Saturday, August 22, 2009
Earlier today my cat, Truffles, passed away.
I met Truffles two and a half years ago in a Petsmart near my work. I wasn't looking for an older cat and I definitely wasn't looking for a fat cat. In fact, the cat I had my eye on when I decided to adopt one was a skinny gray cat in the cage next to hers. The lady who assisted with the adoptions offered to show the gray one to me and I was excited to meet my new furry friend. But when the cage door opened, my furry gray friend turned into a hissy pissy mess.
"Maybe not that one," I told the woman.
"Are there any others you'd like to look at?"
I looked at the cats in the cages surrounding the gray one and a chubby orange one caught my eye. I asked the lady if I could see the orange one and I braced myself for the worst again when the cage door opened. But this cat seemed normal; nice even. I put my hand inside and she sniffed it and then began rubbing against it and purring. And that was how I met Truffles.
Truffles wasn't exactly what I had in mind when I had set foot in the Petsmart. She was six years old, fat, de-clawed and spayed. When I took her home, I also learned that she was one of the strangest cats I had ever met. Our first night together, it was two in the morning and I was just falling asleep when she walked up onto the pillow next to my head and flopped down right on my face. The next night, she got stuck inside a grocery bag and thrashed around inside it until I woke up and got her out. I began thinking that maybe owning a cat wasn't for me. As Truffles would show me though, a cat can teach a you lot.
Truffles taught me patience. Two summers ago, I started having massive panic attacks, which eventually needed professional help. Whenever I was alone, I would start to panic. My breaths would get shorter, my airway would constrict, and I would start moving closer to hyperventilation. After I was diagnosed with panic attacks, I realized that I was going to need to fix myself. I would have to find a way to calm myself down whenever I felt an attack coming, otherwise they were going to ruin my life. Every time I was alone and would feel an attack coming, Truffles was there. If I felt my breathing getting short, soon enough, a furry orange mass landed in my lap, waiting to be pet, and the focus on the act of petting took my focus away from everything else. Whenever I needed her, Truffles was there. In the book "The Cave," Jose Saramago says that a dog always knows when he is needed. I'm the last person in the world who will ever disagree with anything Saramago says, but I would add to his idea that the right cat knows when it is needed just as much as any dog you will ever meet. And Truffles was the right cat for me.
Truffles taught me persistence. If you stuck your head in a refrigerator and someone shut the door on your head, you probably wouldn't ever do it again, right? Not Truffles. Every time I would open the refrigerator door, there was Truffles' head. The first few times it happened, I was completely surprised. I had never met a cat who was so active in searching for treats. The weird thing was that I had never given her a treat from the fridge. I wouldn't until a few weeks later, and yet still, every time the refrigerator door opened, Truffles head was in there. It was like she was waiting for the treats to materialize. Finally, I gave in and put treats in the fridge to give her on occasion when I opened the fridge. Maybe her persistence seemed stupid to some people, but I loved it. If Truffles had a motto it would have been: Look hard enough and you'll find something. Maybe there's something we can all learn from that.
Truffles taught me unconditional love. Truffles was the first cat that I was completely responsible for. To tell the truth, I had no idea what I was in store for, or what I was doing half the time. There was feeding, petting, brushing, litter box cleaning, flea treating, barf swabbing, and all kinds of things that you never would have imagined before you got the cat. Sometimes, a few days go by before you realize that you've forgotten something, sometimes important things like water. And yet every time that this happened, I found Truffles coming up to me and curling up on my lap the first chance she got. To her, the only thing that mattered was that I was there. The hand stroking her head at the end of the day was more important than the food in her bowl or the water in her stomach. Truffles needed to receive love just like anyone else. The love she gave in return was without grudges, without prejudice and without parallel. She lived to be loved and as I spent more and more time with her, I realized that a part of me was happy and alive because of her love.
Truffles taught me friendship. I didn't set foot in Petsmart two and a half years ago expecting to find a friend. But as the time went on and as Truffles became a bigger part of my life, I realized that a friend was exactly what she was. Maybe she wasn't the kind of friend you go to baseball games with or go shopping with, but Truffles loved and Truffles listened, and if I can't think of two more important characteristics in a friend. When my girlfriend and I were driving today, she told me that she never had liked cats, but she liked Truffles. This was true for plenty of people that met her. Maybe you didn't like cats, but you liked Truffles. So many people call their pets their "furry friends," but how many actually find a friend in their pet?
And so today, I watched as the vet began to put a pink liquid into my friend's leg as I cradled her in my arms and told me: "This is going to stop her heart and lungs," and there was only one thing I could say to her: "I love you, Truffles."
It's hard to lose a pet, but it's harder to lose a friend.