I haven’t taken the time to just sit and write in quite awhile. Life has gone a bit crazy. The world has gone a lot crazy. Some things that I had hoped wouldn’t come to pass have, both personally and at large.
I’ve had reason, the last couple of days, to realize and appreciate that I have the right people around me.
Not one person has said the words ‘It’s just a cat.’
Monday evening, I said goodbye to my 17 year old, sweet, lovely boy Gus (Copernicus), after he suddenly developed fluid in his belly. Tests proved that it was due either to cancer or heart failure. At his age and with his issues, treatments would only prolong his life enough for me to say goodbye, but he would suffer in the process. So I had to let him go from this life. I got to hold him in my lap, his favorite place in the world, and he fell asleep with his head in my hand.
He had been in my life since he was a six week old hellion cat and right off the bat I could tell he was special. And insane. And fearless.
He was goofy, loyal, curious, brave. He crossed the Atlantic twice, and lived in a foreign land. He charmed everyone he met, me most of all. He had every vet he ever met proclaim him so handsome and remarkably shiny for a cat his color/age/issues (right up until his last day). One vet kept asking if she could keep him. My landlord and friends in London adored him. Passersby on the street would stop below my window to admire him (and Leo).
He rarely purred…. except when he wanted to steal my food. Then the funniest little whirring sound would emanate from his lean, sleek body. Mostly he just curled up on my lap, insisting on it as soon as I was sitting down (and sometimes before I was completely settled). Usually he’d claw the crap out of my legs in the process, but I always slept better when he was there, curled up against my belly.
He loved to climb. Many times I would hear an odd scrabbling noise and look over to see him clinging gleefully to something far higher than he logically ought to be – a table leg when he was wee and bitty, door frames as he got older. Once he clung to a door frame only long enough to drop on top of my other cat (Hal) walking beneath him.
As a kitten he would burrow under my hair at night, at the back of my neck. As he got older he preferred to sleep against my belly or behind my knees. The last few weeks he occasionally slept on the pillow above my head.
He had huge ears, big golden-orange eyes, a loud voice that only got louder as he went deaf later in his life. He had megaesophagus, which made him choke, and asthma, so he occasionally wheezed, sometimes coughed or gasped. But through all of it he maintained, he’d be calmer though one of his fits if I was with him.
His resilience was immense, it matched his personality, a thousand times greater than his physical being.
He was a mighty panther in his mind, this tiny house panther in my heart.
He was my child, furry and not of my body, but still mine, as I was his person. He was mine from infancy to his ripe old age, and it hurts so intensely that I will no longer feel that cat gravity bearing down on my legs, the fuzzy little face asleep on my knee, hear the imperious yowl demanding dinner at all hours, feel the gentle sniffing nose touching mine in affection.
17 years is a long time to build a bond of love and trust with anyone.
I read something recently that people and animals come into our lives to teach us something, it’s up to us to grasp the lesson. It got me thinking what Gus taught me in our long yet still too brief time together.
This is what I’ve come up with:
He taught me to be brave, even when things are strange and a little (or a lot) scary.
He taught me to be curious and inquisitive, all the time.
He taught me it was ok to be friendly, to smile at strangers (but it’s ok to run away if things don’t seem right).
He taught me that sometimes things hurt, but that you can get through it.
He taught me trust, and that trust is a mighty thing.
He taught me that love is never wasted and can be found everywhere.
Life is precious. All life. Cherish the ones that cherish you in return, who treat you the way you should be treated, who trust you and demand the same, who love you with no expectations or conditions. People, animals, all things.
“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” – Mahatma Ghandi.
Love as if it’s the only lasting impression you ever make on the world. – Me. And Gus.