Every once in a great while, you feel the tectonic plates of life shift.
It may start with a groan or a whimper, but the next thing you know the continents are different, and there are mountains where oceans once stretched.
I am, of course, talking about cats.
This year we’ve felt the tumbling of mountains around us, and suddenly we find ourselves in a new flatland. Every year at Tabby’s Place brings painful goodbyes, but 2013 in particular has seen the departure of one colossus after another.
Webster was with us 4+ years.
Franny was with us 7+ years.
Mittens was with us 6+ years.
And Cookie, the cat with the sweet name and salty spirit, was with us nearly a decade.
Tabby’s Place trivia buffs know that each cat has an ID number. For reasons both too arcane and too boring to explain, we started at #9. We’re presently up to #1,335 (better known among his more intimate friends as Nelson).
Jonathan is one of only two staff members who knew Cookie from the very beginning, and so here I hand this post to him:
“I was at home when I received the call. I felt like someone had punched me in the gut: the early crew arrived this morning for AM rounds and found that Cookie had died during the night. There were no signs of trauma, no vomit, blood or anything else pointing to a cause.
“Cookie had seemed to be doing so well since her surgery (note from Angela: that would be a total ear canal ablation, to treat a mass in Cookie’s right ear). She had recovered rapidly, was not in any apparent pain and was eating well. Our best guess is undiagnosed heart disease, aggravated by the surgery. But it’s only a guess.
“Cookie was one of the first cats to enter Tabby’s Place. No one would describe Cookie as friendly. But, of course, we loved her as she was.
“I always felt bad for Cookie. She seemed lonely. A few years ago I was looking for a new officemate, so I decided to give Cookie the spot.
“Cookie didn’t seem to appreciate my company and after a few days, she moved out to the Lobby. This seemed to make her happy and she spent the next few years quietly and peacefully. She never warmed up to people, but there was no reason she had to.
“I’ve been through this enough times to expect the guilt that rears its head. But I also know that we can only do what we believe is best for each cat. And I know that we have no control over the most important things in life.
At best we can exert some influence.
“Cookie’s loss marks the end of an era. Along with me, she was the only remnant of the ‘old days.’
“I miss you sweet girl. Rest in peace. I will see again.”
It was Jonathan who loved Cookie longest and best. But Cookie’s earliest admirers also included her Special Needs correspondent, long-time Tabby’s Place volunteer B. As it happens, Cookie had been blessed with some special visits from B just before her passing. In what would have been Cookie’s next Special Needs update, B writes:
“I’ve had some very nice visits with Cookie recently. A couple of weeks ago I sat down next to her little house to see if she would come out when a new cat came up and claimed my attention. Well, Cookie must have gotten jealous because she came out of her house and demanded my attention. She sat right down next to me with her head on my ankle and let me pet her head to toe. After a while, she’d had enough and went back to her house. But she had to let the newcomer know that she was the old favorite.
“I saw her again just before Thanksgiving, and she again was very friendly and loving. I was back just a couple of days after her surgery when she couldn’t have been feeling her best, but she still was friendly and interested in getting her pets. I came in again on the weekend to check up on her, and she was glad to see me, but put her paw up when she’d had enough. It’s good to know that she still had some spunk in spite of her ordeal.
“I’ve known Cookie for a very long time and although she was shy around strangers, if she really knew you, she could be very sweet with just a little spice.”
Sugar, spice and the salt of the earth — that was our girl.
Make no mistake: Cookie was widely, richly, thoroughly loved. Across time and continents (literally), the cranky old girl acquired admirers who saw in her a kindred spirit. Cookie gave people a kind of silent permission to be precisely what they are, and to matter-of-factly expect love in return. It worked for her.
We love her still. And even if all the continents melt like snow, we’ll keep on loving her. For now, we mourn. But when things shake and shift for the last time, we’ll see her — and Mittens, and Franny, and the cat of my soul again — forever.
Of all the miracles of Christmas, the whisper of death’s defeat is the greatest. Until we meet again, dear Cookie.
Photo credits from top: Flangela, Mark, Jess B, Mark, B., Flangela, Jess B.