Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Goodbye, Old Friend

I'm not a cat lover.  And it's not because I don't think they're beautiful...or smart...or enjoy their unique personalities.  It's because I'm allergic.  Sneeze my head off, itch all over, kind of allergy.  And for that reason alone, I steer clear of most cats.

So one might think it odd that I've been sad all week about a certain beloved cat in our family.  More than just sad, I've grieved.  Our cat, who's been a part of our home for over twelve years, is gone.  We took him to the vet today to end his aging pain. 

Filled with sadness I couldn't understand at times, I finally gave myself permission today to feel the loss.  I cried for a cat that has shared our lives for as long as we've lived in this home.  It was hard to say goodbye.  But I guess that's expected when you've spent over a decade with an animal.  He's the longest pet we've ever had in our family.

Tux, aptly named for his permanent tuxedo coloring, has been a constant in and around our house for as long as I can remember.  Shortly after moving here, my Aunt called asking if I'd like to have a cat.  I don't recall why she even had him but it was common for her to rescue animals and find good homes for them.  At first, I laughed, thinking immediately of my allergies; but then I thought of my husband, Tim.  His favorite animal is a cat and his childhood is filled with furry memories from former pets. 

Shortly after, I brought him home on a ride neither of us ever quite forgot.  I was thankful for a crate she let me borrow as Tux howled the whole 45 minute drive, a sound I'm not even sure I knew cats made.  As soon as we made it inside and I opened his door, he shot out like a cannon, straight for Noah's room.  Darting under his bed, he remained there for hours, growing accustomed to his new world.

For the next couple years, he remained an inside cat, sneaking out between our legs whenever the door opened an opportunity he wanted to explore.  Before long, the outside visits became greater and longer, even though he never strayed far from home.  Between my allergies and his accumulating dirt, he officially became an outside cat several years ago. 

Of course, by this point he was spoiled and we would occasionally allow him inside - for a cool respite from the scorching heat, or the warmth of a fire during a hard winter day.  He'd purr and circle our feet, knowing without words that he wasn't allowed on the furniture.  He was just happy to visit.

Tux greeted us good morning with a Meow and gentle scratch at the back patio door, signaling his need for breakfast each day.  Every evening, he'd be in the driveway, ready to say hello again, sometimes following us inside and to his food bag for supper.  He was our outside friend, as we'd enjoy coffee on the deck, time in the hot tub, or any other outdoor activity.  Not staying true to a Tom Cat mentality, he was always here.  A calm constant in our changing lives.

I joked that in a former life he must've been a Pope.    For his gentleness.  His great listening skills, which everyone in our family utilized.  His refusal to fight - against birds who stole his food or neighborhood female cats looking for a date.  And his quirky enjoyment in going for walks with us.  Before Tux, I'd never known of a cat who would go for a walk.  But Tux would and did, strolling beside us on the grass as we'd make evening strolls around our neighborhood.  No matter our pace, slow and romantic, or fast and aerobic, he'd keep up.  If the kids took off riding bikes, he'd often follow them too. 

And yes, he was a dog lover; Patch is just overly protective of his bones.
 Those walks grew less and less the past couple of years.  His whiskers and paws, once stark white, began to yellow with age.  His pace, once quick and strong became slower as he weakened.  That's to be expected with time though.  Tux lived a good, long life, of what we can only guess was over 15 years. Considering he spent more than the last half as an outdoor cat, that's especially true.

And although it was hard to say goodbye, even more so to watch Tim holding him to his last breath, I'm grateful for the time he shared with us.  He was worth every sniffle, each and every sneeze, and even all these tears today, because in the big picture he brought us far more joy than sadness.  If there's a special place for cat's to go, I hope he's frolicking in the grass and has a big comfy couch nobody will shoo him off of.  Tux certainly deserves it.


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