I am feeling a little, nostalgic, I guess is the word for it. A month ago, our family had to say goodbye to our cat Sandy. As hard as you can imagine this could be, it's even harder because Sandy was the last link to a life that feels like it happened eons ago and I feel like an entire era has passed.
Way back in 2001, my son's cat Blackie disappeared. One day he was with us, and the next he was gone. We did the usual; called his name while tramping through the woods around our house, shaking the food box, putting up posters and calling the local radio station and then going to the town Animal Pound. We never saw Blackie again, and truth told, more than 10 years later, I still miss him.
But in the pound was a big, really big, tiger cat in a cage that looked totally miserable. The attendant saw me looking at the cat and told me that since she was such a big cat, they tried to get her time out of the cage every day.
There was something about the way she looked into my eyes, and I asked the attendant if I could see her. The woman was glad to oblige. "She's such a big cat, and older, so no one usually is interested."
From the cage, the cat's eyes seemed to say "Can you believe what's happened to me?"
Once out of the cage, the cat sniffed at my legs and my children's legs and walked around the other caged cats. "She used to belong to an old lady, but when the old lady died, none of the family wanted her." the attendant told me.
Within two weeks, the cat was in our home and renamed Sandy. The first day of her arrival, when I called the family into lunch, Sandy beat everyone into the kitchen, jumped into the baby's highchair at the table and politely waited.
"Hey! Where am I supposed to sit?" my youngest daughter wailed.
That night, when I went to put the middle children to bed, I found another daughter lying on top of her blankets at the foot of her bed. Sandy lay in the sweet spot made of pillow and blanket. When I questioned my daughter about the new sleeping arrangement, she informed me that Sandy would growl when she went to move her from the pillow.
"I guess now that we have Sandy, I don't get to sleep in my bed anymore." my daughter observed.
It took a while to iron out some of the wrinkles, but Sandy became a part of our family. She didn't continue to growl at the children, but would cuddle with them to watch tv and was there to console the sick and the broken hearted.
She moved with us to South Carolina,where she adjusted to the new house beautifully. She enjoyed following the warm Carolina sun as it made it's way through our house. When we moved to New York and Connecticut, she took it in stride. She was barely ruffled when we moved two more times and got a Labrador - which she kept in check with swipes of her paw.
After being with us for ten years, she developed a bump in her tail. The bump grew and she licked it bare within days. It began to bleed. The vet said it was cancer, and we opted to get her tail removed. She took that in stride too. Just when all her fur had grown back, and you could hardly tell that she'd been shaved, she began to act funny.
She wouldn't eat unless one of my daughters watched her, and even then she didn't have her usual appetite. She had more trouble jumping down from the couch, and then she had trouble jumping up on the couch. After about two days of her increasing symptoms, the worst happened. We couldn't find her at all.
Our cats are not outside cats, so I knew that she had to be around but I remembered Blackie. When he was going to die, he disappeared. I feared that Sandy was trying to disappear on us. We pulled the couch away from the wall and found her sandwiched between the wall and trying to squeeze under the couch. No sooner had we removed her, then she left the lap she was lying on and being petted, something she would never do in the past, and disappeared behind the couch.
We bought her to the vet, and he confirmed our fears; the cancer was back. Although Sandy was urinating, she wasn't moving her bowels. Sandy wasn't in pain yet, but she would be soon. The only kind thing was to euthanize her. We all cried, including our brave, strong leader who never cries.
We buried her under a spreading Japanese maple, wrapped in her favorite person's baby blanket. Our fearless leader dug the hole, making it so deep it was below the frost line, so deep no predator would try to dig her up.
Everyone cried, but I felt a hurt so deep it was almost a physical pain. The last link to my previous life is gone. Sandy was with us when we were a family of eight. And then a family of seven. Now a family of six. We were together when "our boy", because that is the way Sandy and I both saw him, marked his 21st birthday. Now that link is gone.
Life is a circle. Just as we got Blackie because MomCat had died, and Sandy because Blackie had died, we got Ivan, a cute little tiger stray, because Sandy had died. Ivan is a rambunctious kitten that will chase anything that moves, and then jump into your lap and fall fast asleep for one of his many, many kitten naps through out the day. He makes us laugh, we cuddle him, we still shed tears for Sandy.
She was truly a one-of-a-kind cat.