Letting Go #1:
Two weeks ago we said good-bye to one of our three cats. Not even two months into my “Nine” year, and already a completion—not one that I expected. He isn’t the oldest pet—only ten years of age. But he was easily our sweetest, and always one of the main attractions in our house. People would come just to see him. A Siamese/Burmese mix called a “Tonkinese,” our feline tipped the scales at over 23 pounds at his biggest. He loved canned cat food, ear rubs, a good party, home repairmen and good ol’ rock n’ roll (southern rock to be exact). In fact, when I made unearthly noises on the electric guitar I was trying to learn, he came running in the room rather than make a quick escape like the rest of the family. If he drank beer, I believe it would have been Red, White and Blue.
He originated from a feral litter in rural Kansas. He was rescued and bottle fed by a Kansas City mom, and found his way to me through my vet at the tender age of four weeks, barely weaned and blue eyes wide open. Shocked at how something so exotic could come from the plains of the Midwest, I named him Sasha, which sounded very unusual and Dr. Zhivago-ish. Unfortunately, most people thought he was a female who was about to give birth at any moment. (Hey, there was a boy Sasha in Peter and the Wolf, for crying out loud.)
Anyway, from day one, he thought food was his mother and nursed his food bowl. Yep, we have the pictures. And weight was gained. And yes, we did put him on a diet for many years. Somehow, he could gain weight with limited amounts of diet food. And no, we didn’t give him treats on the side. It was just the way he was made. He would sit for hours tucked up for all the world like a Buddha—could calm you down and lower your heart beat just by watching him. He’d lie still all night next to my sick child serving as a big, furry water bottle. He became one with the grass outside, while birds and critters passed by completely unconcerned that he was a carnivore. Truth was, Sasha couldn’t catch a mouse if his life depended on it. I remember well the day one of my other cats carried a live mouse over to Sasha, dropped it right in front of the big guy’s placid face as an offering, and watched in kitty disbelief as Sasha calmly observed the mouse complete a desperate escape through the yard. Whether it was compassion, or just plain boredom, Sasha was never a threat to wildlife.
Perhaps his lack of exercise was his undoing. Or his loving nature. It was Sasha’s heart that gave out. My daughter thought it fitting that his life ended because his heart was too big. After watching him struggle to breathe with his fluid-filled lungs for four days, the whole family made the last trip to the vet—it was the least we could do for a gentle soul. He left this world peacefully, falling asleep to the sound of our voices, surrounding him with love.
It goes without saying that we miss him. And that we wonder where he is. He’s showed up in some of my dreams, usually early morning when he used to hang around the bed yelling for breakfast (that high Siamese yell that sounded like “help”). Sometimes, I think I see him out of the corner of my eye in his usual haunts. Mostly, I feel his absence. Some folks think there’s a special heaven for animal souls. My Spiritualist friends say that beloved pets are waiting for us on the other side. The reincarnation experts believe that our friends keep coming back in different bodies—even human ones. (That might explain why the strays that keep showing up at my doorstep have a familiar look in their eyes—old boyfriends, perhaps?)
Wherever he is, I hope he is happy, eating as much as he wants, eternally having his head scratched, watching repairman butt cracks to his heart’s content, the life of the heavenly party. Rock on, big guy.