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.)