Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Goodbye, old friend.
In March 1998, my Husband and I paid a visit to a local cat shelter in Cambridge. I had it in my head that I had to have a ginger cat. I'd had one before and I fell in love with his waywardness. We spent a long time at the shelter and there weren't any that fit the bill. I had said that I didn't want a long-haired cat. Having exhausted just about every possibility, the exasperated worker said.."Look, I know you said you didn't want a long-haired cat but have a look at this one." She led us into a kennel and this orange and white ball of fluff skittered down the little ramp and wound itself around my legs. Her tail was absurd, like a squirrel's, like a fox's brush.
All my reservations about long-haired cats melted away. She had adopted us.
On the way home we talked about names. We'd just lost a cat called Homer and it seemed right to stick with The Simpsons theme. We opted for Maggie and Maggie she stayed. Under all that fluff was a tiny little cat. We discovered how tiny she was when we got her back to the house and she promptly disappeared, squeezing into a three-inch gap between the washing machine and kitchen cabinet.
Once she'd spent the recommended two weeks indoors we let her out and that's when we discovered her true vocation. Little Maggie was a Big Hunter. When we moved to a remote village in Cumbria, we were surrounded by farm fields and Maggie was in her element. Almost every morning, we would open the back door and find a rodent offering, placed carefully in the same corner of the same patio stone ... every damn time. The local field vole population took a serious hit. Once, we saw her struggle into the garden with a young rabbit in her mouth. It wasn't a baby, in fact, it was about half her size. She struggled gamely with it for a while, trying to dispatch it but, in the end, even Maggie had to admit defeat.
Once or twice, we discovered that Maggie brought us live rodents too. Peter moved the fridge one day and found a family of mice living behind it. While he and Chloe, our dog, dispatched the mice, Maggie sat calmly in the doorway watching the show.
But, no matter how far she roamed during her hunts, I had only to stand at the back door and call her name and she would streak across the fields, a flash of brilliant orange and white fur and wrap herself around my legs.
She was also a cat for carrying a grudge.
Peter sat on her eleven years ago and she, finally, forgave him about six months ago. Likewise, our son, he made the mistake of pulling her tail ten years ago, and she forgave him about the same time.
She took the transatlantic move very well. She loved to sleep in the back yard, in some shady corner but, always, she would come when I called. Her tail held high.
In the end, she only showed her symptoms for a few days. Up until a week or so ago, she was first in line for the evening cat treats, standing in front of Peter with that tail up in the air, a hopeful look on her face. She hoovered the treats up much quicker than the two, much younger, males.
Now, she's gone. It wasn't a hard decision to make. I could tell she was tired of life, tired of fighting to breathe. She just wanted to sleep. We watched her leave us, swiftly, quietly. It's hard to witness, yet it's comforting too because I know that, somewhere in a dusk-shadowed field, a small orange and white cat is out hunting underneath the summer stars.
I love you Maggie. Happy hunting.