It has been three months since we lost Ariel. I’ve taken too long, but it has been hard to write this memorial. For one thing, even though every animal that has been part of my life has been special, he was that extra special friend to me; he came to me when I was a stranger in a strange land, and he shared that adventure with me. For another, we had to be away from home, leaving him critically ill and in the hands of our wonderful pet sitter, when he died. So there is a certain measure of guilt that goes with the loss. And also a huge debt of gratitude to Paula and to the staff at Montrose Pet Hospital, for being there for him when we were not.
But really what I want to share now is who he was, my little (well, not so little, in his prime he was the Rocky of cats, compact and muscular) Spanish gatito. He was Ariel, my Gatito Pequeñito, , my Arielito, Kitty Pasta (it’s a bilingual pun, you see).
Yes, he was a boy-cat – he was named after the impish creature Prospero found in a cloven pine in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” and not after the little mermaid. He was so named because I first spotted him under a bush, as I passed by it on the way to lunch one day. I was working in Spain at a European Space Agency facility that was located in a large open area overlooked by a crumbling castle. The station property was densely populated with feral cats and rabbits, the latter serving as the diet for the former. But this little cat was different. He was a late adolescent and would have been gangly anyway, but he was also dangerously emaciated and the look he gave me said, “I want to be with you, but I am afraid”. I spent the day trying to catch him, each time I got just a little closer before he would run out of reach and then stop and wait for me. Finally I was able to pick him up, but that was too much for him and he ran off leaving me to staunch the bleeding… undaunted I returned the next morning with a friend, a borrowed carrier and a can of food, and home he went with me.
He was, indeed, starving, essentially in the midst of plenty. I would watch out my office window as the local cats hunted and once saw a small cat carry off a full-sized rabbit so large she could barely hold it off the ground, still kicking. Ariel had none of the survival skills of the resident cat population, and I have always assumed he was a cute kitten that got dumped when he stopped being cute. One thing for sure, he had utterly no outdoor survival skills. On the few occasions he found himself outside the house (Spanish homes don’t have window screens) he would sit and cower and wait for me to come and rescue him.
So there I was with an animated skeleton in a cat carrier. The vet I found in the small town of El Escorial was not a whole lot of help, having little understanding of why people would keep cats rather than dogs and no feline bedside manner. On more than one occasion we had to retrieve the terrified cat from various hiding places in the exam room after an escape. At that point my Spanish was severely limited which made the whole adventure that much more adventurous. I was later able to persuade this vet, whose horrified expression suggested he identified his manhood entirely too closely with that of his patients, to neuter Ariel only after a number of increasingly insistent conversations, He agreed, finally, when, as a mature male, he began spraying my bed! But on that first visit, he sent us home, with instructions to wash off the rancid-garlic-oil he was coated in and to feed him. He left me unsure if the scrawny, weightless package of bones and fur was likely to survive.
But survive he did. At first he did not want me to touch him, but he ate and drank well. Within 48 hours he was sleeping on top of my head for the warmth. After a month or so he turned into the happy, affectionate soul he would remain for the rest of his life, although it took a return to the US (a whole adventure on its own) before he suddenly transformed from a gangly slender cat – POOF! – into a robust and muscular one. He loved to snuggle up next to a warm human, even climbing under the covers and resting his head on an arm. He was sweetness incarnate, always easy to handle, always cheerful, if a bit sedate. When we added Nikki to our family in 2009 we weren’t quite sure how he, and Pepe, with whom he had a negotiated truce, would cope with a younger cat. Not to worry, he and Nikki became the best of friends and we often caught them curled up together. He reminded me of a shy, older, bookish man walking out with a cute girl, partly embarrassed and partly proud. She misses him, too.
He lived a healthy and happy life into his early teens. One day about a year ago, we felt he was not quite right, losing a bit of weight, sleeping even more than usual, and he was diagnosed with mild compromise to his kidney function. I think it was then that his flirtation with starvation caught up with him, because after a period of holding his own without any treatment, he suddenly went downhill rapidly, losing weight and becoming quite weak. We tried fluid dialysis and supporting him at home with subcutaneous fluids, but his body was just done, I think. The timing was heart-rending because my husband and I were committed to an event in Death Valley just at the time his illness became critical.
My husband wrote the following about the phone call I got from Ben and its aftermath in his blog (www.badwaterbill.com). The phone call was a kind of miracle of its own – I was out in Death Valley halfway between Furnace Creek and Stovepipe Wells with nothing but miles and miles of desert around, where the phone had no business finding coverage.
Here is what he wrote:
“Little Spanish Ariel was named from Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” because he was found under a bush, starving, covered with oil, and near death. […] When Deborah brought him home from Spain, he met his forced siblings, Kira and Merlin. A fast friendship in the new family was not exactly what happened, but tolerance and some comfort in each other’s company finally came to pass.
