Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Good Old Cat

Nineteen years ago when our family was going through a hard time, I brought home two orange kittens with blue eyes. We laughed at their antics during a time of tears. One son took one of the cats, the other became Damien's and mine.

I am not a cat-person. I think cats have some very annoying traits. For example, my cat Squiggy wasn't big on the litter box, so he quickly became an outdoor cat. He loved being outside though, catching mice and birds and wandering the woods behind our apartment complex. Later, he moved to Atlanta with us, riding on the seat next to me in the big Ryder truck for 14 hours. Squiggy did not like Atlanta. He couldn't go outside and, once again, did not like the litter box either. We began a love-hate relationship.

We moved back to the same apartment complex. Here is the story often told about Squiggy: He must have been disoriented after arriving because he wandered off. No one could find him. Damien would walk through the woods and call to him, day after day, but we had no idea what happened to him. Lost, we decided. Poor Squiggy.

Another day, and once more Damien was combing the heavily wooded forest, calling out, "Squiggy!" as he walked. Then, "Meow." A small cat voice off in the distance. Damien continued to call and Squiggy kept answering. Damien followed the meows and there the cat was, hiding in a field of grasses.

We moved again and Squiggy became King of His Domain. He had more woods to explore and territory to claim. Vicious battles with other cats were fought over his land. He almost lost an eye once. But I'd hate to see what his opponent looked like.

We worried about him. He often trotted down to the busy road near our house. We would stop our car when we saw him and yell at him to go back home, and he would. On Sundays he visited the church across the street and hung out in its parking lot, relishing all the petting he received from the church-goers. Since he lived outside, he would join us in whatever we happened to be doing. He watched us garden and he would lie down near the kids when they were on the swingset. If we took a walk, he would follow us like a an obedient dog. I grew to love him.

About two years ago Squiggy had some sort of accident. Fred found him in the bushes near death. We brought him inside and he began his retirement in the basement. Remarkably, he recovered. He never gained his ability to jump again, but he lived in comfort in our warm laundry room.

This week we noticed Squiggy failing. He could barely stand; his cry was weak. He would still greet us and rub on our legs and purr if he was petted. He got worse. He was breathing heavily with his mouth open. I called Damien to let him know Squiggy might not have much time, so Damien came by after work last night. We both agreed Squiggy was suffering. We called the vet and we were told to bring him right in.

Squiggy did not go gentle into that good night. He fought with a strength I hadn't seen in years. On the drive over he bit me (something he's never done in his life) and he bit Damien when Damien carried him inside. We were told he would be sedated and then we could visit with him a little before the IV was started. But that didn't happen. I guess the stress of driving and moving him caused his poor old heart to quit.

I came home to find Liana on her bed, tears streaming down her face. She had drawn a beautiful picture of Squiggy and wrote this poem. Her way of dealing with her emotions, and mine too, I guess, since I am writing today. Squiggy was a good old cat. He was ours, a part of the family.


April 2, 1992 to March 23, 2011

Squiggy loved the outdoors
Where he could be wild and free,
He was strong, so no other cat
Dared to mess with Squiggy,
So strong, yet so kind to children
Who passed by,
There was a wild gleam in his
Beautiful eyes,
Which showed people how loyal he was,
His owners gave him so much love,
Till that day when his heart stopped,
19 good years to remember,
Now, then and forever.

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