My primary cat died last night. I said the Avelokiteshvara mantra for her as she lay dying, and many more repetitions as Dad and I carried her body out to animal control to be cremated. OM MANI PADME HUM, OM MANI PADME HUM, OM MANI PADME HUM. Dad had an errand to run, so I came home, and now the secondary kitty and I are here alone. It’s lonely here without my sweet little fox-face. I don’t know if Dot understands that Mouse is dead, but I suspect she feels something.
I remember taking Mouse home, many years ago. She walked right up to me and my boyfriend at the time, put her paws up on his knees and meowed right at him. I remember her annoyance at finding herself in my household; I’m pretty sure she expected to wind up with Michael, but his household didn’t have room for another cat. She found a high place in the apartment and stayed there for months, only coming down for meals. I would go over to her occasionally, proffer my nose to her for a brief “kiss” nose to nose, and then leave her alone again. She eventually warmed to us, and to Toby, our big bruiser of a cat who traversed the rainbow bridge a long time ago. They got along with no violence on either side, surprisingly given how aggressive Toby was; Mouse knew how to handle him, I guess.
She was pregnant when she found us; a fact we only found out after we had her spayed. I was told by the place that did the spaying – a charity for folks who couldn’t afford to go to a regular vet for the spaying – that she likely would not have survived bearing kittens, or at least would have jeopardized her health. At any rate, their policy was to terminate, so they did. I was sad about the kittens, but only a little.
I remember the tricks she came up with to get me and dad, incorrigible slug-a-beds, up in the morning to feed her. Her initial foray into human awakenment was chewing on plastic. She developed the habit of chewing plastic bags as an urban kitty and discovered that the sound drove us crazy. As we acclimated to that, she came up with another fun trick: the dive-bomb. She would make her way to the top of the door to my bedroom and then jump – BOOM! – down onto my bed below. Her pranks generally earned her generous sprayings from the water bottle. For this I am sorry. I should have had more patience.
I remember all the times Dot came up to Mouse demanding to be groomed and Mouse obliged her, until she herself wanted grooming and Dot just wasn’t programmed to return the favor. Mouse would get annoyed with her and a fight would break out. But often I would see the two of them sleeping together, their heads together, almost like mother and daughter, except the mother was half the size of the child. They always looked so peaceful and happy like that.
I remember like it was yesterday, and it practically was yesterday, the grouchy entitled old lady who wasn’t satisfied with pretty much anything. She wanted what she wanted, right now, and let us know in no uncertain terms that she wanted it; she just didn’t have language to let us know exactly what she wanted. Sometimes we guessed right: often she just wanted to be fed. She got food-crazy in her declining years – we thought it might be a thyroid problem. But many times it was impossible to figure out what was going on in her little kitty mind. As she grew older it seemed that what she wanted more often than not was simply to be picked up and held.
In the last couple weeks, she wanted to be held constantly. She would walk right onto my desk like she owned it – a habit neither of my cats would normally try when I was around – and demand to be picked up. She would let me hold her for more than an hour and then would only reluctantly let herself be lowered to my bed.
During the recent cold snap she wanted to be under the covers, preferably with a human body. She would cry until somebody got into bed with her and then dive under the covers before one could get comfortable. She continued this habit after the cold snap and right up until her last night.
I knew she would probably not make it through the night. She lost her appetite several days ago, and yesterday, it became clear to me that she had lost strength to stand or sit properly. She got up a few times yesterday, but it was laborious and she quickly demanded to be picked up and put on the bed again. So as night became bedtime, I got into bed with her and did my best to stay, despite the head cold that demanded frequent trips to the bathroom to clear my sinuses. I lay in bed with her for hours stroking her head frequently, not sleeping, and I sat with her at times when I could not lay down. I remember being in awe at how present and aware she seemed all through the night. Finally I got up and sat at my desk near the head of the bed where she lay, not sleeping. I watched a bit of anime on the computer, looking over at her at intervals to stroke her head. Finally, at around 4am, I looked over and she was gone. Her eyes were open and she was still. I reached over and stroked her a bit, but I knew she was simply not here any more.
She was twenty years old.
Mouse, I hope that you go peacefully through the bardo with Avelokiteshvara, the Buddha of compassion, at your side. I hope you find the pure lands, where you experience ease of body and mind. I pray that you find a human birth and the vows of a boddhisattva, as you richly deserve. And barring all that, I hope you find a rebirth as a kitty with a better human mommy than me; one who will be kinder and more consistent. It’s lonely here without you, and I have regrets. But I will endeavor to come back to the moment, again and again. Have a peaceful journey. And thanks, for these precious days of closeness.