For anyone who thinks that those of us who donated money to help the animals of Japan were wasting our money… please look at this man’s expression as he’s reunited with his dog after the tsunami. May many more reunions take place in the next few weeks…
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.
It’s been a rough few weeks. Last Wednesday night, we had to say goodbye to Haggis, our darling eight-month old kitten. He let us know he was ready to go…and we had our vet come to the house. He had 24/7 of attention and love from Dave and me from the moment we found out he had FIP; I took him to work with me a couple of days. He faded out slowly, but even at the end he still purred when he woke up and saw the two of us with him.
His sister, Taz, curled up with him every hour or so. If she wasn’t grooming him, she was coiled around him in a protective semi-circle. I spent a lot of time holding the two of them.
We got Haggis’s ashes back from the vet’s this morning. They came in a little polished pine box, complete with a lock and two little keys. We put the box in a vampire kitty container from one of Cost Plus’s Halloween collections, courtesy of my brother and sister-in-law. It was one of my favorite Christmas presents this year and perfect as a resting place for Haggis, who had overlong canines. I need to take a picture of the vampire kitty and post it. Just not yet
Grieving is a long process. You can’t rush it. I’m okay with that. I’m not okay with people telling me ‘get over it; it’s only a cat, fer crissake.’ Tell that to Taz, who periodically wanders around the house looking for her brother and meowing. If someone doesn’t relate to those of us who consider our animal companions (that’s the PC term for ‘pets’, in case you were wondering) part of our families, the best thing they can do (both for the sake of the bereaved and their own health) is keep their opinion to themselves. Seriously.
I hope this is the last post I’ll write for quite a while about grief and loss. I attended Left Coast Crime in Denver last weekend, am gearing up at a leisurely pace for a book signing tour in May with my new pal and fellow writer Jess Lourey, and have a lot of positive things happening in my life.
But damn, I miss that cat.