this is a story i recently wrote about my cat, Squeak:
i said goodby to squeak yesterday. having had to do so has been a most humbling experience.
i have been thinking back over the last l8 years of her life. i was a socially active single in my early 30's, but still, i was in the habit of coming home alone. so when i bought my first home, i looked forward to having a pet, and having a full-time job, it seemed logical to choose the self-sufficient cat. i made a trip to the local animal shelter and asked if they had any kittens. i was shown a cage containing mother cat and several tiny tabby furballs. squeak was the curious one, coming to the front of the cage to look at me, and of course, she was the one i chose. she was barely the size of my palm. im sure she was not yet 8 weeks old, but mother cat asked me with her eyes to take her, to save her from the alternative. she was my first choice. she was mine.
that night she cried and cried and the next day i decided she should have company. i went back for her sister, the shy one, the runt of the litter, and then i had 2 little balls of fur. i couldn't think of the right names at first, but suddenly realized i had been calling them both "pipsqueaks" and the light bulb lit up. so the runt with the little white dot on her throat became "pip", and the more outgoing one became "squeak".
from then on i said that if you were going to have one cat you should definitely have 2. they played together, chased each other (or rather squeak chased pip), kept each other warm while they slept. if one kitten is fun, two are hilarious. squeak was the feisty one, the one who would suddenly bite pip's neck, instigating a mad chase through the house. when they settled down squeak would be the one to groom pip and hold her in a loving hug while they slept. pip tolerated it, took it all in, and always maintained her reserve. my husband joined the scene 4 years later and we were a happy family. the kitties used to lie around the house on their backs, legs splayed every which way, and we called them "porn cats".
we lost pip 7 years ago. it was very sad, but at least there still was squeak. she got into the habit of greeting us each day as we arose, emerging from under the bed, following us closely until she got her morning meal and a dose of affection and massage. when she was younger she would swat at our heels, inviting us to play; lately she just wanted to be petted and loved. the minute i would sit down at night she would be on my lap. she especially liked to curl up on my lap under an afghan on a cold night. we performed these rituals thousands of times.
she was a survivor. once we unwittingly locked her out as we grilled food on our deck. the next morning we found her missing and realized what we must have done. we were frantic as we lived in a neighborhood of dogs and cats that ran loose -- and squeak was declawed. we found her under the deck, the the darkest recesses, taking care not to be seen by monsters, waiting for us.
she hated traveling but still she moved with us to north carolina, going through 2 hurricanes, bertha and fran. we couldn't stand the bugs the size of mice in nc. neither could squeak. we were all happy when we came back north.
squeak developed a cloudy eye when she was l5 l/2. we found out that it was glaucoma and she had to have her eye removed. after surgery she acted just the same as ever and never once complained. she was a trooper.
in just the last year she started to slow down, sleeping more, still wanting love but showing her age. she stopped chasing reflections on the wall and the eye she still had was suspect. she could no longer hear us calling, "where's my kittycat?" which had always brought her running to us in the past. she began to pick at food which used to be a savored feast. she lost almost half of her weight. i thought it was just the aging process.
in recent weeks she began missing her litterbox. i would get so upset. i could not understand this behavior from my pet who had always been so fastidious. 2 days ago i asked my husband to take her to the vet to see if we could cure this problem. dr. l took blood. yesterday morning we found out that her liver was failing her. yesterday at noon we took her back to dr. l for the last time. she got a shot, put her head down, and peacefully went to sleep. my husband and i cried and we have not yet stopped.
life now, is not quite the same. i wish i could pet her warm fur again. i wish i could hear her chirp and purr. i wish i could see her fill the indentation which will forever be on the top of our easy chair that had been her favorite perch. i think of all the times i got angry with her for little things. i think of the times squeak would get underfoot and i would accidentally step on her foot or tail. squeak never not mad back at me; she never never held a grudge. if i apologized and called her she would come running right back to my arms.
2 days ago, before my husband took squeak to dr. i she peed on the floor. i grabbed her scruff, yelled at her, and pointed at the puddle. she slowly and quietly walked away. i will regret this forever. i did not realize what she was going through.
i have taken a human lesson from this experience. maybe there are times when people, maybe strangers (like other drivers on the road), maybe those closest to us (spouses, parents, children, siblings, friends) do things that displease us. maybe we think they are thoughtless or inconsiderate. maybe they mess up and make us angry. maybe they do what we think they should not do, or fail to do what we think they should. maybe they deserve to be treated with kindness, compassion, and understanding instead of anger or annoyance or impatience. maybe they deserve the benefit of the doubt. maybe there is "a splinter in the offender's eye, but a rafter in our own." -- maybe not....but maybe so. maybe we at least need to examine the possibility. maybe we should take a deep breath and a step back and think about what might be going on with them before reacting in a harsh way, a way that is not a reflection of the best in ourselves, before we do or say something we cannot change or take back. maybe there is a really good but unknown reason to be especially gentle.
squeak will stay in my heart always. she was a gift, a special part of my life. she was unconditionally loving and forgiving, like having a bit of God with me, entrusted to my care. she gave me far more than i ever gave her. i just hope the lessons she taught me also stay in my heart forever.