Saturday, June 16, 2012

Angel - obituary

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Angel died last night.  Laura, Gilbert and I were watching tv. She was lying on the couch beside me. Suddenly she shot up and fell down quivering. A minute passed while I  ran my hands over her, her eyes glassy, tongue lolling to the side. I felt her heart beat stopping as I held her.  Then I got on pants to go to the Vet but picked her up again and realized it was over. . She was definitely dead.  Suddenly.  Sadly. Tragically.
I was numb.  Laura suggested we put her in a blanket. I did.  Then cleaned up the feces and pee.  14 years old and apparently a cat 'stroke' or cerebral bleed. It was like she'd been electrocuted but there was no electricity.  There was no life in her either. We set her in the blanket gentle on the couch at the back of thesail boat. That's where we'd laid together in storms crossing the Pacific Ocean
In the night about 3 am I checked her. She was stiff. This morning I put her outside  in the cockpit under the bimini out of the rain.  Gilbert my dog came up with me.  He sniffed her nostrils for the longest time.  They always greeted with rubbing noses.  Now he nudged her with his snout.  He was anxious. He'd never known a friend to die.
 I'm an old timer at that.  Heavy with death.
But he's a little dog and she was like a big sister or mother to him.  I called him back in.   I can see he's confused by death.
They would chase each other up and down the dock together. He'd chase her, little paws pounding after her quick clawed lightening flight till she'd suddenly turn and hiss, the two stopping in a dramatic stand off. Then he'd run away with her chasing along beside him till she'd pass him and stop. Suddenly she 'd be sitting there licking herself, nonchalantly,  acting like she'd not even been racing. She'd however be just a little smug.  He'd want to have another match but she'd won and she'd ignore him as he'd put out his fore paws arse in the air and bark at her to go again.  When he'd least expect it she'd take off and the whole caper would replay.  He could do it all day.  But she'd bore easily, suffer cat ennui, and leave him to return to her academic study of  the nearby birds.
I always knew she'd liked to kill a seagull or better still one of the Canada Geese that climbed up on her dock and sunned themself. She'd tried to not let on that was her dream especially when she could sneak up close to them as they stood on the dock.
When I'd had the boat (ship)  over by Stanley park she'd escape the dock and take to the trees. Later she'd come back in the wee hours with song bird feathers caught in her fur.  She was a great birder. She brought me mice home too at times. Little treats to remind me how clever she was.  Gilbert adored her.  He was so amazed at how fast she'd go up a tree or climb the fence in Laura's backyard.
But mostly she'd like to lie on the bed or couch and preen herself.  The minute I lay down anywhere though she was there lying on my belly.  This beautiful half calico half siamese majestic feline who would purr constantly telling me all manner of things  about her day.
I remember her as a kitten in the Vancouver Pet Store on Broadway at Laurel.  I was living in a studio apartment near Oak and walked by the pet store on my way to my Broadway and Granville medical office.  She was there in the cage rolling around tumbling with her siblings.  I think it was a day or two I stood watching her in the window before I went in and stood watching her inside.
"Is that the one you like?" the animal loving owner said.  'You can hold her. you know"
She picked this little bitty bit of fur and personality  put her in my palm.  Game over. I was in love immediately. I lifted her up and she snuggled my neck, purred and purred as she looked me in the eyes and said very distinctly, "You're going to be my human, now."  And I was.
I called her Angel forgetting that Satan had been one. She was certainly angelic most of the time but could be terribly mischievous especially with paper around .She never knew that some of the papers she scratched and spread about were most important in a human sense.
I'd missed my last cat, Moon for so many years.  Now here was another making a mess of my well ordered sterile bachelor life.
The pet store owner was a mensch. She got me everything I needed.  The old Jewish landlord in my little building had already told me he loved cats.  He oohed and ahhed when I showed him Angel too.  "She's a talker, " he said.
Cats Only, her special vets, took the best care of her and even kept her for a week at a time when I'd fly back to Winnipeg to see my parents. They told me how everyone loved her and as everyone knows Cats Are Us know their stuff when it comes to cats.  Angel was special.
It's hard to believe that was 14 years ago.  A year or so later I'd get my sailboat back. Angel and I would move aboard. That became more her home than mine.