I first met Ariel not long after. He was a bit nervous about new people, but he could see in me someone that was not a worry. Deborah told me he did not like being picked up. That is the wrong thing to say to me. I moved carefully toward him, introducing myself. He was happy with that, so up he came into my arms. My first real greeting with this fine, loving cat was to have him throw his paws around my neck and put his head under my chin, purring happily. And so, another new friendship was born.
Ariel was a heat seeker. He loved his heated bed, but he loved the lesser in temperature human warmth more. He would, usually, politely check to see if we would accept his nuzzling. Sometimes, he would just assume and take his place next to us in bed. Like all strong friendships, there were ups and downs. He could be annoying at times, and he could get grumpy if we did not do just want he wanted on occasion. But, forgiveness would immediately follow, as if we really could do no wrong. In full health, Ariel, I called him Rurr Rurr, walked like a tiny bulldog. His countenance was regal. He loved us and when not sleeping, he would show us every chance he got.
Deborah worried a bit that Ariel’s traumatic youth might take him from us early. Perhaps she was right. At 14 years old, Ariel’s kidneys started to fail. With care and the right food, it looked like he might have years. Such would not be the case. Cats instinctually hide how they are feeling when they are sick. Ariel was a pro at that. When Deborah and I left for Death Valley for my training session in July, he appeared well and we were content to leave him in the capable hands of our long time cat sitter. He likely stayed in his bed the times she visited, so she had no reason to worry, either. When we returned five days later, an Ariel made up of little more than skin and bones greeted us. His kidney function had declined drastically. We knew the end would come much sooner than we wanted. We would make his last months or weeks good ones. We finished preparations for Death Valley and we left believing we would find Ariel greeting us as always, if not the muscled kitty he once had been.
The call came Monday evening, as I headed toward Stovepipe Wells. Somehow Deborah had cellular connectively where we had never seen it before. The call was weak. She did not want to tell me what the call was about, but I read it on her face. While we were somewhere on the road to Stovepipe Wells, Ariel with dignity and compassion would be sent to cross the Rainbow Bridge. His time had come. I headed into the setting sun with a heavy heart, and determination in my eyes. The hot breeze quickly dried the tears.
“You will never leave me
nor shall anything part us
You are my cat and
I am your human –
Now and onwards
Into the fullness of peace”
— Hilaire Belloc
Goodbye Ariel, I miss you.
How Lucy came into my life: When my brother left for college, he took his dog, Roxy with him. It was then I realized how much I missed having a dog in the house. So after convincing my mom (which I am not sure how I did), my search for a dog began. I visited the Glendale Humane society several times but left empty-handed. Then one visit, a friend wanted to go with me to help me make a decision. I walked in and the dogs started to bark from every direction. I knew that I wanted a female dog and at least 2 years old because I didn’t want to deal with the puppy traits. I walked around and looked. Believe it or not, but I completely passed Lucy the first time around because, frankly, she wasn’t making any noise (crazy me). However, she sat at the edge of the cage, looking at me. My friend was walking behind me and said, “what about her?” I looked and said, “well, she is younger than I wanted.” It was marked she was approximately 1 year old. My friend said, “let’s take her for a walk and see.” And that was all it took for me to fall in love with Lucy, because all she wanted to do was be loved. She stayed close to me and you can say, she adopted me. We walked back to the shelter and found out that since she was a stray, I would have to wait the allotted time to allow someone to come and claim her. I think I had to wait 5 days. But every day I called to see if she was still there and sure enough, she was. The shelter worker told me that several people were looking at her as well so if I wanted her , make sure I was there on the first day she was available. And so, I took the day off, and waited for the shelter to open. I filled out the application and she was mine. That was back in July 1998.
Ever since then, Lucy has been a part of my life in every way possible. I tried to give her the best possible life that she deserved. Everyone who met Lucy, loved her. Even friends who didn’t like dogs told me she was the only dog they cared for. She was the sweetest dog and no one can replace her. Her paws will be forever on my heart.
Olga, Lucy’s mom forever.
Sunday, February 3rd, 2013
Our beloved Bunky,
the beautiful sweet spirit
whose life here we
were privileged to share,
went on to larger frisbee runs and
endless squirrel chases today.
The gap he leaves is huge and
can only be filled with
memories of his infinite provision of joy
and his tireless devotion and loyalty.
We are all better people because
of what he taught us.
Thank you, God, for sharing him with us.
