Saturday, August 6, 2011

Just a Cat

This post was originally published April 30, 2010.

Today, I want to remember a sweet boy that disappeared from my life last Sunday: Gandalf the Gray, aka Gray Kitty, aka GK.

GK came with the house when I bought it. The owner left him here because she was afraid he wouldn't adjust well to life in town. I was afraid he wouldn't adjust well to my dogs -- or my dogs to him. Turns out GK had ideas of his own and used his considerable likeability skills and fearless heart to worm his way into the dogs' social pack. Wherever the dogs went, he was sure to follow.

Once I was convinced he was staying, I had him neutered. Afterward, he stuck around the house more and decided snuggling on a warm, soft bed at night with the rest of the family was a fine life indeed. He tolerated other kitties that strayed into our lives, and took to mothering a couple of them. He was definitely the kind of cat that needed to be liked. He also loved to be held, would beg to be held, and would hug me tight when I held him, which, you may have guessed, he insisted I do often.

Small prey he wasn't so tolerant of. He was a mouser who liked to play with his catches, often bringing them into the house to enjoy. Mice, rats, bunnies, birds -- he tormented them all.

A couple of days before he disappeared, a large dog I hadn't seen around visited the property. My dogs engaged in the traditional stiff-tail-wagging introductions and GK was in the middle of it all, sticking his nose right up to hers without first making sure she wasn't going to do to him what he did to mice. I called him a "stupid cat," and remember thinking he was a bit too intepid and trusting for his own good. Was it precognition that I worried right then about how he would react if a coyote came visiting?

Mostly GK slept inside, only occasionally venturing out through one of the doggie doors in the early morning hours. I never worried much about him. My house is a good distance from the road, so cars aren't a safety factor. Besides, he normally stayed close to the house where he could dash to safety under the porch through small cat-friendly lattice. To do that, though, he would need to be trying to get away from a stray dog or coyote, not walking up to it trying to make friends.

I'll never know what took him -- a dog, coyote, or owl -- all I know is that between the time he was gently licking my hand, purring me to sleep, and when I woke up he was simply -- gone. Disappeared. A not-there presence.

I knew him for five-and-a-half years. That's a lot of hours of lap sitting and snuggling and learning to love and being loved back.

If it had been my human child that had disappeared, society would grant me at least a few days to deal with my grief and come to terms with the loss. Lapses in concentration at work and home would be forgiven. People would understand. As it is, I haven't even told coworkers I'm close to about my loss or the nights this week I haven't been able to sleep, staying awake to ensure none of my other "children" disappear in the dark.

To everyone else, he was just a cat. For me, there's never been any "just" about it.

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