Hey There Little Beezlebuddy

Beezle came to us on Halloween 1994. Quite literally as soon as the jack-o-lantern (which Brian had carved in the likeness of a cat) was lit.  I was inside, fussing with decorations and candy and heard a loud “D’oh!” from the front porch, where Brian had just set the Jack-o-lantern.  I stuck my head out the door and asked what was wrong. Brian just pointed dramatically down the stairs.

First just the tips of little black ears appeared.  Then huge golden eyes followed by nose, whiskers, and chin appeared over the first step.  Finally, a fuzzy little body with a spiky black tail.   “Hey there, little Beezlebuddy!” (We’d been watching the Simpson’s.). Not even a second’s thought as to what his name would be.   I took one look at him and started cooing.  He looked at me and started purring.  True love was born that night.

For the first year or so Beezle would nurse on my ear.  He’d crawl up next to me, start pattypawing my hair and neck, and very gently chew on my earlobe like a little bat.  When he was finished, he’d give this soft exhalation (he always made a little ‘foof!’ sound) and fall asleep, nose in my ear.  Brian thought the whole nursing on the ear thing was a bit weird.  One day, in a particular grouchy mood, he grumbled, “That’s just wrong.”  Beezle stopped nursing, both of us looking at Brian as I said in my best Mrs. Peacock (X-Files fans, you’ll get the reference) “You don’t understand the love a son has for his mother.”  To which Brian yelled, “Gross!” and started laughing.  After that he made references to Morgan LeFay and Mordred, and Norman and Mrs. Bates.

Okay, so Beezle and I had a kind of strange, symbiotic relationship. But see, he was my first born son.

He also had a special meow he used just for me; a high-pitched kitten “meeeeeuw!” that just broke my heart every time I heard it.  Brian swore up and down Beezle’s REAL meow was a raucous throaty ‘raaawr.’ I wasn’t buying it.  Until one morning I wandered into the kitchen from the living room as Brian was feeding the cats.  Beezle stared up at him hungrily and meowed … a throaty raaaaowrrr’ that sounded nothing like my little kitten.  I started laughing and the look on Beezle’s face was priceless. I’ve never seen a cat look sheepish before.  Almost immediately he ran over to me and gave his little kitten “meeeeeuw!”  But he was so busted…

When Beez was almost a year old, I went to Michigan for three weeks to do a Halloween show and theatrical combat workshop with friends.  I’d never been gone more than a day since he’d shown up, up until this point.  When I got home from the trip, he ignored me. All the other cats ran up for love, excited Mom was home, but Beezle turned his back on me and went under a table.  No amount of coaxing would get him back out.  So I left him alone for a bit, hoping he’d forgive me given enough time.  A half hour later I felt something by my feet, looked down and saw Beezle staring up at me with the most intense, stricken expression I’ve ever seen on a cat. If a cat had eyebrows, his would be furrowed.   I picked him up and he put both paws around my neck, purring fiercely as if to say, “Don’t ever leave me for that long again!” And I never did.

When Luna, an older female cat who was also the alpha feline of the house, had to be put to sleep due to cancer, we had the vet come into the house so she’d be at home in comfort and amongst the people and cats who loved her.  Beezle stayed on the bed with her while the vet administered the injection.  Beezle then curled up around Luna’s body as if trying to warm her back up.  I have pictures, but they’re too heartbreaking to post.  I still cry when I look at them.  It was unbearably poignant to see him with her.  Beezle adored Luna and when she passed, he took over as alpha.

Whereas Luna was a benevolent ruler (she’d only smack the other cats around when they annoyed her), Beezle ruled with an iron paw in velvet-furred gloves.  He had the feline intimi-stare down to perfection and didn’t hesitate to use it.  His position as alpha remained unchallenged even after I moved with him and four other cats to San Francisco, eventually adding more felines to the population.  Some of the new cats were (and are) hellraisers, but none of them ever challenged Beezle’s reign.

About six or seven months ago, Beezle started losing weight for no apparent reason.  Dave and I took him to the vet’s and got the senior blood panel done. He got a clean bill of health.  Which didn’t rule out the possibility of something like cancer, but at his age (sixteen) even if cancer was diagnosed, there wouldn’t be anything we could do for him without drastically reducing his quality of life.  Our vet said to keep an eye on his weight, feed him as much as he wanted, and we’d go from there.  So we kept feeding him anything he wanted (including people food – he was very fond of scallops) and let him get away with behavior like sitting next to/nearly on top of my plate so he had first dibs on scraps.  Beezle kept losing weight, however, and another visit to the vet brought us no joy.  I’ll spare you the details beyond the fact my first born son was fading away in front of my eyes and there wasn’t anything I could do about it beyond continue to love him, spoil him rotten, and search for food to tempt a now decreasing appetite.

