Daily Prompt: Do you have animals in your life? If yes, what do they mean to you? If no, why have you opted not to?
Anyone who has visited this blog already knows the answer to this question, but if you are new, go here, here, here, and here. Two friends surprised me yesterday about not knowing that Dyssa had passed and Elby had come into our family, which means they had yet to visit this blog. Thank God for strangers who become friends who become family, eh?
I am always taken aback when talking with someone about getting a dog or a cat and the person thinking about it has stipulations: “Well, it can’t shed. It can’t have ‘accidents.’ It can’t be too big, too small, too ugly, too fat. It has to be in perfect health. It can’t throw up in the car (I get that one, actually).” I am willing to bet their love lives suffer the same impoverishment.
We always had dogs and cats, hamsters, goldfish, etc. growing up. They were as much a part of our lives as my brothers and sisters and Elvis, my stuffed dog (toy product vs. taxidermist). We had Blackie, a Cocker Spaniel, who I displaced from riding in the car when I was born. Took the better part of a year and major bribes of peanut butter sandwiches under the table to be forgiven by Blackie for my advent. There was Major, the German Shepard, who came to us. We got a little Shepard mix with one ear up and one ear down, who hid underneath the dining room table and for whom no name came to mind. We eventually called him Hey You, because he thought that was his name. We had cats named Tiger, Lady and Pericles (the last two mine).
When I was out on my own, I got JuJu, named after my mother, because she was the most lady-like cat I had ever met. She loved yogurt. I still remember the look JuJu shot me after a brief inhale of catnip. Clearly, she thought catnip was heroin and forbade it ever again. We had adventures.
JuJu got outside one day by climbing out the window that was about six feet off the ground and led to a fenced-in back portion of the apartment building. I discovered she was missing when I heard howling and caterwauling right outside. I poked my head out and there was this big tomcat putting the moves on JuJu. I leapt out like Errol Flynn, misjudged the landing and went staggering towards them. Caught in flagrante! JuJu was frozen, eyes as large as saucers. The tomcat looked me over with contempt, which pissed me off so much, I screamed several swear words in a mighty Valkyrie roar. He released my girl and backed off enough that I could grab my cat and stalk back to the open window. That was about the moment I realized just how far off the ground that window was for my height of 5’2. I glanced back towards the tomcat. He stood tall and eyed me coolly, utterly indifferent and quite clearly promising there would be a next time. One more Valkyrie yell, which scared JuJu, who had never heard me raise my voice. She dug her nails in and bit my hand and chin. Consequently, she went sailing through that six foot high window and I clambered after her. She went to the vet and came home shaved and spade. I went to the Emergency Room three days later as my hand had swelled up to four times its norm. Didn’t know flesh could do that…. Regardless, we were good for a total of 18.5 years. My husband, when courting me, said that I was a pushover. He would know he was accepted when JuJu approved of him.
The thing about death is that as much as I would like to be solemn in its presence, the writer in me is always watching and finding the humor in it. JuJu died of old age. I knew the day she would die by instinct and took the day off from work. At midnight, I snorted something about my psychic powers and gently put JuJu on the chair so I could go into the bedroom. I came back two seconds later and she was gone. My beautiful, loving friend of 18.5 years. I picked her back up and sat, holding her in my arms for a last hug. I crooned over her body, telling her how much she had meant to me, words she had heard throughout our lives together and words she had heard that day. When I was ready, I stood up with her cradled in my arms and went to place her in the box I had ready, lined with her favorite blanket and toys. She didn’t fit. Rigor mortis had set in and she was now in a semi-permanent C curve… See, you can be prepared and organized and the best laid plans of woman and cat go awry. I walked back to the chair, laid JuJu down as softly and tenderly as I could, starting to catch myself beginning to giggle. I went looking for a wider, bigger box, which I found, and transferred all the contents from one box to the other, and trotted back to lift JuJu once more. She fit with room to spare, but the spell was broken. I said a blessing over her and fitted the lid over the box. It was the dead of winter and my plan to bury her in the backyard hit a snag. The ground was frozen solid and under lots of snow. No worries. I was currently dating a man who arranged exotic animal hunting parties all over the world and who was, incidentally, a taxidermist. No! Why do people always leap to that conclusion?! He was kind enough to come out and dig a hole for me – deeper than I would have thought necessary based on his knowledge of what depth was truly best for the undisturbed rest of a loved one. He was wonderful in his care of her, and, with great gentleness, placed her in her grave and we buried her…
Now, I could follow this with memories of my parents’ burials, which also hit some snags, but perhaps another post?