The world is a little less weird today, a little less explosive, a little less giddy and grand.
We’ve lost the phenomenon known as Hootz.
Hootz came to Tabby’s Place in 2007 and promptly filled the entire building.
Wherever you were, across 7,000 square feet, you could hear her: AWOWOWOWOWWWWWWWOWWWWW. MAHHHHHHHHHHHHHOWWWWWW. WOWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wherever you were, across the
sanctuary universe, you could smell her. Jackson Pollock had nothing on the splatter technique of one excited, incontinent teenaged feline determined to trash Quarantine until it spewed her out into freedom.
And whoever you were, once you met her manic gaze, you would love her. Madly.
If ever a cat did not belong in a cage, it was our wild pony. Hootz raged against limits. During her initial quarantine, she did her best impression of a volcano-earthquake in the middle of a Sharknado. Every time she had to be crated for overnight monitoring, Hootz went on hunger strike and pooped in her food and water bowls. (“That‘ll show ’em.”) But when she was free, Hootz was whole, galloping euphorically, eyes stretched open for wider horizons.
1) Perpetual motion, and;
2) Staying the same.
These traits may seem incompatible, but Hootz was nothing if not a springing enigma. Young or old, healthy or ailing, Hootz could be counted upon to be bouncing and running, rejoicing and ruling, tiny and triumphant and holy with chutzpah.
For all her bravada, Hootz was astoundingly patient with dunderheads. You could not conceivably be too weird for Hootz. Cool as she was, she was never “hipper than thou,” a foreigner to the popular cats’ table by her own design. If you let her run free — the solarium! the hallway! the solarium! back in the hallway! up the hallway WHILE SCREAMING! infinity! beyond! — she let you romp through her love, whoever you might be. Just in case you should doubt her whole-souled acceptance of all that you were, she’d rear up en pointe, throwing her full weight (~4 pounds) into head-bonking you before tearing off like a stallion. Never was there a cat more like a pony, a Mexican jumping bean and a sunflower all at once.
Hootz was never in spectacular health, but nobody but her Creator saw her death coming. Her latest health woes were the same old story of perilously-low weight, revoltingly-stubborn diarrhea, maddeningly-mysterious internal oddities. When she skated close to the 4-pound mark, we decided to send her to Dr. Fantastic for a fairly basic work-up. She’d have a colonoscopy and ultrasound, and maybe we’d tweak her diet or her meds or some other something. Whatever it was, the odds were good that Hootz would remain:
2) Diarrhearific; and
But she did not.
Dr. Fantastic was surprised to find that Hootz had an even stranger colon than we could have imagined. Given Hootie’s severe abnormalities, a colonoscopy wasn’t in her best interest, so the specialists elected to try a mild dilation of Hootz’s rectum as a first step. That’s when the wheels came off Hootz’s crazy train: her fragile colon ruptured, and the team had to race her to emergency surgery. They found that her inner oddities were so abnormal, it was not possible to repair all that was wrong. Although the specialists had only know Hootz’s wild waking self briefly, I am certain that they mingled her fur with their tears as they gently let her go without waking her up.
This all went down on Saturday night, as though Hootz wanted this to be one last earth-party before making her break for the eternal bouncy house. Dr. Fantastic called Denise, who had the unenviable job of breaking the whole staff’s hearts. I was too shocked to cry as my brain rejected the words of her text message. Hootz. Gone. Does not compute. Hootz is ALIVE. Hootz is more alive than most living creatures. Hootz + gone = false. Message rejected. Fail.
We all make our own sense of the things that don’t make sense. I understand the souls who try to make their peace with death, calling it “natural” and “part of life.” I do. But I strongly believe that death always feels wrong because death always is wrong. Something in us that rejects plastered platitudes. Everything in us that knows it’s never “right” to lose love. And I believe — with all my marrow I believe — that our very right inner something is pointing to the fact that life is right and life will win.
Death is a theft, every time. This never feels sharper than when it takes one so alive as Hootz. But nothing this wrong cann have the final word. When the Lord of Life returns for the living and the dead, death will be defeated (I want a front-row seat for this), and life will gobble it up in unlosable victory. Nothing we need is ever gone.
And we surely need Hootz.
I believe that, although Hootz never opened her wild eyes on that operating table, she awakened to something more glorious than we can imagine. Any images we may have of clouds and harps and fat cherubs is a parody, and even the lives we love here are but a pale black-and-white preview of the technicolor life Hootz now sees.
There are no more limits, no frustrating horizons. There is no end to the freedom.
And the world where we see Hootz again will be weirder, giddier and grander than our hearts can imagine.
Until we meet again, Hootz, thank you for the glimpse of eternal wildness. Thank you for the love. Thank you.
Photo credits from top: Denise, AT, Heather, Denise, Jess B, Denise, AT.