I believe cats to be spirits come to earth. A cat, I am sure, could walk on a cloud without coming through. – Jules Verne
He’s probably watching me right now. Stepping softly on a cloud. Catching a glimpse of me.
Cat’s paws. I imagine him watching, waiting…poised to dash out to surprise me on the walking path.
He always knew where I was. He behaved more like a sentry than a cat; so we thought of him as our Watch Cat.
Spock, a domestic long-haired tabby, was the last of our kitties. Most notably, he had pointed ears that reminded us of Spock from Star Trek. And so, that’s the name our son gave him the day he wandered into our yard in 2003. I’d almost forgotten the gaping hole in his neck, which our vet determined to be a bullet wound. Spock survived, and thrived…becoming a beloved part of our family.
With silky fur and mesmerizing eyes of mystic green, he enchanted everyone, including his vets. The “Old Man” – they’d tenderly call him in elder cat years – charmed animal loving hearts always. We were blessed with his presence in our lives.
For thirteen years, he never left our yard (except for vet visits, which he hated). In autumn of 2016 he traveled with us to southern Florida while we checked on my husband’s dad’s place. Dad, then 99, was permanently back in Michigan; and we had to get his place ready to sell. So kitty went too.
There was no choice. Spock was on medication, fighting probable terminal illness. Amazingly, he became accustomed to the journey south. He adapted to motels and living at dad’s place. He tolerated and charmed the staff at the animal hospital in Florida while there.
He finally decided to like the cushy pet bed I’d gotten. He ignored it for weeks. But I put him in it on my lap in the truck and he got the idea that it was his safe place, besides the cat carrier, to curl up in, once he realized it’s warmth. He didn’t even mind the constraining kitty harness I bought. It was neon green, matching those eyes. He was a cool kitty.
In 2017 we lost our two old men: Spock that summer and dad in September. In mid-June (the week of our 50th anniversary) we took kitty for his final vet visit. That day is a story in itself. I emailed my my sister, Mary, who’d been wondering:
Sorry to break the news, but we had to put Spock to sleep Wednesday night. I’ve been feeling so numb and sad and bad and mixed up the past couple of days. No more kitties around. Wow, we’ve always had cats.
Everyone loved Spock. Even the new vet (who only knew him since last fall and diagnosed him) became attached. She’d implied a week before Wednesday that it was getting to be time. So I got up the gumption to make an appointment. Andy and Amanda came out Tuesday night to see him again and spent a long time. They both went with us Wednesday evening. Everyone was crying, even the vet.
Jerry had built a cross with Spock’s name on it. We all went out where the other kitties are and buried him in his spot. Andy had a horrible time. But I’m so glad he went. Amanda figured he needed to to be there. We couldn’t even eat supper afterward.
Despite the sadness of the event, we all agreed that being together to share the experience was important for our personal resolution. Spock had been essentially Andy’s cat. He arrived in our household the year Andy graduated from Michigan Tech and was back home job hunting. Spock loved Andy more than anyone else. You knew, the way he’d nuzzle under Andy’s chin whenever he came home, that theirs was a special relationship.
We have the plaster paw print the clinic made for us. We have a beautiful sympathy card the staff sent. It’s amazing how much better you feel, knowing that the doctors are engaged in the process of saying goodbye, taking the time to write personal words. Words to remember: what a neat cat he was, never will forget him, will miss his giant eyes.
We decided not to tell dad about Spock’s passing. He wasn’t a cat person, but he liked Spock. He’d always compare the two of them – as old men, of course – and I couldn’t bring myself to announce it. In early September, dad was gone as well.
Cat’s paws. The day after Spock died, I remember feeling numb and moving in slow motion, absentmindedly trying to move things, to adjust to not having him in the house anymore. The next day, waves of sadness would sweep through me. I found I had to walk out to the burial spot several times to sense the reality.
That day, there were flowers on the porch. Our daughter Marya and husband Brian – then living in Mexico on their boat – had sent an anniversary bouquet: magnificent, beautiful white peonies. She’d remembered me talking of my grandmother’s peonies as the special arrangements at our wedding.
Huge blooms opened as soon as I put the stems in water. The flowers helped ease the knot in my stomach, missing Spock. He was the best watch cat, always sitting on the back of the couch looking out the window. He’d have seen the flower delivery for sure.
That week I appreciated my daily online message from author Carol Adrienne. One day the message was about doing what you love, and if feeling low, to focus on something of natural beauty. So, I walked the trail to where Spock is buried, knowing I’d miss him following me or teasing me from behind a tree, watching my every move. I never had a clue where he was. He’d just suddenly appear.
The third day – our 50th anniversary – things seemed harder still. Feeling dazed, wandering and tired, I wanted to curl up in a ball and nap. The daily message was spot on: Look to the future, not the past. You always have a choice to make good use of this new day. ~ Carol Adrienne – June 17, 2017
This past summer, I felt compelled to write, to say goodbye…to accept a new phase of farewell to cats in my world. Yet, I couldn’t pull the words together. It’s as if I’m experiencing some kind of graduation. Or moving on to another level in my soul. Whatever it is, I’m finding myself stuck in the doldrums – in writing, in everything – hoping I’ll figure it out…those choices for each new day and for this new life passage.