Winter was bad one year . She was short haired and didn't like the cold. I'd leave her in the boat with the heaters on but when I came home at night the boat would be ice cold and I'd find her quivering in my open sock drawer, her favourite little cave.  This happened repeatedly before a neighbour told me the boat owner across from me was a psychopath who'd wait for me to leave and then steal my electricity unplugging my high power cable and plugging his boat in instead.  I spoke to him softly later that day and he never did it again.  Thereafter Angel was warm.  And I always thought it Christian of me to let this bottom feeding inhuman scumbag live another day.
Some years later I'd get the white scotty.  Angel didn't take to him immediately but a day later when she woke up she seemed to think he must be hers.  I watched her little eyes seem to say she was going to give up catnip and Toms forever if this was what that wild life landed her with. After that she was like his mother and tolerated all manner of abuse from Stuart as he grew up. His favourite past time on the boat was to drag her about with her head in his mouth while she'd retaliate by sitting on the table where he couldn't get at him but she could claw his little white butt whenever he went by.  At sea they'd chase each other around the boat, her long gliding leaps matched by his pounding short leg dashes.  I had netting to keep them both from falling over the side.
Those were my two companions through all the preparations I was making for off shore sailing again. Those two were with me too when I headed out from Victoria in November on my way to Saipan where I had a job waiting.  Everyone knows you don't sail to Hawaii in winter.  Summer sailing is a breeze but winter sailing is a horror. I was knocked down three times in high winds and 40 foot seas off the mouth of the Juan de Fuca when a surprise hurricane hit the coast.  It was supposed to pass by but obviously didn't.  Angel was down below in her sock drawer while Stuart was inconsolable below so stayed leashed beside me in his yellow life jacket.  I remember when we were knocked down the second time and the sail was in the water and great waves were crossing over the boat his leash broke and he was going away from the boat, his little feet paddling frantically. I was harnassed in myself and holding onto the steering wheel when I lunged and grabbed his jacket hauling him to me as the keel went back down and the boat righted itself again in a mighty swirl.  I tied him in again  but could tell he was as frightened as I was after that.
When I got back to land and made it into the protected harbour of Neah Bay I dropped an anchor in the bay, exhausted. Angel appeared then coming above deck to see where we were, tweaking noses with Stuart then telling us at great length about her discomfort in the sock drawer below.  As long as she had her sock drawer thought to go to she was fine in any inclement weather.  Let the boys take care of matters above and she'd make an appearance after all the fuzz was over.
When at night we were sailing in storms and the boat was like living in a washing machine she'd venture out to cuddle beside me in the stern berth I'd made where I could keep an eye on the GPS and radar dozing and getting up every hour to check the horizon.  She'd lie on one side of me with little Stuart on the other side.  I had pillows all around to protect us from the chaffing and bashing that went with the rough seas.  The autopilot kept me on course with only the storm sails up.
When it was sunny and we were sailing along in the glorious trade winds Angel would  be an arial gymnast trapezing along the boom or climbing up to sit on the radar post high above the passing ocean water.
She smelt Hawaii before all of us.  She and Stuart went to the bow sticking their heads out on either side sniffing the winds  a day or more out from the islands.  It would be a half day at least before I'd pick up the scent of the island fragrance.  How rich and earthy and sensual an experience that was after 20 some days at sea, including Christmas. It would be 25 days at sea before we'd drop an anchor off the Big Island.
I was late for work and left the boat in Hawaii flying on with Angel and Stuart first to Japan then to the Northern Marianas Island.  She was allowed in the cabin with me and was a favourite with the girls sitting in the seat behind me.  She lay on her side and purred as the stewardess stroked her belly.  A jet setter cat indeed.   Stuart was quarantined in Saipan so I had to visit him daily for a month or so before he joined us in the new apartment.
Angel however moved into my beautiful 2 bedroom condo with me .I'd was so lucky to get this fabulous suite  above the Commonwealth of Northern Marianas Hospital.  Angel made this our home spending hours chasing geckos that loved to hang out on the wall just above her highest leap.  When Stuart joined us there was a whole lot more chase and even further for him to drag her about by the head.  Not something strangers thought funny but I'd come to take as normal since he never hurt her and she seemed to bounce right back with a swat to his nose and more chasing around the hard wood floors with fur sliding turns more entertaining to watch than the Nascars. It did mean that her head was often wet though.  This however was her world. She loved Saipan. She loved the heat.  I was fatigued like the Scotty who had to be kept shaved but she was in her siamese element .  I felt sorry when I had to bring her home. She'd so enjoyed it and loved more when Laura visitted having another human to boss about.
