Monday, August 23, 2010
Only for Cat Lovers - All About Otis (Oct 1999 - August 2010)
I've just come home from four hours at the veterinarian's. Much of that time was spent trying to decide if this was Otis's "time." It's been three weeks since he was diagnosed with liver cancer, but probably three months since I first saw some out of the ordinary signs from him. One day when I came home from work he was in the exact same position on a slim window sill that I had left him 6 hours earlier. He'd lost some weight then, but then rallied and came back for a few months. At that time, the blood work showed nothing out of the ordinary. Looking back, that was the beginning of his malaise. But that's not where I want to put my energy tonight.
Forgive my indulgence, but he was the best cat ever. He was wildly intelligent, soulful, and calm. No matter what was happening in my life, I could lean my head into his warm fur and feel better. He actually liked leaning his head into the curve of my neck, front paws on my shoulders. Here are the ways I know he was my most beloved creature:
1. It was love at first sight. Okay -- I don't believe in that for romantic human to human love -- but I do know it's true for human to animal connections. I found him through the rescue organization, Friends of the Animals, housed at Next to Nature in West Seattle. Not only did I know that we were meant for each other from that first look, but so did the woman in the shop. I was the first person he had responded to in all the time he'd been there.
2. His trust in me was not automatic, but hard won. For our first two weeks together, Otis ran under my bed whenever he heard me come home. He would eat while I was at work and disappear in the far corner of the bed against the wall as soon as he heard me enter. It was one night (the only time) after he had tried to use a houseplant as a litter box and ended up somehow on sofa cushions instead (this was after midnight on a school night) and after I had cleaned up the sofa cushions, the dirt from the house plant and the broken pot, that he decided I was okay and it was that night that he slept on my bed.
3. He was a one woman cat. As my friend Elizabeth says, I was his human. I can count on two hands the number of people that actually ever saw Otis. He was an ultra shy cat and would hide on the top shelf of my closet as soon as he heard anyone's footfall on the porch. He disliked having his picture taken and merely hid out whenever there were overnight guests. He was affectionate and loving with me and clearly that was all he wanted.
4. Otis had a good amount of dog in him. He'd always be at the door to greet me when I came home (except in those early days). His preferred spot was right next to me -- often he wanted to occupy the same seat I did or spread out right next to the computer. He was almost always in the same room with me and wouldn't go to bed until I did.
5. The ineffable was there. You know that look when someone "gets you"? How you know what they are saying by their very glance? In the best relationships I've had, there is a sense that you are in sync with the other --- communication is easy, you're made of the same raw material.
It is so strange to be using the past tense when i write about him. Even an hour after he got his injections from the vet, his body was still warm. No one ever tells you about this part of pet ownership. An older friend once told me I was brave when I told her I had two cats; I had no idea what she was talking about until much later. For those of you reading this with pets (I suspect most of you) give them a hug right now. You think you have another 5, 10, 15 years. It's very likely you don't. Given that I had lost another cat to a freak accident, I always appreciated Otis and felt very aware of his mortality. Still, I had let him know that he was supposed to live until at least 18, if not 20. 10 years together was just not enough.