I had ten days off over the Christmas/New Year’s holidays and made a list of “to-do’s” that I couldn’t wait to tackle.  It included things like clean the garage, sort through all my clothes, sew, tae-bo every day, finish at least two short stories, etc.  Instead I got sick the weekend before Christmas and spent most of the holidays on the couch recovering from a nasty ass cold/flu either reading or watching movies.  Beezle spent most of the holidays sitting on my lap or sleeping next to me at night, getting more concentrated attention than he had since he was a wee kitten nursing on my earlobe.

The week I went back to work Beezle’s conditioned worsened.  We could barely get him to eat anything in the mornings, although he’d still show interest in my food (particularly scallops), which insured he’d get as much of it as he wanted.   Wednesday day he wouldn’t eat.  Wednesday night, however, he sat on my lap and ate meat from a taco.  He drank a ton of water.  It was so hard to tell what to do because one of the signs of a cat who’s ready to go is when they stop eating and drinking… and Beezle never really stopped, he just slowed down.  Picking him up was painful; there was nothing but skin and bones under his fur (which remained plush throughout). He had trouble jumping up on things and was shaky when he walked.  That night he slept with me, barely moving at all. He mewed his baby kitten meow a few times, something I hadn’t heard since he was a youngster.  I woke up early in the morning to hear him purring as he crawled up closer to me, resting his chin on my hand.  We both fell back asleep… and I knew it was time to have the vet come over to the house so he could go without suffering.

Beezle wasn’t moving much Thursday morning, just lying next to the bed.  He purred when I kissed him goodbye.   I ran out in a hurry, not wanting to be late. I called the vet’s office when I got to work to see if they could come over that night and take care of things.  I had to wait for our vet to call back when she got out of surgery, which wouldn’t be until the afternoon, but it turned out it wasn’t necessary.  Dave called me around 11:00 to see if I could come home; he didn’t think Beezle would make it until the evening.  He’d been having little seizures and mewing like a kitten for the last hour. Dave had never heard his baby meow and didn’t know what to make of it.   Dave held the phone up to Beezle’s ear and I talked to him, told him Mom was coming home and that I loved him and to try to hold on till I got there, but no matter what, his momma loved him.  I told Dave I’d be home as soon as I could and dashed out the door.

When I got home Dave was holding a still and silent Beezle in his arms.  He told me that as soon as Beezle had heard my voice on the phone he’d stopped meowing, stopped having seizures and faded out.  As much as it broke my heart that I didn’t make it home in time to be with him when he passed, I like to think he was waiting for his mom before letting go of his life and moving on to join Luna in whatever afterlife exists for animals. And hearing my voice allowed him to let go.

There’s a quote about someone’s idea of heaven being the place where all the pets we’ve ever loved greet us when we get there… and that works for me.  Until then…  I love you, Beezle.  You were my first born son, my pride and joy, and the best Halloween treat anyone could ask for.

Some Thoughts on Losing Pets

Yesterday my beloved cat Beezle died.  If you’re an animal lover, pet owner, whatever you want to call it, you’ll understand why I spent much of my morning in the bathroom at work crying when I lost the battle to keep it together at the front desk.  You’ll also relate to my referring to my cats as my children.  If you’re not, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about.  You may be outraged at my equating my love for my cats to your love for your possibly multiple offspring.    To which I say your value judgment is not welcome in my world.  

Don’t get me wrong. I love children.  I adore my nieces and nephews and have been known to go all gooey over cute babies.  I’m a wonderful babysitter, aunt and godmother.  I probably take more safety precautions when I’m looking after someone else’s kids than they do themselves.  I have actually been told to ‘chill out’ by some of these parents, who look at my constant scanning of rooms for potential sharp corners on which the child could be injured as kind of comical.  This is one of the reasons I don’t actually have any human children of my own. I’d probably drive myself — and them — insane by my ‘must wrap in cotton batting’ attitude combined with a singular lack of patience with many of the things that go hand in hand with parenthood. 

 On the other hand, I have what has been called a remarkable patience with felines (I’m not as good with dogs although I do also love them) and can put up with behavior and messes from my cats that would drive a normal person mad.  I don’t like the messes and both myself and Dave get tired of the cleanup necessary to live in a house with multiple felines without having our friends walk in and say politely, “Wow, cats, huh?”   But it’s worth it because of the love and joy our little furry darlings bring us.   Which brings me to the main point of this post. 