When Stuart was poisoned by the stoners whose urine I refused to pass as clean in their bid for government jobs, she was bereft for days having lost her child and best buddy.  We were both sad at Stuart's loss.  The South American doctors dog was killed for the same reason.  A new corrupt government was taking over and my friends said our lives were being threatened because of our integrity.  Mom was ill in Canada.  I'd come to work in Saipan when the ruling party were the friends of high integrity I'd come to cherish and admire.  Dog dead. Mother sick in Canada. Politics.  I came home though I'd loved to have stayed with Angel. It was hard leaving friends and paradise but I was so glad to be back in Canada and closer to my parents.
Back in Vancouver Angel  became the Lady of the high rise apartment I had in the West End overlooking English Bay.  There she'd stop my heart a couple of times getting out on the balcony only to do a high wire act over to the neighbours balcony where she'd lay in wait for a pigeon.  I could just see her taking a triumphant leap followed by a 15 floor "oops' purr while claws clung to equally disappointed pigeon. I got her back and put up netting to stop her from bolting over there if she outsmarted me getting out the sliding door.  Despite her inability to get at the pigeons who nested on the deck she was very happy here.
But when a couple of years later I sailed the boat back with my friend Tom she was again in her element,  mistress of the GIRI, sea cat extraordinary.
When ever work was being done on the boat she'd visit Laura and her cat Tiffany. These two now old ladies, Tiffany and Angel,  would hiss at each other.  When Laura and I would return from a jaunt with Gilbert we'd find them sitting across the room from each other on high ground daring the other to try to get the mouse that never crossed between them.  With Gilbert back they'd join forces and sometimes both would swat his butt at the same time when he got between the two of them on the bed trying to get closest to Laura or me.
Chicken night was Angel's favourite.  She slummed on Whiskas and always had to have her special Fancy Feast can. She didn't like turkey and she didn't like tuna unless I'd caught it fresh when she was more than happy to join in on the barbecued feast.  But Chicken night was when I'd bring home a barbecued chicken from Safeway or Save on.  It started with just her, then it was her and Stuart and finally Angel with Gilbert. I'd be sitting on the boat with one little furry body one one side and the other on the other side. I'd be watching some video movie while together we'd all make our way through this incredible feast. A piece for you, a piece for you and a piece for me. Naturally Stuart and Gilbert just the same,would try to get Angel's piece after wolfing their's but she'd stand her ground nibbling daintily then hissing at the dog before finishing up and looking at me for more.  So whenever I came home with chicken I'd have a cat around my legs and a dog jumping up and down and there'd be no peace till the movie was on and the chicken was being partitioned about.
She was a singer too.  Whenever I'd bring out my guitar and sing a sea shanty or hymn I'd immediately have this little furry body sitting beside me belting out Siamese cat harmonies with little concern for human concepts of melody. She just loved to sing and it was always a joy for me to have my sad solo become a robust duet.
Angel had been back on the boat this last month.  She was happy as I've ever seen her.  The boat was her home.  We were all here that night.  Gilbert her child and best friend, Laura and me.  I'm crying now. But then I cry easily sometimes. Silly really. I'm tough as nails about alot of things.  Not this though.
I'm going to miss her. Angel, Cat of cats. The little house cat with the heart of a lioness and soul of a cheetah.  Singing Sea faring cat extraordinaire!


Anonymous said...

I had a cat for 17 years

yes, I miss that cat too

that passed away just before I went to University

haykind said...

Thank you. I miss her. I'm thankful for the story of the field where we meet our friends before crossing the bridge into heaven. I believe they're waiting there. It was this that got me through the death of my dog, Shinto. I wished I'd had that story when I was a child and lost my dogs. We were a dog family not a cat family. Cats became important to me in my adult life and I always thought they might well be interdimensional creatures, so uncanny. I loved how Angel played with Gilbert. He was so sad when she was gone. She was a cuddler and she comforted me so much with her little body. She was a talker too and I enjoyed her company. There's a space where she was that's empty now. A kind of hollow sound now. Like the cello missing in the symphony, or maybe the kettle drum. She was really a lioness in a little body. Thanks.