Hellooo, I'm new here. This is pretty much just a way to cope for me. Writing this has really made me a little more at ease. Trying to remember and share the good times as well as the bad. Hopefully the good parts will make you laugh as much as I have. My goofy girl had such a sense of humor and really brightened my life. (Sorry, I didn't realize this would be so long! But it was sooo therapeutic to just write. Thank you. =X)
Monday morning, the 13th of September 2010, I had to make the hardest decision of my life. My 13yr old cat Tiger, affectionately known as "Poots", has been in poor health for a couple weeks. She had always been a very small cat, and over the past couple years had been very skinny. But over the weekend, she stopped eating all together, refusing (politely, as was her way) every one of her usual favorite treats.
She lay under my bed, only rousing when I knelt down and lifted the bed skirts to check on her. She would give me a "Yeah, Yeah, Ma. I'm fine. Don't worry about it." look, then lie back down. Once this general lethargy and disinterest in everything started, I started to really worry. I just had a feeling that it was nearing the end, so I vowed to myself that I'd take her to the vet first thing Monday morning.
Sunday night, I was a mess. I knew in my gut what I had to decide, and what was going to transpire on the vet visit. I sat with her in short intervals as she'd let me (if I sat too long, she'd look at me and complain, she always was very particular about her alone time), as she had migrated to the family room where it was cooler and darker. It was around 3am, and I was just talking to her, discussing previous cat adventures and funny moments we had shared. I have ALWAYS heard, "When it's time, they'll let you know." I looked at Poots, kissed her on the head and said "I just hope I am doing the right thing by you." She looked at me with her 'Oh, you're so dumb, ma! But it's ok, because you're cute and I adore you.' look, and readjusted herself to put rest paw on my leg. We just sat there for a while, until she decided it was good enough, and rolled over with a groan.
That morning, I held her in my arms wrapped in her favorite blanket as we drove to the animal clinic. She was so frail. I was trying to hard to stay steady, stay strong, so she wouldn't get any more upset. Tiger was always very upset about leaving the house. She was definitely a one-person-cat, she was comfortable with me, tolerated my parents when they had food, and pretty much hated everything and everyone else. It was always disappointing to me that none of my friends or girlfriends could understand or appreciate just how and why I loved "demon cat" (as they called her) so, so much. I let out a couple muffled sobs, and Tiger in her ever-mothering way just looked up at me from my arms with that adoring look in her poor, frail sunken-in eyes. She was so sick, so uncomfortable, but she still was trying to comfort me.
The vet didn't tell me anything I didn't know. End stage kidney failure, only real option was to flush her system out with fluids and maybe give her another week before things got back to the same or worse. He was nice enough, sympathetic and you could tell he loved the animals, but there was a certain dis-attachment with the way he did things. The type of dis-attachment I suppose you have to develop in a job like that. (Even sitting in that sterile-smelling room with the cold fluorescent lighting, my cat brightened it up and made me smile. Unable to even sit up on her own, Tiger, in true Tiger fashion, wouldn't stop growling at the vet's assistant.)
Tiger was my first real pet. The first pet who I could say without a doubt was MINE, heart and soul. Oh, I loved her, and she loved me back just as unconditionally. Everyone who was close to me, at one time or another, commented on the fact that "Tiger really loves you. You can tell by the way she looks at you." I suppose that's true for any pet, though. All you pet owners know 'that look'. I never imagined I could be that close to another living soul, I had no idea I had the capacity for that intense, heart-wrenching, mind-blowing kind of love. If anything, I really have to thank her for that.
I made the decision without really realizing I made a decision at all. My cat was hurting. My poor, sweet, loving feline soul-mate was suffering and had all but given up herself. I had the power to put her at ease, so I did. As hard as it was to decide to end her life, it was even harder seeing her suffer.
(And please, anyone who's had to do that before-- Do you think they know what's happening? And please tell me it doesn't hurt them past the needle sting. She looked up, confused look on her face, as the doctor put the needle in her arm and that look haunts me every waking second.)
We buried her right outside my window, in what used to be a little garden. I think in the spring I'm going to plant some pretty flowers, something that will come back every year. That'd be nice to look at, Tiger's flowers. I talk to her, looking at her grave. My father told me, "It's just a grave. Just a body. She's not there anymore, she's in a better place." and told me the Rainbow Bridge poem. That's how I found this place, actually. So I have my dad to thank for that. I really wish he had found this place when he lost his dog last year, I think I'll show him anyway.
