Of Bobbed Tails and Unconditional Love

I am about to eulogize my cat. And like nearly every cat lover on the planet, I can proclaim that mine was the greatest kitty who ever lived. I told him that every day, in fact, and I'm pretty sure he believed it.

His greatness was displayed in many ways, particularly in his size. He was a behemoth. At last weigh-in, 21.7 pounds of love and mischief. That was the first thing people noticed about him, followed by his bobbed tail. And if you were lucky and he flopped over for you so you'd have the privilege of petting his sweet, soft coat, you would notice his spotted belly too. That was my favorite part of him, along with the friendly sparkle in his crossed blue eyes and the way his mouth had an upturn to it that looked like a grin.

Angus was the truest companion. He was always there when I woke up (hell, he was always the one waking me up) and right now on the day of his death, I wonder how I'm going to sleep without feeling the purring warmth of him to help carry me off, or how I'm going to get up in the morning without the sound of his meows issuing from the hallway or the end of the bed. Every night, my and my husband's legs will be subconsciously shifted to the side of the bed as we make a space he will never again fill.

And that's what makes this so hard. Because the space he occupied in our lives and our hearts was so big. Not just in physical size, but in its sheer power. I work from home, so Angus was in many ways my daily partner. He gave me something to look forward to each day, the privilege of being his most constant caregiver. I knew just how he liked his food. I knew his routines. He had me up at nearly the same time every morning. He was my drill sergeant. There was no such thing as sleeping in with Angus in the house, even if he wasn't hungry. He just demanded your company. He didn't like to be alone. He was a social cat, in many ways like a dog. Knowing that he died without me is perhaps the hardest thing about this to accept. Because that was our unspoken agreement, that I would always have his back. But I didn't have it in the end, and that shreds me completely. He just went too fast, though... The pneumonia was too far advanced, and the panic he felt while in the hospital (where he needed to be, because his condition had just deteriorated to a place that I couldn't fix) triggered his rapid demise. Perhaps for his sake, it was better, but that feeling of failure, that guilt for not being there for him as he left this world, will haunt me like a specter. It can't be helped, no matter how many assurances that I did all I could, that he's in a better place, that he's no longer in discomfort, that I did the best for him that anyone could do. I cannot be assuaged of this. At least not right now. Perhaps with time it will mellow, but right now it just cuts and cuts again.

We have plans to scatter his ashes at a gorgeous nature preserve near our home. Although he was not an outdoor cat, I think he would like a place where he could gaze at all the birds and feel the wind on his fur, just the way he did when I had the windows open on a beautiful day. And I will carry on, because as in life, I don't think Angus would like the idea of my lying in bed when I could be up and around and giving love to something or someone.

I have believed firmly, really since the day he came into our lives, that Angus is my totem. My spirit animal. He walks with me, even now. And because no matter how I might reject religions, I will never reject the spirit. I will always believe in the deepest part of me that the thing that give us all life, the ember that we all carry inside us, it has to go somewhere. It can't just wink out. I couldn't accept it before I lost the first person I loved with my complete and entire soul, and I refuse to accept it now. I will see my beloved Angus again someday, and we will always walk together.