Wednesday, January 11, 2012

'Bye, Mickey.



I buried Mickey yesterday. I wrapped her up in a bright yellow towel along with one of her favorite toys and gently laid her in a hole I dug just off the front porch. Then I placed a nice flat stone over her body (so she’d be safe from other critters) and covered her over with dirt. I'll make a marker for her grave with her name on it as soon as I can.

I had Mickey for about eight years. I adopted her from my friend Cass (who adopted her in turn from her daughter.) So we think Mickey was about about 14 years old, but we’re not entirely sure. 

I originally got Mickey because I had a pretty bad mouse problem here at the cabin. Cass said, “Have I got the cat for you!” and sure enough, within a couple of weeks the mice had fled in terror. Mickey could be feisty. “How’d you get that scratch?” was a question I was frequently asked. I’d raise my eyebrows in Mickey’s direction and she’d be wearing her “You pays your money and you takes your chances” expression, implying I had no one but myself to blame for my wound. After all, hadn’t she growled at me before the strike? Couldn’t I take a hint? 

She was the most fiercely independent cat I’ve known, but also the most fiercely affectionate. Traveling as much as I do, I felt no compunction leaving her alone for three or four days at a time. When I’d walk in the door after being away she’d give me a look which said, “Oh, have you been gone? Well, don't just stand there, let’s get those opposable thumbs to work and open a can!” But sometimes I’d be watching TV on the couch and she’d climb up, lay her paws on me and, gripping my shoulder like a vise, start purring so loudly I’d have to turn up the volume. And just before turning off the light for the night I'd say, "Let's do crook-of-the-arm!" and she'd curl up tight inside my elbow and fall instantly asleep.

I like to take my afternoon nap in the loft bed at the cabin and as I’d take a step up the ladder I’d call, “Mickey, you wanna take a nap?” Wherever she was in the house, she’d tear into the piano room and race me up to the loft and be waiting on the bed for me to pull the blanket over us. (Curiously, it’s the only time of day she’d allow herself to be covered.)

One reason I wasn’t sure of her age is because up until this past Christmas Eve she was as spry and kittenish as I’d ever known her to be. But that morning I woke up and saw she was a little unsteady on her feet and when she tried coming down from the loft I could tell she couldn’t judge how far the next step was. She had gone blind overnight. The vet diagnosed detached retinas due to hypertension due to either a thyroid condition or kidney failure. He put her on blood pressure medicine and did blood work. After walking around depressed and unsure for a couple of days (both of us, I hasten to add) she started to adapt to her loss of sight amazingly quickly and adeptly. Her thyroid medicine seemed to be working and I was hopeful that, while things would never be quite the same (no more racing down the hall and throwing herself on the bed with all her weight to wake me up in the morning) we would still have a happy life together.

But two days ago she got up from her bed and I could tell something was amiss. She was weak and uncertain on her feet. Within the space of half an hour I watched her condition deteriorate to the point where--as the nurse at the vet’s office said--I just knew the time had come.

She lay in a blanket-lined box in the passenger seat next to me as we took what was one of the saddest drives of my life. I could tell she was weak and uncomfortable and I assured her it would be better really, really soon. The staff at the vet’s office was amazingly kind and respectful of both me and Mickey. As the doctor shaved a bit of fur off her leg to prepare for the injection Mickey gave one last frail little growl. I liked that. I told her she had been a good friend to me and then it was over.

And now she lies at the foot of my front step, wrapped in a bright yellow towel, under a clump of lily-of-the-valley that I brought from Cass’s garden years ago. I'll be able to tell her, "Hey," every time I leave the house. I left her heart-shaped name tag on because, you never know, somebody might ask who she is. 

She’ll probably just roll her eyes and say, “It's me... Mickey. Duh!”

17 comments:

  1. Tom this is such a sweet end story. You made me laugh and cry. I wish you many fond and fun memories of Mickey.
    XO - MJ

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  2. So sorry to hear tha she is gone. She was a good one.

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  3. I've shared your tribute with friends (many of whom are cat owners) and they all say the same thing.....you can feel how much he loved her..
    She was lucky to have you, too.

