So, you may or may not know (or remember) that my boy cat, Blackjack, had a bad brush with a urinary blockage back in the summer and I came THIS close to losing him. He’s good now. Thank you. Thank Bast. He’s on a special diet and everything but he’s there, curling up in the crook of my arm as I read for a while every night before i go to bed, purring like a furry little steam engine. He’s my cuddle cat. He hasn’t got meowing quite down – he began life as a street cat and didn’t get human-infested until too late to learn to communicate like that, I suspect – so his meows tend do be sotto voce, or they sound like somebody is strangling a goat. He literally bleats sometimes. He also snores, I’ve never had a cat that snored before. It usually ends up by my losing it because of “teh kewt’ and snorgling him (until he bleats). God, i love that little criter.
My other cat is a dignified old lady (who will turn 18 this Christmas) who has never really been “a kitten”: She’s what you might call an old soul, if such a thing exists in cats. She is a LADY. She is demanding. She is very much in charge of this household. She also has an incredibly hard to believe bent to sleeping with all four feet tucked away under the oil heater in the office and I am damned if I know how she doesn’t burn her paws to blisters.
Her brother, my heart’s-darling, Boboko, of whom legions of tales are told and who had more nicknames that you can shake a stick at because that cat GOT UP TO STUFF, left us too early, too young, seven years ago. I wanted to grow old with that cat who was my faithful shadow – I had never had such an instant bond as I had with that cat, not with any furry member of my family, not before or since (not even Blackjack. No, not even him.) I clapped eyes on this tiny 8-week-old kitten with a preposterous stub of a tail who looked like a ball of fluff with four feet and we fell in love with each other. He never left my side after that, my faithful little shadow, sleeping in the other chair behind me in the office while I wrote a couple of novels, my guardian angel, my companion, my beloved little muse. WHen he died I fell apart for a year, my heart not so much broken as pulverized, turned to dust and ashes. He was cremated, and his remains live in a burnished wooden box above my desk, with his photo pasted on it, so in a way he is still constantly here with me and always will be.
Before him there was poor half-blind cranky old Domino, my husband’s cat, who decided to accept me as hers and loved me to the best of her cranky ability (she used to bury her entire face into my hand and just huff gently into my palm – that was her expression of affection, and because of it I affectionately called her Furface…)
Before that, there was Murphy, my first ever cat, who was nutty enough to be remembered by everyone who ever crossed his path. There are many stories there too – like the time he yanked a stethoscope out of a vet’s ears with one swipe of his paw once and had to be coralled by a large butterfly net while he hissed and spat from under a chair (a year later we took him to the vet for a booster shot he was due for – and the vet, who must have seen thousands of small furry patients cross his exam table in the interim, took one look at Murph and said, “Oh, it’s YOU.”
Before THAT, there were the dogs – the Rottie/German Shepherd cross whom I left behind with my parents when I married, and who would “talk” – but only to me. WHen my dad tried to do it the dog just looked at him blankly as if he were asking if he felt all right and why would he think that he was ME – he would’t talk, you know, to just ANYBODY. Before him there was the tragic shepherd who went into quarantine when we moved to New Zealand, and they returned her to us paralysed and irretrievably damaged, the dog I held when they gave her the final release and wept and whispered into her ears that she was loved, she was loved, she was loved loved loved. Before that, there was the First Dog, another shepherd, who had a fearsome rep with people (one time a set of workmen who had been to our house before returned to do something else that needed doing, and one of them, as they arrived, asked very carefully, “Where is the Lion?” – such was the impression that the dog had left on them from their previous encounter).
I have loved, and been loved by an extraordinary bunch of companions. It has been posited that they are all waiting for me on the far side of the Rainbow Bridge, and oh, the reunions. Some more austere Christian dogmas insist that dogs and cats don’t go to heaven – and if they don’t, and someone points me there at the end of things, I will decline because I want to go where the dogs and cats went, thank you very much.
They share our lives for such a short time. They are ours, and we are theirs, for a handful of years here and there – but oh, how rich those years are. Filled with love and then, eventually,repositories of memories.
They take a piece of your heart with you when they go, every time. But I would not have given up a single moment I had with them all, not for anything.
In the darkest of hours, in the longest of days, when you’re upset and weeping – they are there for you. When you’re happy, they make you smile. When you’re sleeping, they dream with you (and sometimes snore…).
They’re family. They’re my heart’s family. I couldn’t have survived this pandemic year, never mind anything else, without knowing that there is always someone there for me who loves me.
I’m sure you have your own. Go hug them.