Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Life in the Land of the Rising Sun: The Parting Instinct

Mi was an old lady of a cat. We weren't exactly certain of her age because my father-in-law picked her up as a stray about twelve years ago.
She definitely looked old, too. From about a year ago, her calico coat, once so glossy and beautiful, became matted and filthy-looking. Her teeth went bad at about the same time. The vet said it was pretty much all over. He said the same thing again a few months later and again a few months after that. Mi was a stubborn cat, however, and she just kept soldiering on and on.
A few weeks ago, something strange happened. While Kiharu was in the bath, Mi pushed open the door and came in, squeaking all the time. (You can't really say that Mi ever meowed. It was a cute, little squeak.) When Kiharu got out, Mi firmly positioned herself between her feet and refused to budge. Kiharu tried putting the stubborn cat out of the room, but she came right back in and planted herself right back between Kiharu's feet, squeaking and purring the whole time. She made it plainly clear that she wasn't going anywhere without some proper affection.
You have to understand; not only was Mi a rather skittish cat most of the time, but she NEVER seemed to like Kiharu very much for some reason. She'd let me pet her, but not Kiharu. Kiharu used to wonder whether it was because she'd been jealous of the way Mi had been pampered by her parents...often at her expense...before we got married. Mi's adoptive son, the big, red tabby named Aka (red), has always been everybody's buddy, but she herself had never really been all that friendly. At any rate, for Mi to go to such effort to be affectionate with Kiharu was damned unusual.
From about the same time, Mi started appearing wherever I was if I was outside for any reason. Whenever I went to my car, whenever I came back, or whenever I went over to take down the laundry, she was always right there, usually positioned as conspicuously as possible so I was forced to take note. If she was awake, she'd start squeaking at me. If I gave her even a tiny scratch on the head, she'd immediately vault between my feet as if her life depended on it.
Apparently she was being unusually affectionate with everyone...even my son Taiki (whose natural, 4-year-old-boy inclinations had kept her on the run before).
After about a week of this behavior, she suddenly took a horrible turn for the worse. She had more or less stopped eating completely, and she was reduced to a saddening bag of bones with remarkable speed. Even so, she was always right there to greet me when I came home or lying under the clothesline when I went out to bring in the clothes. Eventually, with her emaciated frame and gummed-shut eyes, she looked positively frightening; she was more like a zombie than a living cat. She barely moved at all. Even so, she still managed to keep herself faithfully positioned to greet me whenever I appeared.
She also never failed to squeak at me if I scratched her head, even when that squeak became hideously hoarse, almost a whisper.
It was heartbreaking.
This went on for almost two weeks. Then, when she stayed under the clothesline without moving for a full night, father-in-law made her a bed in a box and placed her in it.
Sometime during the night that followed, Aka curled up beside her. That was odd, too, for the two cats hadn't tolerated each other's close presence for the previous seven or eight years. Aka must have known, as his stepmother herself had clearly known, that it was all over. She didn't live to see the light of the next day.
The kids were pretty upset, to be sure, and the whole household was understandably gloomy, but I think Mi made her peace and took her leave in the best possible way. Not bad for a "dumb animal", at least.
If the Buddhists are right, her soul is probably going on to something better, anyway.


Don Snabulus said...

That was beautiful. Thanks Mr. Mistrel.

Vulgarius said...

Sorry to hear that but a nice tribute. Whino is kind of a star at our local pet clinic. Going on 15 she always gets a Geriatric Wow! from the doctor at her regular checkups and vaccs. She still brings in an occasional bird gift just to show that she can still do it. And she still sneak attacks Grey (our other cat, a large gelding) once in a while. But Im glad to have her. She went through a time when her fur got real ratty but this has passed.

DewKid said...

[snif] Enjoy the endless mousing fields, Mi.