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  4. I had to cry... I just went through that with one of my dogs. YES... that was the saddest and Hardest drives. I still don't remember driving home. My 2 cts and now one dog are buried in my yard all with headstones. Cats...Cali (21) Alf (19) and my sheltie Buddy around 15 to 16.
    Mike Quello

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  5. You were both very lucky to have each other.

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  6. Thanks for sharing this beautiful piece of writing about your loss of Mickey. Several times I have had to say "good bye" to a dearly loved cat or dog, and I do understand the aching void that you are left with.

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  7. Gary Pinsky AdamsenJanuary 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM

    You know Tom, the way that you described Mickey, I truly felt as if I knew her too. Thats a talent. Even in moments of sadness you articulate your feelings in a way that allows us, your friends and fans, to share with you on a deeper level. And thats why we love what you write.
    I am so sorry for your loss and understand the heartache and the empty feeling that resides in your chest now. Having lost a pet/friend before, I can relate to reliving the wonderful crazy pet moments as well as the run of the mill everyday occurrences that, while in the moment, we take for granted.
    Thank you for sharing this with us all.

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  8. Oh, I'm so sorry for your loss! I'm tearing up sitting at my computer with the cat purring like crazy next to me...and he's 14, too. *waterworks* You have shared a lovely memory with us. Thank you.

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  9. Hi Tom,

    What a beautiful tribute! I'm so sorry to have never met Mickey (damn, missed by just a couple of months!) and I know how difficult this time must be. I'm not looking forward to the last days of Meadows which I hope are a long way off. Every pet should have as loving a "parent" as you!

    We're looking forward to our visit with you and Mickey (in spirit) soon!

    Love,
    Geoffrey

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  10. So beautifully written Tom. I would expect nothing less of you. And I love that I make several appearances! You are a stunning writer and you were such a perfect match for that funny little cat.
    I loved seeing you today and sharing stories over lunch. I hope your cruise is a blast, your gigs all fall into place on the west coast, and that the a metropolitan room officers you a run of nights, so I can come see you.
    XOXOX
    Cass

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  11. Good-bye, Mickey!

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  12. Tom, I'm so sorry to hear about Mickey, but it sounds like she had a fabulous life with you. She was a very lucky kitty to have you - and vice versa.

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  13. My heart broke when I read your story about
    Dan and it broke again reading about Mickey. At least this time you had a proper goodbye. Thanks for sharing your joys and your sorrows so beautifully.

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  14. What a wonderful story... My eyes teared and I feel like I knew her. Thank you Tom for your soft and touching words about Mickey. One this is for sure, having an animal companion is a good and bad – good because they give us unconditional love, but bad because they are never in our lives long enough. XxX

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  15. From a humane society vet here, sorry to hear about your cat. Sounds like you gave her a great life though. Hope it's OK to share another piece of writing about the death of a cat, from Garrison Keillor.
    Charlie, from Atlanta


    by Garrison Keillor


    When we got home, it was almost dark.
    Our neighbor waited on the walk.
    "I'm sorry, I have bad news," he said.
    "Your cat, the gray-black one, is dead.
    I found him by the garage an hour ago."
    "Thank you," I said, "for letting us know."
    We dug a hole in the flower bed
    With lilac bushes overhead,
    Where this cat loved to lie in spring
    And roll in dirt and eat the green
    Delicious first spring bud,
    And laid him down and covered him up,
    Wrapped in a piece of tablecloth,
    Our good old cat laid in the earth.
    We quickly turned and went inside
    The empty house and sat and cried
    Softly in the dark some tears
    For that familiar voice, that fur,
    That soft weight missing from our laps,
    That we had loved too well perhaps
    And mourned from weakness of the heart.
    A childish weakness, to regard
    An animal whose life is brief
    With such affection and such grief.
    If such is weakness, so it be.
    This modest elegy
    Is only meant to note the death
    Of one cat so we won't forget
    His face, his name, his gift
    Of cat affection while he lived,
    The sweet shy nature
    Of this graceful creature,
    The simple pleasure of himself,
    The memory of our cat, Ralph.

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  16. Oh tom im so sorry for your loss... i know she is watching over you...

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  17. I'm still in my mourning for Audrey (she was thin when we picked her up, but then we'd have to change her name into Mae, but we never did) that died at 13 years - a big hug from Rome - I know how you can feel
    Franco

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