Thursday, June 21, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend

This blog centers on writing, but sometimes life rips us away from work and books and words. Yesterday, I brought my cat Griffin (he's the tabby in the middle) to the vet and left fifteen minutes later with an empty cage. Now, I know some folks out there will think, “So what? It was a cat. Is this worth blogging over?”

In return, I’d ask this question: “How many friendships have you had that lasted for seventeen years?” That’s how long Griffin and I have been together. My longest human friendship is going to be twenty-years-old next year and I think that’s pretty amazing, but I’ve also made dozens of friends that I have grown apart from for one reason or another. Griffin saw sides of me that no friend has ever seen and no matter how dumb or self-centered or clumsy I was, he loved me just the same.

The things that will always set him apart from my other friends are:

  • His ability to comfort me by settling his body next to mine and nuzzling my face with his cool, pink nose
  • The way I could never spray a helping of Reddi-Wip onto a piece of pie or a bowl of Jell-o without him expecting a healthy dollop to be squirted onto the open dishwasher door for him
  • How crazy he went over warm pieces of brisket or chicken. These were the only two foods that would make him sit by the table and beg like a dog
  • He got stoned on catnip. I mean, seriously stoned. I’d get him a catnip mouse and after five minutes of rolling on top of the thing, he’d wobble off to the sofa like a drunk on a binge and then, if he could actually jump up on the couch, sit there glassy-eyed and chilled out.
  • His ability to stretch his body out into a long line of legs and fur – just tempting me to stroke his tummy feathers (that’s what I called them). If I did, he’d do his damnedest to bite me as punishment for disturbing his yoga pose.
  • The way he’d “make biscuits” on my favorite sweater (I wouldn’t notice the pulls and minute holes until I was out to dinner and suddenly my white bra was all-too-visible through my black sweater)
  • His fussiness over his water source. This cat was the Fuji bottled water drinker of the feline world. He preferred his water to come directly from a running tap and if he had to drink from a stagnant source, he’d use his own bathroom glass, thank you. I don’t think my husband will ever get over this little quirk. The word “spoiled” came forth from his clenched lips on more than one occasion when he was brushing his teeth and found cat hair floating in his bathroom glass. Oops.
  • He loved to play in paper bags and shred tissue paper. Christmas time was when he reverted to kitten-hood. You’ve never seen a cat shred piece of paper decorated with jolly Santas or the word PEACE so violently. I had to draw the line when he began decimating a paper Jesus on a greeting card that had the misfortune of being attached to a piece of tissue paper…
  • He purred. Yeah, it’s a common sound to all cats, but to me, it was music.

Griffin purred until his heart stopped. That’s the kind of friend he was – comforting and loving me with his last breath. I kissed his head and then left him. My house feels much emptier now.

So thank you for allowing me this tribute on a blog about writing. And if you feel like it, please share with me that name of a special animal friend you’ve loved and lost. Share one of their quirks or one of the things they did to light your face with a smile. Let’s fill cyberspace with a little memorial for them in honor of my old friend.


Nina Wright said...

I am so sorry for your loss, JB! Although I write a mystery series starring a dog (a diva dog, to be precise), I love felines and canines equally and daily treasure the texture they add to our lives.

Your post inspired me to share a tribute I wrote five years ago when I lost my feisty male Siamese, Endo; he was named, incidentally, for the marvelous Japanese novelist. The other names in the tribute belong to additional animals I shared my life with at the time of Endo's death. Here goes:

Remembering Endo
October 26, 1988 to May 30, 2002

The best player cat who ever lived.
He could be It in a game of tag or win at Hide and Seek.
He literally flipped for feather toys.
He drowned toy mice in his water bowl.
He could snort like a crazed pig or cry like an infant.
He learned to handle the outside world . . .
although he spent two days sulking in the basement utility room
of a high-rise apartment building,
and years later was locked for three days in a neighbor’s barn in Michigan.
(Both times N thought he was dead.)
He never wanted human food
possibly because his partner Talley always wanted human food.
He passionately loved Talley and was charmed by Lola.
He tolerated Schoodic and despised Oreo—except when they were both so tired they could share a couch.
He intimidated dogs without half-trying.
He never forgot a two-legger who made a fuss over him.
And--human male competition notwithstanding--he always, always coveted N’s breasts.

