For a Dear Departed Friend

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I lost a very dear friend recently. He was a tremendous comfort to me in a time of deep sorrow. His companionship, willingness to show and receive affection, warmth, and mischievously twinkling eyes buoyed my spirits innumerable times. I will miss him terribly. This blog post his about him.

I first met him at the Elmsford Animal Shelter in 2008. My daughter asked if I would take her to play with the cats. Just a month before, I had had to put down my cat, Dakota, after a prolonged illness. I received Dakota when she was just 6 weeks old and had lived with her for over 17 years. At the end, I held Dakota in my arms while the vet administered the dosage that relieved her pain and suffering and concluded this lifetime for her. Left alone with Dakota, I literally wailed and howled with my own pain and hurt. When I finally departed, carrying my heart-breakingly light pet carrier, the waiting room was packed with humans and their animal companions. Who knows what they thought my wailing and howling was—some poor, distressed animal, scared out of its mind, probably. Indeed, it was. I was.

I was not interested in getting a new cat, not for a long time anyway, and I told my daughter this. But I agreed to bring her, because I thought it was darling that she wanted to spend a Saturday afternoon showing affection to these poor animals in the shelter. We spent about two hours at the shelter, peering into cages, reading biographical statements about the adoptable critters, and occasionally asking for one to be removed so we could hold it. Among the darling animals we cuddled that day was a middle-aged blind cat, absolutely adorable and affectionate. Another was a juvenile tabby mix with splayed legs, sweetness personified. So like my daughter to be drawn to shower love on cats with physical problems (she’s very much like her mom in that regard).

As I was beginning to feel the urge to leave, I stopped before a large cage with three cats inside. As I read the laminated feline bios hanging from the cage door, an orange tabby paw stretched out between the bars and knocked all but one of the laminated cards out of my hand. The remaining card was for a cat the shelter had named Angel Buff. I looked up into the eyes of the owner of the offending paw, and what eyes they were. Golden. Not yellow. Golden. I’d never seen eyes that color before. I looked down at the card, and back at the cat, and once again at the card. It had been Angel Buff’s paw. I stared at him, he stared at me. Neither of us said a word until I asked a shelter volunteer to take him out of the cage.

To paraphrase J.K. Rowling, “The cat chooses the human.” This cat literally reached out and grabbed me. I accepted him from the volunteer and he immediately curled up in my arms, against my chest, purring like a jackhammer, closing his eyes. I didn’t know then that this would become a routine, this curling up on my chest, this immediate contentedness, this going to sleep almost uncomfortably close to my neck. But I knew I liked it. A lot. I didn’t want to let him go, even when I needed my hands to complete the paperwork.

Cat, medical and adoption forms, carrying box, food samples—everything came home with us, except the name. Cats deserve a good name, one with personality, one they can wear proudly. Angel Buff became Deuteronomy. But, like every pet I’ve ever had, he was never called by his full name. We called our new companion Dude, for short, and it fit him like a glove. “Dude, get off the dining room table.” “Dude, what have you been doing all day?” “Dude, stop clawing the carpet.” “Are you hungry, Dude?”

Dude was a mix of Siamese and domestic shorthair. He had the coloring of an orange tabby, but his body and head were pure Siamese. Small round head with overlarge ears and big round eyes. His whiskers protruded at odd angles, a bit like Salvador Dali’s moustache. Large, powerful hind legs and a short, thick tail. When he tried to saunter, as felines will do, he waddled instead. It was endearing.

Dude loved affection, craved having his ears rubbed, and eventually learned to enjoy exposing his belly for a prolonged scratching. He was curious, mischievous, naughty, adorable, hilarious, sensitive, and devoted nearly to the point of dog-hood (a point of embarrassment in the feline community, I’m sure).

Dude healed the raw place in my heart left behind by Dakota’s passing. Unsought, unbidden, he pawed his way into my life and took over. He insinuated himself into my heart, much the way he would insinuate himself between me and my body pillow every night at bedtime.

He was with us for too short a time, by a wide margin. He was but 9 years old when he passed from this life. I don’t know how or why he died, but he was peaceful and unruffled when I found him, so much so that I thought he was merely asleep at first. We shared a home for just three-and-a-half years, during which we shared a lifetime of love.

I am sad with loss at his death, but the memory of his life fills me with happiness and gratitude, turning tears of pain into tears of joy. He was a good boy, a good friend, a good being.

In this brief life, he amassed a wealth of positive karma as he tended to me and my family. I believe that a precious human birth and the possibility of enlightenment await him in his next life. I hope I get to meet him again soon.

Hey, Dude. See ya later. I love you.

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8 responses »

  1. My deepest sympathies for your loss. My ‘kitty sister’-so much more than a pet, rather a furry soul-mate, passed on a couple years ago. We did have a good long journey together-she’d moved with the family three times during the 12 years we had her (she was older when we adopted her-and of course she never told us just how old…).It’s always hard to move on, but hopefully another cat will choose you soon. I had a young stray step in to take up the slack-he’s the complete opposite but still incredibly delightful in his own special way.

    • Thanks, Janine. I’m looking forward to meeting my next feline companion. In the meantime, I’m trying to get closer to my daughter’s calico, but she’s not interested, especially now that my daughter is home from sleepaway camp!!

  2. I am so sorry to hear of your loss. Our animal friends become so embedded in our hearts, don’t they? I know Dude will always live in that quiet place in your heart that is reserved for our very best friends. He will never truly leave you as long as he dwells in that warm inner space. After all, he chose you, didn’t he? So he will always be a part of you.. May you meet again as the kindred souls you obviously became during his stay here on earth. Blessings to you both . . .

  3. Your beautiful post brought tears to my eyes. These transitions can be so painful – how blessed you both are to have loved each other so!

  4. I feel so connected to both you and Dude – he looks a lot like my Kittuu who left this world in Oct 2010 at 7 yrs old! I can feel every feeling you describe, both by experience and as an empath. You have my love, sympathy, and hugs too!

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