Miss Manners was born in January of 1993. She was rescued from an animal shelter in Atlanta, Georgia in late ’93 by Amy Grenier of Osborne Shows, a company who trains animals for television, movies and live performance venues. Amy Grenier was Miss Manners’ trainer and Manners was the first cat taught by Osborne Shows to walk the tight rope. She trained for several months, then went to work for the Magic Mountain Theme Parks as the star attraction in the Animal Action Show. She was the acrobat cat – the diva on the tight rope – performing 3-4 shows daily throughout the year. Miss Manners worked at Six Flags over Georgia in Atlanta for 1 year, 1 year at Six Flags over Mid-America in Ohio, 1 year at Six Flags over Texas, outside of Dallas, then for 3 years at Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California. Miss Manners retired from show business in November of 2001 to live the life of luxury. She resided in the beautiful mountain resort town of Idyllwild, CA from 2001 to 2009, and then in Palm Springs 2009-2010. In 2010 and early 2011, she split her time between Palm Springs and Montrose/Los Angeles, then retired exclusively to Montrose in the spring of 2011. From 2001 until 2010, she traveled extensively – both domestically and internationally. Notably she spent the summer of 2004 living in Orehovy – just outside of Moscow, Russia. She also traveled dozens of times to New York City, one of her very favorite places, staying there several weeks throughout each year from 2005-2009. Miss Manners was treated like a queen every moment of every day of her life. All who met her were blessed by her sweet demeanor and charmed by her unique personality. She is survived by her mom, Denise, and her two sisters, Shakti and Marigold.
This is the story of Hobie, and my 20 year relationship with “The Best Cat Ever!”
In 1991 I was working at Good Samaritan Hospital as the liaison nurse for the Home Health Dept. Our office was located in an old building that had once been the student nurse’s residence. The upper floors consisted of apartments rented by hospital employees. The ground floor housed our office and a laundry room. My office looked out onto a patio area where some of the kids who lived in the building liked to play. In the summer of 1991, I noticed that the kids often played with an orange kitten. I remember thinking, that the poor kitten never got any rest from these kids. He seemed happy enough to be with them, as they carried him around in a big box and passed him from one child to another.
Months passed, and I didn’t see the kitten, because the kids seem to be around. In March of 1992, I noticed an orange tabby cat hanging around the laundry room and out in the patio area. Then, he was at our windows looking in at us as we worked. One day, when the office door was open, he came in and wanted to hang around. This didn’t make everyone in our office happy. The world is not full of cat lovers like me. I noticed that this scruffy little cat was pretty skinny and dirty. It occurred to me that this was probably the cat that I had seen with the kids during the previous summer. Apparently, the family had moved away, and left him behind.
I started bringing in dry cat food, and feeding him every day. He would come to the window, and paw on it to get my attention. If I saw him outside or in the laundry room, he would always come to me, and loved to be held and petted. One day I brought my son Jeremy to work with me. I told Jeremy to come to the laundry room with me, so I could show him something. We went into the laundry room and sat on a couch. The little orange tabby cat was sitting on top of a dryer, staying warm. I called to the kitty to come. He immediately jumped off the dryer and planted himself between Jeremy and me on the couch. I remember Jeremy said “Wow, that’s a cool cat!”
Some people in my office wanted to call animal control to come get my little orange friend, but I was determined not to let that happen. I was sure I could find a home for this sweet little kitty. I didn’t think I could keep him myself, because we had two other cats at home, and very little money. Besides that, only two months before this time, I had lost my dear cat named “Kitty” at the age of almost twenty years. I was still grieving for Kitty, and I wasn’t really ready for another cat.
A friend of mine, Joyce was very involved in animal rescue. Joyce arranged for free neutering for this little cat, which would make it easier to find him a home. I had an appointment for him at the vet for the following week. Then, I walked into work one day and noticed that the little guy had an abscess on his leg. I knew that he need medical attention right away. So, I took him to the vet who was scheduled to perform the neutering. I explained that we had very little money, but I wanted to help this little cat get well. I left him there for two days. They drained the abscess, neutered him, and gave him all his shots. When I returned to pick him up, I was very worried about the cost. I believe the vet charged me only $30. I was amazed and thanked him profusely. He responded by saying, “No. Thank you for taking in this animal.
I took the little orange tabby cat home with me, figuring I’d keep him long enough to find him a good home. He came into our house and went right to the bedroom that my husband Cliff and I shared. He stayed there pretty much all the time, except for using the litter box, and eating. Our other two cats weren’t fond of him, so he just stayed out of their way. He was a “peace at any price” kind of kitty. We decided that he needed a name, even though we didn’t plan to keep him forever. We picked the name “Hobo”, because he had been a little homeless guy. I really did try to find him a home, but it was harder than I thought to place a cat, even a perfect one. After a short while, I gave up. Hobo had not only moved into our home, but into our hearts.