Tiger was a feral kitten and you could always tell. She was born in a barn on my grandpa's farm, and he caught 3 kittens in a raccoon trap for myself and my two sisters. I happened to pick the smallest, most vicious one of the bunch-- a tiny little pumpkin colored tabby cat with bright green eyes that were almost too big for her face. She had little freckles on her nose, and that little kitten lived under a counter in our kitchen for about a month until she warmed up to me. We used to call her a rattlesnake because whenever any of us got within 10ft of her, she'd start shaking her tail and hissing like a demon. (The tail-shaking was something she kept all her life, whenever she was excited her tail would shake uncontrollably, I always loved that.) Her purr was like a car with a belt loose, some whiskers were curled and her ears were a little too big for her head. She had the most gorgeous fur I've ever seen on a cat. Technically a short hair, but longer and luxurious-- she always paid such great attention to grooming herself. She was just as proud of her good looks as I was. Everyone always said she was a beautiful cat, but I knew she was inside and out.
Once she warmed up to me, the bond was there and it was set in stone. She was mine and I was hers mind body and soul completely and totally and wild horses couldn't drag us away from each other. When she was small, she would ride around on my shoulders like a little bird. She got too big for that, obviously, so she settled on being toted around on my hip like a toddler; always wrapping her little arms around my neck and burying her face in my hair. She would sleep with me every night, sometimes at my feet, sometimes wrapped around my head. There was a point once we moved that she woke me up every night to escort her to her litter box, presumably because she forgot where it was (but part of me thinks just to pester me. my cat, like most, had a wild sense of humor.)
Due to my weird work hours, she and I kept the same odd schedule-- we were nocturnal creatures most definitely. She sat with me at my computer every night, back half of her on the computer tower, front half in my lap. She would escort me to the kitchen, always helping or trying to convince me to feed her whatever I was eating. "People food is SO much better than cat food, Ma!" I do regret not sharing more with her, I always refrained from overfeeding her. If I had known I had such a short time with her on this earth, I'd have given her as much as her little belly could hold.
She was with me always. Through the good and the bad. She comforted me when I was sad over break-ups or fights with significant others, over family issues, when I had my feelings hurt, etc... and never complained or had better things to do. She just listened, in her own cat way, and would lie with me until I calmed down sufficiently. I did my best to do the same for her. Once my grandmother put dog flea medication on her (and oh, she felt so guilty. but it was an accident, and she didn't know it could be so harmful.) After an emergency trip to the vet and two injections in her arms, poor Poots was madder than a hornet and her little arms hurt. She cried and cried, and I stayed up the entire night with her, massaging her shoulders to ease the pain. (School the next morning was a nightmare! But at least Tiger felt better. She would have done the same for me.)
That cat shared so much with me in the 13 years we had together. Laughter, tears, good times, bad times, and worse times. We fought sometimes, got annoyed with each other, sometimes on purpose out of mischief or meanness. I miss her so terribly, and it's only been a day. I keep seeing her out of the corner of my eye or hearing phantom purrs and scritches at my door. She showed me an unconditional love that I never knew existed, a love that I could not begin to deserve in a thousand lifetimes. Tiger taught me more about love and forgiveness than any book or pastor ever could hope to. I hope she felt at least one ounce of the love and devotion I had for her. I refuse to sit and regret things left undone or unsaid. All that matters is what WAS done and what WAS said. We had a wonderful life together, and even though it was short, I will always cherish that fact. These memories are all I have left now, and I swear to remember them always.
I just worry I'll never love another soul as much as I love and have loved her. Part of me, the part with a flair for the dramatic, wants to say "No, never! There will never be another Tiger, I'll never love again!" The realistic part of me says, "No, there won't ever be another Poots. But that's the funny thing about love, it always comes back to you in one shape or another. You can't live without Love. This shattered heart and soul will heal." Love is funny that way. You can love something with all your heart, but nothing is permanent. No matter how much we will it to be so in those complicated human brains of ours. We focus so much on our own mortality that we forget to live. Cherish life, eat, drink, and (most importantly) love like you'll die tomorrow. Our animal friends figured that out a long time ago, they're just waiting for us to be so enlightened.
But you know, I see her everywhere I look. I saw her little excitable shaky tail in tree leaves gyrating in the autumn wind. I saw that lazy grace, as only a cat can have, in the slow soft dance of puffy clouds in the sky. Are those the good-natured comforts of a best friend in another plane, is that her way of saying 'Hey doofus, I'm still here! You can't get rid of me that easy'? I'd like to think so.
There will forever be little Tiger-sized paw-prints on my heart. I love you, Poots.