06 December 2012

Thankful Thursday - A Love Letter to Tootsie

Dear Tootsie, 

I know we started off on the wrong foot through no particular fault of our own.  But, as with people, you came into our lives for a purpose and now that you've given the lesson, it's time for you to rest and be at peace.

I wish your given task would've provided you with an easier life, but that wasn't your role. You started out the pet of a well meaning young couple with two small boys.  We all know what that can be like, and because they were so busy,  you had to fend for yourself. They declawed you to protect the kids, but what about protecting you? Then, because you weren't a 'friendly' cat,  they added a puppy to their household. You went from merely unfriendly to down right ornery, and the family no longer wanted you. 

I can't imagine how it was for you, cooped up in that apartment simply trying to avoid the little humans and that dog. You had to defend yourself at every turn, so that became your your natural mode. When the couple approached the older couple downstairs about the kitty they wanted to get rid of, the next chapter was written. The older couple already had one kitty, but they hated the thought a pet would have to go to a shelter. So they took you in.

I'll never forget when my parents told me they'd gotten another cat. They were in their 60s, and could barely feed themselves let alone another cat. But when Mom described you, I thought 'wow.' Imagine my surprise when I visited them and when I asked where you were their response was, 'We don't know.' You'd gone Deep Cover.  It took three days before we figured out you'd lodged yourself under the kitchen cabinets. They had to have the maintenance guys come in to get you out.  And you were one pissed off kitty. 

Years went by, and I knew that my parents were doing the best they could to care for you. On their long winter vacations, when they'd be gone three or four weeks, I'd come over to feed you and Sasha, but you'd always hide from me. That is until you got really lonely. Then you'd tentatively come out wanting me to pet you, but only so much.  I always knew when you'd had enough when you'd snap at my hand and hiss at me. I would tell people, 'she's the only cat who's ever hated me.'

The hardest part, now, is knowing that you didn't hate me. You had just come to expect that people were going to treat you poorly so you would snap before they had the opportunity to hurt you first. That voice, the one that sounded so frightening? That was just the voice you were born with. That look? That look was meant to fend off anyone who would hurt you.

I'd titled this 'Darth Vadette': February 2011
Photo courtesy of private collection
L. C. Lorenzana

The purr. The first time I heard you purr it surprised me a little.  But it was real and hearty. That was after you'd come to live in our house with Mom & Dad. You were sitting on Mom's lap and I could hear you from where I was sitting in the other room.  That was the breaking of the ice.  We started to spend more time together, you and I, and when my own boys passed away, it was you who came and sat on my lap. I got Mom & Dad to change your litter daily and when they didn't, I did. I found food for you that was more appropriate for your advanced age that you seemed to really like. You ventured out onto the patio with me, just like you'd done at the old apartment, never going beyond the patio stones but so happy to have the fresh air and sunshine.

And then they left. Your people, Mom & Dad, left you behind. I still don't know what to think about that. They claim you were too old to stand the move and that they weren't sure whether you'd get used to the Arizona weather. I felt terrible for you, that the people you'd come to love after so many years would just leave you like that. But at nearly 80, they probably weren't going to be able to take care of you properly. We did the best we could fill the void, but we both worked a lot and I know you missed your people. 

The final insult came when I brought the three stooges home from Arkansas. You had NO idea what to think of those three little kitties; no desire to get to know them. And I understand why: they took the little bit of attention we'd been able to spare away from you. Again. And a year later, once again, you were there for me when a personal setback made me feel as if no one cared for me, as if just being me was an insurmountable problem. You'd come and sit on my lap until I was OK and then you'd head off again to a favorite hiding spot. 

It was then that I figured it out, then that I realized that for so very many years, you were simply misunderstood. How different you might have acted if you'd been treated more lovingly. It's a regret I have and know that I can't resolve. We can't change the past. But it's why we worked so very hard to make sure the rest of your life was as good as it could be. We understood when you started having difficulties with your back legs and began to miss the litterbox or not use it at all. We made adjustments so you could come and go as you pleased. We fed you the table scraps you'd known as a youngster, but that we knew weren't really good for you, because we knew your time was drawing close. We wanted the end of your life to be something special, for you to know just how special you are and what a beautiful and Spartan strong spirit you have. 

Last night, you woke me after I'd dozed off, by one last cry. I picked you up and moved you to a place I thought you'd be more comfortable, pulled a pillow and blanket down on the floor and laid down next to you. And for one last time, you surprised me. You found the strength to get up, come up to me and start to crawl up onto the pillow next to my head. I moved aside and let you get comfortable, pulling a second pillow next to you where I could lay my head. 

Tootsie - December 2012 
Photo courtesy of private collection 
L. C. Lorenzana
It was your final resting place. Warm, comfortable and a place given to you in love. You were strong to the very end, even though your body was very weak. I knew you were ready, and as sad as I am that you're gone, I know that you're with Butch and Kid, Sasha, Otto, Sadie and Sam, Boozer, Whitey, Pyewackit, Mama Cat and all the other pets waiting at the Rainbow Bridge for their owners to meet them. I pray that you have no fear, that all you feel is the love and respect that I have for you and the lesson you bestowed on me. 

That lesson is patience and kindness. To question the 'why' when people are fearful, or angry, or distant. That sometimes a dark, 'mean' exterior is a facade only; that by trying to get beyond that facade we can find kindness and warmth and love. Because things aren't always as they appear to be; facades are built up to protect the interior. 

As a final sign of our respect and love, we'll wait patiently for your cremated remains to be returned to us. Too often you must have felt forgotten. But you weren't, nor will you be. You will always be Tootsie. My tutter puss. Rest in peace. (~1995 - 2012)

Love you, 

Laura


8 comments:

  1. That was beautiful. I know people that had less of a send-off than Tootsie. Kitteh heaven has just become an even better place. Rest in peace.

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    1. Thank you so much for your words of kindness.

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  2. What a wonderful tribute, Laura. Hugs to you.

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  3. Ah! Broke my heart. You were Tootsie's angel.

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    1. I think she was really more mine, but I appreciate the sentiment. <3

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  4. Tootsie could sense when you needed her, just as you could tell that beneath her defensiveness was a vulnerable core. Your connectedness with her was a wonderful lesson to experience. People are this way too -- they build up a kind of mean facade to protect themselves. That's good to realize. How wrenching to learn of Tootsie's history, and all the dangers and deprivations she had to protect herself from. No wonder she became fierce! But as time went on, you and Tootsie brought each other comfort and love.

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  5. Rest in peace, Tootsie - you will be much missed.

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