Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fred: the Mighty Hunter, Gentle Lion, Friend to All

I’m sorry to focus on somber subjects two days in a row. But if you read yesterday’s post, you’ll know that this is a continuation of something important. After this, I promise that I will lighten the mood tomorrow. Tomorrow I’ll write about something clever, like how that phrase ‘thinking outside the box’ is a phrase that is inside the box—that phrase by itself is a paradox. I know I’m the first one to think this.

Last night my mom took Fred, the mighty hunter, to the vet. She hoped he could provide some relief for the little guy. He’d had a UTI, or so we thought. The medication wasn’t helping anymore, bless his little heart, and without extensive tests we couldn’t know what was really wrong with him—diabetes, kidney stones, or cancer. Plus his arthritis had thoroughly permeated his skeleton, not to mention that he was going blind and deaf. 19 years is really long for a cat. What relief is there from old age except death?

So the vet put him to sleep and my mom held onto him. He relaxed, finally, and then slept. My mom said she hadn’t felt him relax and be at ease for months. It was really hard for her, you know. She’s never had to make the ‘put-them-to-sleep’ choice about any of our cats. It’s a struggle. I know many people also struggle with it.

I want to tell you a few things about Fred, in memory of him. I’ve been thinking about him since last night. I’ve cried a lot—for Fred more than for any of my other cats who have died. But then, Fred came along when I was about nine. And now I’m 27. It seems like he walked up the pathway outside the house sometime after my mom’s divorce and before her remarriage. It seems like he’s been around for a long, long time. And now I’m quite bereft. The last thing I did for him was wash his paws in the kitchen sink the night before he died (on Sunday). You might think this is really disgusting, but Fred was so old that he struggled with the whole litter thing. Cat litter. You know. Stoker held him and I cleaned the litter out of his paws. Last night when I was sad and crying, Stoker told me that it was good that Fred had clean paws before he died. That made me cry more.

What Stoker said about Fred’s paws sounded better last night. You had to be there.

Fred had the most beautiful paws. He was a big, orange tabby cat with fluffy paws. He looked like a lion and sometimes we called him lion—that made him feel really good. He dominated the neighborhood because his fluffiness made him look deceptively large. Sometimes we called him fluffy, too—that made him feel silly. Before he became an indoor cat he liked to skulk around outside beneath trees and the vines (with just his tail showing so you knew where he was, besides the mysterious rustling of the thick vines). He was an Aristocat, like from the cartoon movie. His tail stood straight up and sometimes he had a nice, happy walk, kind of a prance like Pepe Le Pu.

One time Fred tried to save some baby bunnies. I’m not kidding. My step-dad Terry debates this point with me and says he killed the bunnies. But that’s not true. While Fred did kill many small animals, I’ve seen enough of the dead ones to know the difference of his intent. If he’d wanted to kill them, he would have brought them to our doorstep mangled and chewed with injuries. These bunnies were carefully preserved. I even saw him carry one up the pathway to the front door. He was carrying it like a mother cat carries her kittens. Of course, the bunnies all died from shock and fear. But they were probably going to die anyway. Fred, being an intelligent cat, must have known the mother was dead and was trying to save them. You might think I’m being dense about this. But I’m not.

I’m a little bereft without Fred. The house seems empty without him. And I know the other two cats are worried about where Fred is. Hopefully he’s in heaven with the other cats and most importantly his friend Smokey who died when I was in junior high, and Alf who looked just like him and could have been his brother (that’s where his name came from, Alf-Fred. We were VERY creative kids).

Here’s a link to a somewhat corny site called the
Rainbow Bridge. I swear this poem was better when I read it years ago. Now it seems a little silly. But I still like it because it makes me feel good to think that I’ll see Fred again and to think that he’s not hurting any more. I hope he’s the mighty hunter he was in his prime. When his tail stood straight up, confident and happy.


Anonymous said...

Deararies327: I am so sorry about Fred. I enjoyed your insight on how Fred has been such a big part of your life--19 years! That's incredible.

My family had a dog from the time I was 9 years old--a happy springer spaniel. He died when I was 19. I miss him something fierce, and can totally relate to some of the feelings you shared. Many times I make reference to moments in my life by thinking about what was going on with our dog. Like when I was in the 7th grade and he got ran over and the vet was able to save him...or the many times I'd go out for a jog and he'd come along. I even wrote a poem about him in high school, for which I was ridiculed and teased about because the poem shared how my dog taught me so many life lessons. Perhaps the people that teased me never had a human-pet relationship, which is sad really, because I believe as you do that animals have feelings/needs/depth.

Thanks for the insight--

Anonymous said...

Dear Aries 327,

I'm sure that there is a cat heaven and that Fred is there. Perhaps your Dad misjudged Fred and he really was trying to save the bunnies. Either way, Fred is in heaven because it is natural for cats to hunt for bunnies and other small animals and then bring the results home to show off their prowess as hunters. I'll bet that Fred loved you as much as you love him. I'm certain that animals know when they are loved and return it.

Aries327 said...

Thanks for your consoling comments. I appreciate them greatly.

BeauxEllis said...

well nicole, i know you sent me that because i , like you, am an avid cat lover. i love being back home because my step mom and dad have two cats-william (neuratic), and santino (the alpha mancoon). santino's brother tessio passed away but a few weeks ago and many of the heart felt tears you described were shared by my step mom at his passing- she had to make the decision to let him go as well- it was his second time back to the vet after a 10 day cathader visit the time before. this time the only way to keep him going would've been to permanently turn him into a girl- not enough $$$ for that, and poor tessio! so, well, i really appreciated your thoughts on your lion, i wish i could've met him, he sounds really cute and ferocious at the same time. i wish you solice in your hours of mourning.
love, beaux
px i got the part about "atleast he had clean paws", that was sweet stolky. it made me giggle.

Jim said...

My condolences, Nicole. Fred was a good, gentle friend to, and certainly an integral part of your family. He was a great purr-er, and always made me feel welcome. Sorry to hear of his passing.