15 July 2011


Another one of our cats died last evening. Tiger was seventeen years old, a rather advanced age for a feline. And he had during his entire life been not well. He had found his way to our home when he was approximately one year old; he appeared on our front doorstep and cried out of hunger and fear, I think. Something about him didn’t look right: his legs were incredibly short and we couldn’t see his eyes set back in their sockets. And they were crusted over with pus; he smelled badly. But we gave him milk and a little food, vowing not to allow him into the house. Our resolve lasted about three days, and then we opened the front door for the stray who became Tiger.

We took him to the veterinarian who volunteered to attempt some repair on his eyes gratis, and we assured her that regardless of her success we would care for Tiger. In the end she was only marginally successful and for his entire life Tiger saw the world only through the thick, crusty screen that covered his eyes. Daily we would attempt to wipe the film clear, but soon his eyes would become caked again. I am certain that Tiger never got to see the world clearly; the condition of his eyes and abnormally shortened legs kept him close to home. In the warmer weather he might sit in the sun on the porch, but he did never venture too far into the yard, and he chased no birds, mice or moles.

Tiger was always a bit ornery: he did not get along well with the other cats and they tended to keep their distance. Keeping pretty much to himself, he was content enough given his disabilities. He was fed regularly, had a warm bed, and sometimes—though rarely—a lap on which to rest. He would sit at the base of the chair and squint up to identify who sat in the chair, and then with some effort he would jump up on my lap and ask to be petted by rubbing his jowls under my chin. The crust about his eyes smelled foully, but for a while I would accommodate him. He grew very heavy.
But when our daughter acquired kittens, and they longed for family, Tiger assumed that responsibility. He would clean the two of them, and they would occasionally groom him as well. The three of them occupied my favorite chair; I sought other rest. Tiger had purpose.

But over the past few months I noticed that he had slowed down dramatically, and yesterday I realized that I had not seen him in the public space for awhile; I went searching for him last evening at dinnertime, and I found him crawled into the too-small pet-carry case. I reached in and scratched his head, and he looked blindly up and cried three times; I think I understood. During the night he died where I had left him.

Dying is such a lonely affair.


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