For the past twenty years this little cat, who we affectionately called “Hobie”, brought us more joy than we could have imagined. To us, he was simply the sweetest, smartest cat that ever lived. He never scratched a piece of furniture, always used the litter box, never scratched or bit anyone, and almost always came when he was called. He got along with other cats and dogs. He loved to snuggle. He would come upstairs to our bedroom every night and insist on snuggling with me for a while before bedtime. I had a special way of holding him like a baby, while he purred very loudly. Around 9:00 P.M. every night, if I wasn’t already upstairs in the bedroom, he’d come looking for me to tell me loudly that it was bedtime. He loved to snuggle with Cliff too, and just about anyone else who would allow it. Hobie slept with Cliff and me at night. If he got cold during the night, he would gently rub his paw on Cliff’s or my cheek until someone lifted the covers, so he could get underneath where it was warmer.
When his kidneys finally failed, he behaved bravely, pushing himself to stand and walk and eat for as long as he could. Many times I could tell that he didn’t feel like doing it. I think sometimes he walked and ate just for me. In the past two weeks, it became harder for him to walk. I would get up during the night and carry him to the litter box. He went potty for me every time. Who says you can’t teach an old cat new tricks?
It was impossible not to love this little cat. Today, I lost him. I can’t believe that he is gone. I’m grateful for the twenty years that he filled my life. The time seemed so short. There is a big hole in my heart now, that was once filled with a little orange stray cat named Hobie, who was The Best Cat Ever!
Fifteen years ago, our son, Jeremy, entered our home carrying a small, soft, brindle ball of fur. Someone had given him a puppy. Today, I reflect on how that tiny little animal changed our lives forever. She didn’t stay tiny, of course. She grew in size and filled our lives with love. Jeremy gave her a beautiful name, Natalie.
We never really knew for sure what kind of dog Natalie was. My husband always said she was “Heinz 57”. But, we knew she was the best kind. She was the kind that loves you unconditionally. The kind that greets you happily at the door, carrying a stuffed toy just for you. The kind that always wants to be near you, following you from room to room. The kind that always makes you smile, when you see the loving sparkle in her eyes.
Natalie lived with us for fifteen years. But, she remained Jeremy’s dog. When Jeremy moved out on his own, he couldn’t take Natalie with him, so she stayed with us. But, Jeremy always had a special place in her heart. Whenever she saw him, there was a particular light in her eyes; a look of devotion reserved just for him. When Jeremy was around, Natalie wanted to be near him. Oh, she loved us too! She let us know that every day. But, Jeremy was clearly her favorite.
Natalie was such a cute puppy! Her ears were droopy when she first came to live with us. When her ears first began to stand up, they touched each other in a point above her head. For a while, we called her “cone head”. She loved stuffed animals. We called them her “babies”. She carried her babies around with her everywhere she went. She had a basketful of them. At the end of the day, I would walk through the house collecting her babies, and returning them to the basket until tomorrow. As we would enter the house, she would always greet us. If she didn’t have a toy with her, she would run to her basket, and then return to bring us a baby. At Christmas, she always got some new babies. She loved to stick her face in the gift bag, and pull out her new babies. The ones with squeakers were her favorite, though the squeaker rarely lasted long. She never outgrew her love for her babies.
Natalie loved, loved, loved to go to the park. No matter how discreet we were in discussing a trip to the park, somehow she always knew what we were saying! She would get excited and run to get her leash. When we got near the park, she could hardly contain herself. She couldn’t wait to get out of the car and chase her little red ball. She would race to fetch that ball for as long as we would continue throwing it. Unfortunately, when she was eight years old, while chasing her beloved ball, she tore a ligament in her knee. She had to have surgery to repair the injured knee. After that, our trips to the park no longer included throwing the little red ball. The doctor said that she wasn’t allowed to run fast anymore, because her knees were damaged from years of chasing that ball. It broke my heart to see her searching our hands for that little red ball every time we got to the park. Eventually she accepted this, as dogs tend to accept the limitations put upon them by the people they love. But, Natalie still loved taking walks in the park and greeting the other dogs and people, even when she was very old.
The last couple of years have been hard for Natalie. The Arthritis in her knees and elbows became severe. She needed lots of medication to help with the pain. Even though she was uncomfortable, she was tough. She still wanted to take a walk every night. She still loved going to the park. She still greeted us every day with a loving look and a wagging tail. During this last year, it has been hard for her bring one of her babies to us when we came home. So, she didn’t always do that. But, sometimes she would make the effort, and bring a baby when one of us walked in the door. I know she did it, because she wanted us to know that she still loved us, just as much we I loved her.
Natalie has left us now. We miss our sweet girl so much! This week, she went to heaven to wait for us there. When I get there, I hope she will run to greet me happily carrying her baby, or maybe a little red ball.