Saturday, October 29, 2005

Sad Weekend at the Bissette Household: Sugar RIP, and Kitty Memories

It's always sad when a beloved pet passes, and yesterday at noon our lone feline queen of the house Sugar left us for good. It was a tough decision, but given her declining health, uncharacteristic behavior of the past two weeks, and sudden turn for the worse since Wednesday of this week, Marj and I bundled Sugar up just before noon for a final visit to our local vet Trudy Matt. I'd stuck pretty close to home the last two days, bringing Sugar food (which she would eat) and water (which she refused) as it became increasingly evident that she could no longer see and didn't really know where she was, other than when she was either in Marj's or my arms or laying in front of the stove. A new pattern of circling either her food dish or random areas of the main floor was indicative of either a brain lesion or a very recent stroke, Trudy told us, and that was the deciding factor.

Sugar had been with Marj and her son Mike since 1991, when she showed up in their garage, drenched by rains and flea-and-tick riddled. She adopted them, really, though she remained on the bottom of the kitty-pecking-order in the households dominated by brother-and-sister PT and Shadow. When PT and Shadow succumbed to old age last year, Sugar quickly adapted to the role of Reigning Queen of All She Surveyed, quite enjoying the solitary kitty life. Given her steadfast revulsion for any diminuitive creature entering the household -- including other cats (Mike's, and a one-visit acquaintence who made the fatal error of insisting upon her little dog coming along for the visit) and our grandson -- Marj decided after PT and Shadow's deaths that Sugar would savor what time was left to her solo, as she clearly preferred. She was a great cat, and a real beaut -- though a shit mouser. I mean, she never killed a single rodent in her life, though I once found her playing with one of Shadow's kills as if it were her own.

Though I've known (and lived with two) great dogs, cats have remained the mainstays of my life as far as household pets go -- that is, since I outgrew my amphibian-and-reptile phase. My first cat was Ymir, named after my favorite Ray Harryhausen creation (for her amazing whiskers, as well as one bit of body language that recalled Ray's distinctive stop-motion animation), and like Sugar she lived a long life; unlike Sugar, who was an indoor-only cat, Ymir was an aggressive creature of the woods and the night, habitually disappearing for a full two weeks every single October, savoring the last stretch of pre-snow weather in her own (forever mysterious) forest sojourn. Ymir had her first and only litter on my favorite jacket in my closet, and my first wife Marlene and I kept our favorite of her brood, a boisterous black male with a single white mark on his chest. Given his proclivity for knocking potted plants from wherever they sat down onto the floor, we named him Sugar Ray, and he once gleefully clawed my copy of House of Secrets (featuring the first Swamp Thing story) to punish me for punishing him. He was a little shit but we loved him; alas, he vanished one day when a surprise blizzard dumped over three feet of snow overnight just after he'd gone outside, and we never saw him again. Marlene and our kids Maia and Danny had other memorable and beloved cats -- foremost among them Fred, who loved the water, and would often join the kids in their bath and even dare a swim in our pond! -- but life in the Marlboro woods claimed them all, sad to say. Ymir outlived them all, and once saved Maia's life; she died at home, finally put to sleep on our own bed (thanks to a home visit from Trudy, bless her) when she began to suffer unexpected seizures. We buried her in our back yard, and the stone marker may be there still.

Sugar will join the remains of Shadow and PT under the red maple tree sapling growing in our front garden (a gift from Marj's sister Pat. Goodbye, Sugar. It was a privilege to know you. You loved and were loved.