On Tuesday my roommate Ginger and I lost our cat. Well, we didn’t ‘lose’ him really. That’s just the language humans use when we’re avoiding speaking about something particularly painful. Because in truth on Tuesday Dante died. And now he’s gone and he left a furry four-footed hole in our home.
Pets come into our lives for many reasons but mostly because we crave companions and they are excellent at that. Some pets need rescuing so we rescue them. Some pets need to work so we give them jobs. Some pets need calming so we calm them. And some pets need liberating so we liberate them. No matter what their purpose in our lives we are bound to love them and they become, quite without us noticing, little members of our families. We take them for granted a lot but they don’t mind. They’re always ready to cuddle and always ready for a walk and they just want a bed and a bowl of food and to be told they’re good boys and girls. And so Dante was. Both a companion, a member of the family, and a good boy.
Ginger got Dante when he was just a kitten eighteen years and one month ago. Ginger and Dante lived through a lot together. They moved house several times. They lived on a farm for awhile and sometimes with other cats that Dante didn’t particularly like. He could hold his own in a fight back then, so I’m told. At one point they lived in a house that had a garden of sunflowers out back that Dante liked to hide amongst. There was also a lilac bush that hummingbirds frequented and Dante, who stalked them from below, managed the impossible and caught one. He was quite the hunter in those days. There’s a huge chunk of his life that I know nothing about and so many memories that only Ginger will have.
When I knew him, when he became my adopted pet by virtue of moving in with Ginger two years ago, he was much older and more seasoned. His hunting days were past. But he had plenty of personality. He could be quite a curmudgeon and spent sunny afternoons on the balcony howling down at the street. You know, yelling at the kids on his lawn. Sometimes he’d pace the hall at night and howl for no special reason. He could push buttons when he chose to. But he had this wondrous gravelly purr that would rumble clear through you when you picked him up. And he had a way of ducking his head down to have it kissed. And he didn’t much mind being carried around or endlessly snuggled on demand. There was no good way to ever remain mad at him.
There were so many things he did weirdly and well:
He watched TV backwards, presumably through his tail.
He loved Temptations to the point of addiction. God help you if your finger got between him and a Temptation.
He frequently walked around sneering, with his lip caught up on his tooth, looking like a jaunty pirate.
He patiently tolerated an almost unending variety of nicknames that included (but were not limited to): Monkey, Fuzzy, Fuzzy VonFuzzypants, Dante Piquante, Dante Adamante, Little Dude, and Señor Fuzzy.
He wore stripes with aplomb.
He really liked The Lion King. It’s one of the only things he watched with his face.
He was fairly adept at Ikea shelving assembly.
He was an extraordinary thief.
He did wonderful impressions. Like Yoda.
He wore many hats without complaint.
And he was a gold medalist in the Napping Olympics.
We give our pets their forever home and that’s a solemn vow on our part. But their idea of forever and ours are different, as it turns out. And we can’t begrudge them that their time here is shorter than ours. So we just love them as much as we can and give them the best life possible and steal as many snuggles in between feedings as they have to offer. In the end we thank them for the time they spent with us and just trust that they felt as loved as we did. Then we say the hardest word: goodbye.
Thank you, Dante. You did the best job of loving and being loved a cat could ever do. You were patient and good humored. You’ll be sorely missed. But you gave Ginger your whole life and you let me in for two of those amazing years and I’m just really glad I got to hang out with you. Know that you did good. You did the best. You can rest now, buddy, and know that you’ve got a forever place in our hearts.