive when I got back.

He began to struggle, and for the first time seemed frightened and in pain. I had hoped he could die at home, but knew that he now needed some help, so I called our vet, who promised to have everything ready when we arrived.

I held him for his two injections, and he went very quickly. We buried him in the garden, along with his collar, food bowl, and one of my shirts that he loved to sleep on. We took some black South Carolina dirt from a pile where he delighted in rolling, and sprinkled it in the bottom of his grave. A chunk of white quartz marks his resting place, very near the spot where he used to crouch and watch the birds at the feeder. I will plant things with white blooms there, so that their color will always remind me of my friend.

Our vet gave us a wonderful book called Cat Heaven; my favorite illustration is this picture of God walking through his garden with a cat asleep on his head. The book in his hand is titled "Garden Tips."

I have no doubt that animals have souls, a part of God within them that lives on after death--I've never met an animal who did not seem to have some spark of the divine within him or her. (Unfortunately I can't say the same about every human I've met.) So, goodbye for now, Big Kitty. I want you to be waiting for me on the steps when I get there. And if you want to visit me in my dreams sometime, you are always welcome.(Bill Watterson drew this strip after his cat, Sprite, died.)


Spag said...

Sorry to hear about your cat. Losing a pet is never easy.

I had a dog that died about ten years ago from heart disease. It was a long process from diagnosis to death.

Since then, I have had one cat die from anti-freeze poison, another of an unknown disease that lasted briefly but killed him, and another dog that died in a traumatic fashion that I don't like even thinking about.

Right now, I have an older dog who probably won't last too much longer as his legs are giving out on him.

There isn't much you can say in these situations except that I have been there and I know what you are feeling.

Lisa at Greenbow said...

What a beautiful tribute to Andy. I am sure he will be sauntering through your garden as well as your dreams for some time to come. Some beautiful white flowers will give your heart ease so plant them as soon as you can.

I believe that every living soul comes into your life for a reason. Maybe Andy came into your life to give you one of lifes most difficult to lose someone we love with all the patience and dignity you can muster. He was indeed "The Champ".

You and Theresa have my deepest sympathy.

Katie said...

Hey David,

Sorry to hear about Andy - it sounds like you have him a heck of a burial. A cats only flaw is that they don't live as long as us.

I appreciate the use of the Calvin & Hobbes cartoon - that specific one is actually my favorite and I had it hanging in my room when I was a kid not that long ago when my childhood cat was put down.

My thoughts are with you.

Benjamin Vogt said...

If there can be a good post about something so tear-jerking and terrible, this would be it. Hard for me to read! I've never had a cat make it past 12, and mine just turned 7 this week. I wish you the best.

Mary said...

Oh, David. I'm reaching for Kleenex. We've been through the same a few times before... I know, I know what you and your wife are feeling.

I'm so sorry.


Iris said...

Andy was lucky to have such a good family to love him, and I'll bet he loved you just as much. Hang in there, and know we're all out here in blogland (and the real world) thinking of you.

Layanee said...

I am so sorry that you have lost your beloved pet. The picture in the book is just delightful and will bring back some happy memories. Sad for you :(

Garrett Sawyer said...

So sorry to hear about your loss, My cat Ichiro looks JUST like Andy, he's about 1 year old now. My cats sister, Wilma, just gave birth last night to 3 kittens, one wasn't so lucky so I've not been myself today. I'm still worried because Wilma still feels like she hasn't had them all yet. The first one came at around 7ish yesterday night, the second came at around 9:45pm and the third came way after 2 this morning...I hope everything is alright with her.

I'm sure you gave Andy a better life than he would have had on his own, Thats the way I think. I may not be able to give my cats the star treatment but at least I can offer them food, water, and a warm place when it's cold or raining. Not many cats get that.

Maria said...

Oh, I know how you feel! we lost our Koda in December, and are still hurt. One of the ways I dealed with Koda going, was reading Calvin and Hobbes.. (or "Steen og Stoffer" as they are called in the Danish translation).

LCShores said...

It's so hard to lose a pet. We lost one cat several years ago, and another is now starting to look her considerable age. We found comfort in knowing that sadness and self-blame seem to come along with the death of a pet, and that mourning will end eventually in happy memories.

Anonymous said...

I was so sorry to hear about Andy's death... but what a beautiful tribute.

When my cat, Sam, died, the vet sent a card that said, "what we have loved stays in our hearts forever." Just as Andy will be with you guys forever.

Ewa said...

what a great tribute to a sweet buddy, cheering you up with his presence.
I finished reading it with tears :(
Feel so sorry for you...

GardenJoy4Me said...

That was such an open hearted tribute .. I understand how you feel. We lost two of our beautiful Calicos (Molly and Lucy) in less than two years and it still hurts like the devil .. I know there is more to our little ones than just their life with us .. you gave this tough little character a wonderful loving home .. he knows it still.
My heart goes out to you both.

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