 Yes, there is a difference between losing a child and losing a pet.  No one expects to have a child die before them – it’s (in theory) a lifetime commitment and it’s also tied into issues of the parents’ mortality, their line carrying on, etc… We know our pets probably aren’t going to outlive us and that the time with them is finite. But it doesn’t mean the love and commitment we feel towards them is any less valuable than the love a parent has for his/her child, or the grief at their loss any less painful or real.  It’s just easier to accept because we know it’s going to happen and our expectations are set.  It’s not something anyone has the right to place a value judgment on in terms of importance or what we should or shouldn’t feel. Please try and remember this the next time someone you know is dealing with the death of a pet. 

And keep in mind that the words “What’s the big deal?  It’s just a cat (or dog)” won’t just make you stupid and insensitive, but will put you right up there in Major Asshat territory and you will deserve the black eye you might very well get from a rightfully enraged pet owner. 



The Best Laid Plans…

I have a resolution for 2011 and that is to make no resolutions.  I came to this conclusion after excitedly making a list of to-do’s for my ten days off over the Christmas holidays (do tae-bo or yoga every day in addition to my daily walks on the beach; bake cookies; sew some gifts; clean out my part of the garage; organize my beach glass and shells; sort through clothes and other belongings for sale/friends/charity/trash; write every day and get at least two stories done for upcoming anthologies).   I was hyped about all of these things, full of energy at the thought of ten days to get my life in order, by thunder!  Instead I got sick two weeks ago today, dragged myself into work for the first three days until my vacation started, and was pretty much ill for the duration with maybe two days feeling relatively healthy, overdoing it, and getting sick again.

I did manage a few batches of cookies and some sewing, and had some nice walks on the beach in between some butt-ass cold and windy days where my common sense actually overcame my “I…Must…Walk!” attitude and I stayed home, but organizing, sorting, exercising and writing were all busts because I just can’t think when I’m ill.  We’re talking your basic fever/congestion alternating with runny nose/aches/chills/exhaustion type bug.  I have no idea what it was/is (still kicking it off and not happy about having to go back to work tomorrow) and it doesn’t really matter.  I figure it was my body’s way of saying “Enough, beeootch!”  so I’d take some time off and just rest and relax, something I’ve lost the art of doing somewhere along the last few years.

Problem with this is while intellectually I know I needed the rest, emotionally I refused to accept it and proceeded to beat myself up over my inability to get my shit together and accomplish all the things on my list.  This led to a fairly comprehensive depression (NOT my natural state and one I don’t handle at all gracefully), a state not helped by the fact Dad died last year on December 27th or the declining health of my oldest feline, Beezle.  Lots of mortality issues going on here.  I spent a lot of time on the couch with Beezle curled up next to me on or on my lap.

At first I tried to write, but even emails were a struggle.  A story I actually have plotted out in my head is still stuck in there with only a few paragraphs to show for literally hours of computer time trying to get the damn thing written.  Much bleakness and self-loathing ensued.

Did I mention I don’t do depression well?

Finally after a meltdown New Year’s Eve right before midnight (not that I placed any expectations on New Year’s Eve as heralding in a better new year or anything…Nope, not me!), I thought about the correlation between stress and illness; the fact most of the people I’ve known who’ve gotten cancer or some other major illness tended to be workaholics, martyr types, or just people who refuse to give themselves a break when it come to down time. I took a look at the last week and a half and the time I’ve spent with Beezle and my other cats; more quiet time than I’ve had with them in literally years.  I considered how hard I work what with my day job (at least a half hour overtime every day), commute time, and all the writing I’ve accomplished in the last three years. I thought about what I want to accomplish in 2011 and thought maybe I’d make a list of resolutions.  And then I saw this cartoon and saw Type A Dana refusing to accept relaxation as an option ’cause it’s Just. Not. Productive!   So I grabbed Type A Dana by the shirt front, bitch-slapped her and told her to shut the eff up and deal with the down time without making me feel like a worthless slacker.

No resolutions!   If I make a list and can’t live up to it, I’ll just beat myself up over my failure to achieve results. I know what I want to accomplish and what I need to get done in order to do so.  The important thing here is to appreciate each day no matter what it brings, to enjoy time spent with family, friends and felines … and to learn to relax while I do the things that need to get done and the things that I want to do.  Funny thing is if I just remember to stop beating myself up by not living up to a self-imposed list, what I need and what I want tend to be the same things.