Thursday, November 26, 2015

Simon

It's Thanksgiving today, Thursday 11/26/2015. Currently you are at your Nana's with the rest of the family, eating probably about a ton of good food (as you should be) :)

My first picture of Simon
I'm having a bit of a quiet day. A couple of good friends invited me to share their Thanksgiving, but I'd prefer to be by myself today. We'll have our Thanksgiving tomorrow, but today I'm not good company.

The day before yesterday I took Simon to the vet. There had been a number of odd behaviors, each one of which meant little in itself, but taken together, they indicated something was seriously wrong: Simon had always been first to the door to greet me when I got home, and lately was arriving late, if at all. She had stopped sleeping up on the bed, nestled near me and spent most of her time under your bed. She had started missing the litter box - not unknown.. on occasion she would walk the front half of her body in, but leave the "business end" outside. But now it was a regular event for her to pee just beside the box as though she just didn't have the strength to step over the side). And most telling - she had stopped eating. At first I thought it was just because she wanted the soft food I give Duncan (who is missing some teeth), so I began giving her that. But then she stopped eating that - and it became evident she was losing weight. Lots of weight.

So I made an appointment with the vet. Simon HATES the carrier and has always been fearful of anything new, so I hated to do it, but something was so obviously wrong. You and I practiced with her for two days before. You came up with the stratagem of  placing a trail of treats into the box. And for two days it worked like a charm... she walked into the box.

At 1:30 on 11/24 I took off from work and came home. Duncan greeted me first, but I put her in the spare bedroom for the time being. Eventually Simon came down the hall to greet me - slowly. I out out the treats, but after nosing them, she turned away. I finally had to pick her up and put her in the carrier. What was most alarming was the fact that she let me.

And off we went.

She was so good at the vet, nuzzling the doctor and presenting her head to be petted. They drew some blood and said they would be back in about ten minutes with the results. Simon settled down on my jacket while I petted her and talked to her and she purred.

And the results were that it was cancer. The doctor said that he could pump her full of fluids to take care of the dehydration, but that ultimately there was nothing ahead for her but pain.

And that was something I was not going to allow happen.

A year of two before you were born, when your Mom and I lived way out in the country, one chilly, pre-dawn morning I was out with Wicker, letting her take her first pee of the day. And out of the dark woods came a gray kitty. She and Wicker looked at each other, carefully touched noses, and then - some unspoken agreement having been made - both went about their business. And while Wicker looked endlessly for the perfect pee spot, the gray kitty rubbed against my legs and purred.

And the next day, we went through the same ritual of sniffing and purring. And the next. And the next.

In fact, any time I was outside, my little gray shadow would appear. When I was working in the garden, she would follow me until I knelt down in in one spot to work, whereupon she would lie down a foot or two away and doze contentedly in the sun.

My two babies
That continued until one morning, as I reached to pet her, Simon backed away. A further (careful) examination showed that something had attacked her - her hindquarters had been badly raked. Somehow your mother and I got her in the carrier and got her to a vet, who cleaned the wounds to prescribed a salve. And for the next several weeks, Simon lived indoors with us and Wicker while she healed.

And when the healing was complete, I opened the front door to give her her freedom. Simon, sleeping in a sunbeam in the dining room, raised her head, looked out the front door, then turned her head to look directly at me as if to say "Are you out of your damned mind???" Then back down and went to sleep.

Older babies
And so Simon came indoors to stay. And became my shadow - for she was unquestionably MY cat. She was fine with everyone else, but I was her preferred human and she wanted to be wherever I was.

All she asked from life was food and affection. Your mama called her the "the Lap Shark" because once you sat down, she would begin to circle.. and the next thing you knew you had a purring cat in your lap. She LOVED to have her ears rubbed - although she was also prone to present her belly for attention as well. And unlike Duncan, who arrived later, she could never get enough.

Guarding Dad
She was there when I was sick. She was there when I was lonely. She was there when your mama left, and there when we moved. If I came home, she would rush to greet me. If I laid down, she would snuggle in next to me. If I sat, she would be in my lap (if I got up and came back she would be in my spot soaking up the residual warmth and would quack in annoyance when I made her move).

She did not like it when we left her alone to visit your grandmother. On at least one memorable occasion, when we got home she came running but stopped dead a few feet away. When I reached to pet her, she backed up - just out of my reach. When I moved forward, she would back up again - never breaking eye contact. After about an hour of this, she decided I had been punished enough and allowed me to make up with her.

Although mostly Russian Blue, she was not purebred and showed signs of other breeds. When she would come to me for her first petting of the morning, her tail - held straight in the air - would vibrate with excitement. And on those occasions, ever so briefly, you could glimpse faint black and gray stripes running from the tip to about six-eight inches in. I used to love that. And I think she may have had a touch of Siamese, as I never met another cat who was so vocal. Unlike Duncan, who pretty much just meows, Simon seemed  to carry on conversions, with a wide, articulate range of barks and quacks, and trills. She talked you you especially, and the two of you used to sometimes sit for 10-15 minutes talking back and forth.

How we ended most days
She rarely played (although sometimes early in the morning she would stalk my feet under the sheets), ignored the catnip and toys we bought her, and despite having a nice fluffy bed, preferred to sleep in my laptop case

The only misbehavior she ever displayed, was with garbage. Apparently her time "on the street" left her with a need to steal food (even if she had just been fed) and I could not leave the kitchen trash back unattended for any length of time without finding the side ripped open and various nasty things pulled out.

My last picture of her
But that was it. She was patient and tidy and loving. Wherever I went, and whatever I did, she was always close by, my little sweet shadow. And so we grew old together, she and I, good and comfortable friends. Most evenings ended with me, a good book, and a dozing kitty snuggled beside. She was always there for me.

Until last Tuesday, when I needed to be there for her.

They gave her a sedative, and I stoked her head while she slowly drifted off to sleep. The vet asked if I wanted to step away while they gave her the last shot. But that is not what a friend does. I had promised her I would be with her to the end, and so I continued to stroke her head and talk to her until finally she had slipped away across the black sands.

I went back to work to finish out my shift. And when I came home, for the first time in a dozen years, there was no one to greet me. I gathered the shovel and carried her out back where I laid her to rest in the garden outside my window next to Wicker.

I held it together till I got back inside, then I sat on the kitchen floor and keened.