Monday, May 28, 2007

The best I can manage: cat stories.

I have been unable to write of late; between the pain, the fatigue, and the meds, I’m having too much trouble with short-term memory and linear thought to work on my books or blog- but not writing is even more frustrating than writing crap, so I’ve been casting about for something I can still do in this condition. I find that older memories come through clearly, so perhaps I can reminisce.

I’ve written of our oldest cat, Laurie, twice before- here , and here . As I imply in those anecdotes, she can be a handful sometimes- in fact, in the early days, I didn’t even like her all that much. We took care of her because she had become what used to be called a “Chinese obligation”. I’m sure that’s not PC, but I don’t know what the modern term would be. Something tonight, however, reminded me of the incident in which she won my heart- the single deed that pays for all her sins.

This occurred about eight years ago, when she was actually the youngest of six, the bottom of the totem pole. Laurie was always more of a cat’s cat than a people’s cat; she worshipped the ground the Alpha Female, an imperial Siamese named Gato, walked on, even though the love was never returned. She accepted that newcomers get hazed, and never caused any fuss among the cats. (She reserved her temper for the inferior humans) She took abuse from the Alpha Male- a light ginger/dark cream tabby named Tommyknocker- in good humor, even though he was a third her size.

Then Gato got inoperable cancer. We were told that although she would get ever weaker, there would be no pain until the end- so there was no point spoiling her quality of life with treatments that would only buy her weeks and not cure her. So we treated Gato as usual, with the only symptoms at first being that she slept more than usual. It soon became apparent, even to the other cats, that she was sick. she was weak, she drooled, she could no longer yowel as only a Siamese cat can.

Then came the day when we put down a plate of tuna for Gato, and Tommyknocker shouldered her aside for first dibs. Laurie streaked across the kitchen like a furry missile and hit Tommyknocker so hard he rolled over twice before he could react. She sat stiffly in front of that plate of tuna- never even looking at it- until Gato came back and ate her share. Then, and only then, could the others re-enter the kitchen. From that moment until Gato went to the vet the last time, all food and treats were protected by Laurie until Gato exercised her right of first refusal. You could put a plate of Salmon down right in the middle of them, and they would all back off three feet and wait until Gato inspected the plate- even if it took an hour for her to wake up and smell it. God help them if they didn’t.

Laurie’s defense of Gato’s rights won my heart. Behavioral psychologists and vets and such can talk all they want about pecking orders, and pack mentality, etc.. Laurie was the biggest cat in the house by a 50% margin, and the baddest by an even bigger margin- she could have been dominant from the moment she entered the house had she wanted... but she gave an elegant old lady her dignity in her last days- and then returned to her place behind Mehitabel in the seniority list! In my book, she earned more brownie points than she will ever be able to spend in this life.


ms. kitty said...

Joel, I"m so sorry you're feeling puny. But I did appreciate the Laurie story. Get well soon, friend!

ms. kitty said...

Joel, are you feeling any better? We miss your wisdom out here around the campfire!