God bless the creatures who grace our days.
They bring out the best that is human in us.

Nina Wright
Whiskey and Tonic

Mark Terry said...

Sorry to hear about your loss.

I didn't grow up with pets, but have had two dogs as an adult. When we had to put Ralph down because of cancer (he was a black Labrador/Chesapeake Bay mix) it was heartbreaking. As I commented to people: of course I'm upset. He was a good friend and I liked him a lot better than most human beings I've met.

He was also smart. When we got home from work he would nudge open the bi-fold doors to one of our closets, pick up his leash in his mouth and bring it to us.

My current chocolate Lab (well, caramel colored, actually), Frodo, isn't quite that smart, but he's a real sweetheart.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

As soon as I finished reading your blog, I wrangled up B and Raffi and gaved them hugs until they meowed in protest.

I've never lost an animal like this, but years ago I had to give one away because of a move and never got over it. For a long time after, I would wake up expecting to see her curled up at the end of my bed. When I was able to have pets again, I made sure I adopted them from a loving family that had to give them up and I make sure they know they are well cared for, even now, 3 years later.

Our hearts go out to you over your loss, JB.

From B, Raffi and Sue Ann (who also lives with shredded tissue and hair in her water glass, and wouldn't have it any other way).

Tom Schreck said...

I lost a dog and a cat in the last year...I got no problem believing the seriousness of the grief...

No matter how long they live its never long enough.

Hang in there.

Jessica Lourey said...

I'm so sorry for your loss! He sounds like a wonderful kitty. There is a Native American belief that when we die, the animals we've had in our life are at the bridge and get to decide whether we pass into the spirit world. It sounds like you'll be getting a couple teeny thumbs up.

My cat, Zoso, is 18. Thanks for giving me a reason to love him that much more.

Deb Baker said...

I feel your pain. I lost my best friend Border Collie in February. Thanks for sharing.

Joe Moore said...

JB, I understand what you're going through. I made that trip to the vet a number of years ago with my old friend, Figaro, a beautiful, long-hair Persian who grew too old to feed or clean himself. I was so distraught, I could not speak to the vet. I sat in the parking lot afterwards and cried. We spend years loving Figaro and all he did was love us back. It broke my heart. But his quality of life had deteriorated to below what I felt he deserved. He became an old man--senile and helpless. I still miss him.

My thoughts are with you.

Julia Buckley said...

JB, so sorry to hear about your kitty. I had three cats when I got married, and then about fifteen years later I began losing them all to old age in quick succession, and that's like losing a part of your own life.

Bill Cameron said...

Alas. So sad!

Lesa said...

JB, I'm so sorry. I've lost two cats. Lammie was a beautiful Seal Point, who knew she was queen of the household, and would display herself with crossed paws on the back of the couch for the whole world to see. My favorite Marmalade story is about the day I cuddled him too long, he was tired of it, and he raised both paws, and slapped both my cheeks. I miss them so much, and I still expect to see them around the house.

I have four cats now. Each one is special, and when Dickens crawled into my lap this morning, pushing the laptop out of the way, I cuddled him. He snuggled down and purred, as no laptop will ever do. I know when it's time to give up the computer and spend time with the cats.

jbstanley said...

Thank you all for the stories about your beloved pets. They made me smile. I especially love all the pet names listed here. You are a very creative bunch - no doubt about that! Every day will get better, I know. This evening, I looked around for Griffin because I had a roast chicken breast for dinner - one of his favorites. I've got to get used to his absence. I'd love to rescue another animal, so maybe after some time has passed I'll post of photo of a new friend. Sweet dreams to all of you and may dreams of fat, slow mice and dog bones bigger than houses fill the minds of your pets tonight...

G.M. Malliet said...

Edith Ann was my cat. I still miss her after all these years. I am so sorry for your loss!