Monday, June 05, 2006

Trudging Through A Storm

When I was a boy, perhaps eight or nine, New York City was inundated with a blizzard. It was the first one I could recall in my too-short life to that point, and so I was determined to get out in it and have some fun.

I built a fort, threw some snowballs at passing buses (in case anyone wants to know how I built my arm strength up to throw a football, that's how), and on the spur of the moment and to delay the inevitable march back upstairs to the warmth of the apartment, I decided to take a walk around the block and to feel what a blizzard really felt like.

Some of you have experienced blizzards first hand, so you know what it feels like. 35 mile-per-hour winds (or more), snow falling sideways, and in NYC, this is a wet snow, coming in off the seas, so it's icy and it stings, and has a vague salt taste to it.

I remember turning one corner, from Second Avenue down towards my home, and walking directly into the teeth of the wind. I was tired, cold, and all alone, but I trudged onward, knowing I only had a hundred yards or so to go. There was one other person sort of on the block: the doorman to a high rise building, trying to clear a path for people to get out of the building to walk their dogs, quickly.

I mention this trudging, cold and alone, because yesterday, my daughter's international award winning cat died. Not a pedigree, far from it, but a cat filled with personality and beauty that was almost instantly recognizable. Friendly to a fault with everyone, except maybe other cats, he was a "very fine cat indeed," as Samuel Johnson would say.

I was both the first and last person this cat came to, as we adopted him into our family twelve years ago as a four month old "adult" (that's what North Shore classified him as, and even had him in the old fogies section). My daughter had been bugging her mom and I for a cat, as we only had the one, and so one day, fate stepped in in the form of a dead car battery ahead of a three hour drive one October morning (the first, as I recall). The battery was replaced, but it was way too late to make the trip, so instead, we unpacked and heaed to North Shore Animal League.

Intriguing place, I have to say. They won't release a pet for adoption until they've fully vetted the new owners, including calling references.

We were browsing, when I saw this small black cat amidst a cage full of larger adults. I slid a finger into the cage, and all the cats except this one ignored me. He, on the other hand, came trotting over to me, and sniffed my finger and rubbed against it, marking me as his.

I brought my daughter over and the "old fogey" was still at the front of the cage, peering down at us. I lifted my daughter off the ground and he sniffed her as well. We got the attention of a handler, who opened the cage and carried the cat to a shelf along the wall where we could hold and stroke him.

The handler put him down, but another family had a grey tabby near there, who immediately came over to investigate us. This black cat practically knocked him off the shelf to get between us.

The rest is history.

Our cat (who will remain nameless in order to protect my daughter's privacy, as they are inextricably linked) had been ill for a while now, barely eating, unable to jump up onto the bed any longer.

Yesterday, while my daughter was showering, he came to me, begged to be on the bed. I lifted him up and petted his bony, scrawny body. He lay next to me for a moment, then jumped down to the floor.

I heard him cough, wheeze, and then begin to stir.

In his last moments, he walked into the doorway, looked up at me with terror in his eyes, pupils fully dilated despite the light, and coughed again. He turned a tight turn, and collapsed. He stopped breathing.

So, no snark. I'm mourning heavily, but I wanted to thank my cat (for in truth, he was mine, despite my daughter's ownership). And so here it is:

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart

Touch me
It's so easy to leave me
All alone with the memory
Of my days in the sun
If you touch me
You'll understand what happiness is

A new day has begun

And so, today I trudge.

UPDATE: Today, I heard from the company he was the "spokescat" for, who expressed their deepest sympathy and condolences and even posted a short obit on their website. I was very touched. It's been a while since he retired.

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