Essence

Nine years ago I fell in love with a little white ball of fluff with a big, black nose. I thought: That kitten looks like a teddy bear. I want that kitten.
That kitten did not want me.
Another one in the litter at the cat rescue we visited worked hard to gain our attention. He cuddled and purred and curled into our laps, mewing a plea for passage to a permanent home.
But this Teddy Bear? He turned up his little black nose at us and padded away, refusing our affections.
We compromised and adopted both kittens. They would be this blended family’s first official pets. The Twin Terrors — as we dubbed them since they were born on September 11 — were a constant source of joy and occasional frustration. The Teddy Bear bonded with the girls, particularly Girl from the West.

The cats were an interesting pair. We trained them to stay in our yard and rarely did they break the rule. Teddy, who remained aloof with adults, befriended the dog next door, forging a lifetime friendship in which one would arrive at the fence and patiently await the arrival of the other. They sniffed at one another and chased back and forth along the property line.
Three years ago we were heartbroken when the friendly brother suddenly went into liver failure and died. Teddy Bear paced the house, peering under furniture and behind curtains in a fruitless search for his pal.
Our remaining cat now goes through the same paces and clings to our side as we adjust to life without the Teddy Bear in our house. We lost him to a swift-moving cancer. Girl from the West’s graduation carries the memory of her beloved pet’s euthanasia only hours earlier.
I’ve written a lot here lately about pain. This might suggest life is grim for me. Not the case. It’s an even mix of joy and sorrow.

The essence of life.

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Cat in a cold metal freezer

In fourteen days, my first-born will turn 18. She will cast a ballot in her first presidential election this November. If all goes as planned — we are in the waiting and receiving answers stage of the college application process — she will be a college student somewhere this fall.  We have an uncertain road between there and here. Mainly we need to figure out how to fill those deep, dark potholes of want and need with tuition, books and housing money. Needless to say, I’ve been a little weepy and preoccupied with my soon- to-be half-empty nest.

Nests make me think of birds and birds make me think of cats. This recent post by Katherine asked “What animal parts are in your refrigerator?” and that made me think of our beloved cat, who died swiftly and unexpectedly three years ago in January. So, to answer her question and to sneak in an older post you may have missed the first time around, I present the following from April 17, 2009:

 

sleep

Our cat was alive, just sleeping, in this 2003 picture

As you may recall, one of our “twin terror” cats died in January. After the tears and an indoor “service” we placed one of the cat brothers on ice while the other brother looked at us with infinite confusion.

Oh, the humanity!

Oh, the humanity!

This is what our veterinarian suggested in January. When there was a foot of snow on the ground and we hadn’t seen grass or dirt since sometime in November. He said: “If you know anyone with a deep freezer, put him there … or we can take him here.”

There was a fee involved.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of writing a check to have my cat wrapped, sealed, and tossed in a cooler with other dead pets, seemed, oh, I don’t know, callous?

And the very idea of calling around to friends and family seemed queer also. I mean, how do you ask? Mass e-mail? Individual phone call?

“Do you have a deep freezer, Aunt May?”

“Yes, I do, dear. Did your husband get a deer this season? Did you buy a side of beef?”

“Oh, no, it’s for our cat.”

“I’m sure there are other disciplinary measures you can take before resorting to this, dear.”

“No. No. He’s dead. The cat is dead.”

CLICK.

We don’t store or prepare meat in our household, so we have no need for a big freezer. Ours is just a dinky little box filled to the brim with crystallized ice cream and freezer-burned stir fry mixes. I couldn’t imagine grabbing ol’ fluffy by the frozen tail and shifting him to the left so we can reach for the Garden Burgers.

God forbid if he tumbled to the floor, like so many other frozen items from our freezer do when the door is pulled open too quickly. That would go over well with the babysitter, I’m sure.

“You’re out of ice pops, but you have a dead cat in your freezer. By the way, I’m busy for the next year. Don’t call.”

Through word of mouth, we found a discreet volunteer, one who is used to such matters, who offered up space in a big freezer in her garage. We drove several hours to her place. Sweet dead kitty was swaddled in a flannel sheet, wrapped in a bag, surrounded with all his favorite toys, cat treats, and a few messages written on note paper. It was all very Egyptian. Or maybe more like the The Sopranos?

Time passed. The snow melted. The ground thawed.

Still, kitty remained frozen in limbo.

Then, as the buds unfurled on the trees and bushes,  a few inquiries blossomed in my e-mail inbox.

“About your cat ….I think it’s time.”

So, this weekend, without further delay, we are hauling out the old metal cooler, getting a block of ice from the local gas station, and hitting the road. We’re bringing the ol’ boy home for a burial.

You know what’s the most interesting thing about this? I ended my search for a new cat/kitten a while ago when none could be found. Just today I had an e-mail about a litter of kittens available immediately.

Timing. Interesting isn’t it?

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