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!”