Cat’s paws. Cats have always been in my life. Until now. Last year, my siblings and families gathered for a little reunion. It was an afternoon of rummaging through letters, photos and mementos of our parents. There are five of us Reeds; I’m the eldest. I did my best to recall people, names, places from our distant past…with no aunts, uncles or cousins to call on anymore. I’m the one who’s supposed to know things. So many times I wish I’d paid more attention.
One of the ancient photos everyone remarked on was a picture of me (probably about age 10) holding a cat. It’s only natural; cats have been involved in most of my life. Cat’s paws were always around me.
Sifting through the mail recently, I pulled out a card for an online site for ordering pet food and supplies. Had we kitties left, I might consider trying it. After a year, the only pets we enjoy are squirrels and humming birds. Birds and squirrels. For now, we’re enjoying the birder aspect of things. We’re into observation, more than engagement with the animal life around us.
Cat’s paws. “Want to go for A WALK?” Just like a dog, Spock knew what that meant. It meant we go walk the trail and enjoy the pattern of hide-and-seek. That is, he did the hiding and the seeking. Sometimes he’d just sit somewhere and watch me walking. Yet he never lost sight of me. My husband always remarked about that.
I’ll forever miss our watch cat. Life is now without kitties, other than visiting Andy and Amanda’s dynamic Siamese duo Pax and Bea, mother/daughter kitties from a rescue place. But that’s OK. Even though I’m missing having them around, the upside is being free to travel more.
Father’s Day and our anniversary weekend, the first without Spock, we went camping and to visit my husband’s dad. How strange it seemed, not having to be concerned about cats waiting for us at home, and doubly strange returning.
When a pet dies, you still expect them to be there to greet you. That expectation takes a long time to dissipate, I’ve discovered. Once in awhile, even now, I’ll forget and think he’s there.
I’ve been through this grief process of losing kitties four times in the past six years. Loving each pet, I’m always looking for signs – messages that all is well.
When summer solstice arrived a week later, I was outside on the patio. I noticed a leaf floating in the rainwater in the large green litter pan we’d purchased for holding large plants. I gasped, staring incredulously at the leaf. I was viewing a cat face.
Why did I happen to look at that leaf? And, why did it appear to me as a Spock face? It was an amazing moment – a goose bumps moment. I took photos to double check my imaginings. Yes, I still see that face; and I still get goose bumps.
Later I walked out to the kitty garden. On the trail was a dead bird. Another reminder, obviously some neighbor cat wandering through. But, why was the dead bird there in that spot? Of course I had visions of Spock’s hunting abilities, and the times I’d chase him away from birds and chipmunks.
Cat’s paws. It was good to be gone to my husband’s hometown for a few days, to take our minds off of the reality. But a week seemed like a day, like the event was only yesterday. Each day after that seemed empty. It didn’t help visiting my neighbor, who has many barn cats. Our very first brother and sister cats came from there when we moved to the neighborhood.
The day of the visit, a granddaughter’s tiny gray fluff of a kitten was sitting sweetly on the kitchen chair. No, I don’t want another one…not now, not yet, I reminded myself, while caught up in cuteness. Even though I’m well aware of the health benefits of having pets, I’m still not ready for a new relationship.
Later that summer I went online to order something for my father-in-law. In the side bar on the screen were the things I used to order: treats, chicken bites, kitty litter. There it all was… the usual… for so many years. All things kitty. Even now, those ads trickle into view; and I smile when I see them.
Cat’s paws. Well, this year – knowing the value of dreams for healing – I’ve decided to embark on a personal dream quest, with the intention of dreaming about Spock. Perhaps our other kitties will turn up, as well. I’ve had animal dreams before that have seemed helpful.
So far, the intention is set. I even have someone who will engage with me on this topic. But do you think I can dream about my cat? Or remember my dreams? I definitely am in a drought of sorts – a drought of dreaming, a drought of creativity and writing.
I’ve been going to write about Spock for over a year now. I’ve struggled more than ever in my writing life, to put words to paper…or to screen. Once in awhile, I’ll wonder why I should even try. But, then something comes into view that makes me realize I have to keep at it, no matter the outcome.
Creativity editor Casey Lesser of artsy.net quotes art therapist Dr Girija Kaimal in a recent article: You Don’t Have to Be Good at Art to Benefit from an Artistic Hobby.
Dr. Kaimal, Lesser writes, whose research focuses on the physiological and psychological health outcomes of self-expression, often encounters people who are quick to say they aren’t an artist. In response, she tells them: “Well, you don’t stop exercising or playing something for fun just because you’re not an expert at it. You don’t stop talking or writing because you’re not a great poet or writer.”
So, any tools to kick start a renewal of any hobby or passion are in order, I’d say – whatever it takes to keep on writing. I‘ve had fun with dream work in the past. So, I think it’s worth the effort. Besides, just getting more sleep is a health benefit. Being a night owl type, sleeping more definitely requires discipline. Hopefully this intention of sleeping more, and sleeping to dream more, will prove fruitful for healing and for nurturing creativity in the coming years.
Cat’s paws…a leaf on the water, a face in a cloud, a ripple of breeze…
Merriam-Webster describes cat’s paws as a light air that ruffles the surface of the water in irregular patches during a calm.
My husband loves to point out the cat’s paws when they skim across the water. I sense the term must partly derive from the stealth of the movement of ripples in the wind. Movement – like a cat: magical, lithe, gentle, intentional … softly purring over water or cloud, touching lightly like a feather, a snowflake, or a wisp of fur on your face.
He could be watching me right now … cat’s paws on a cloud … catching a glimpse of me, walking.