Today I am in mourning for the best cat who ever lived. Tiny, my loving companion for the last 20 years and 8 months, died last night.
It all happened so suddenly that I am in shock. I knew she had kidney disease, but she was managing it very well with daily injections of fluids and never seemed ill until five days ago. I took her to the vet and her blood work showed she was in crisis. She was hospitalized for intravenous fluids. I visited her every day and yesterday she seemed better and the vet was sure she was going to make it. But she died in the night.
Last night at eight o'clock I petted her and told her how much I love her and always will. I didn't think I would never see her again and I still can't believe I won't!
If you are not a cat lover, you can skip the next part. It has nothing to do with surfing, which I may do again someday, but not right away.
I first saw her little face when she was seven weeks old, on June 13, 1986. (It happened to be a Friday, but it was one of the luckiest days of my life.) She was sleeping in a cage at the ASPCA. I had looked over several other cats but none was what I wanted and even though I wanted a cat that day so badly I was starting to resign myself to not getting one, when I saw her curled up in a ball. "Can you wake that one up?" I asked. They took her out. She was wearing a tag that said, "This one is so cute, why isn't she adopted yet?"
She was not only the cutest thing in the world but so friendly, not like most cats. She looked at me with such genuine interest. I said, "Will she always be like this?" and they said Yes.
They put her in a box for me; she was so small she fit in my hand, an orange tortoiseshell calico with black stripes and white paws. (I just panicked for a minute, thinking I'd forgotten, or will forget, where she was white.) But I took her out of the box and carried her home on my shoulder. She stayed there all the way home on the bus. I wasn't afraid that she would run away. I knew she wouldn't. A man on the street smiled and said to us, "She'll be a good friend to you." Nothing was ever truer.
I couldn't get over how Tiny she was and so that was her name. She was always small even when she grew up, the runt of the litter probably; only nine pounds.
When I got her I was about six months pregnant and she would come and sit on my stomach when I was lying down and purr to the baby.
When I was sad or distressed she always knew and would come sit on my lap. I swear she could read my mind.
She and my older cat, Bunny, did not get along at first and would have wrestling matches where the smaller cat always seemed to win. It was so bad I thought of calling in a cat shrink. But eventually they learned to tolerate each other, though never more than that. Bunny died in 2002. Tiny enjoyed being the only cat in our home, the Queen of the Universe, until a year ago, when I found a kitten I could not resist bringing home (but made clear to her that Tiny was Queen).
When the baby came she accepted this curious creature. When she was four years old a little five-pound baby dachshund joined our family and I'll never forget the look on her face when she encountered her first, and very strangely tubular, canine. The dog came to love both cats and would smother them with kisses but I can't say the reverse was true. One of the mysteries of cat life is whether Tiny recognized that the tiny human whose crib she used to peer into was the same person as the six-foot-two teenager who came home from college so infrequently late in her life.
Tiny would wrap herself around my neck and sit on my shoulders, and I would walk around with her like that. A friend said, "that's the only way fur should be worn." She could, and loved to, jump from the floor to my shoulders for hugs and kisses. I'd cuddle and dance around with her. When she got older she'd use the bathroom sink as a jumping off point.
As with most cats, that's about as eventful as her life got: our daily rituals of love, like how she'd come and sit beside me on the bench when I played the piano and I'd sing to her, making up silly lyrics for songs that had none. She had a definite preference for Beethoven. The rituals changed and evolved over the years but lasted until she died.
Just looking into her green eyes, you could see how intelligent and wise she was. I liked to say that if they could just send Tiny to the Middle East she could bring about peace.
More than that, my son once said, "She's you, in cat form," and so it was. A cat like this, the great cat love of your life, comes around only once. I am blessed to have had her for so long, and I am going to miss her and love her forever.
It hurts so much right now. Surfing will have to wait until I can stop crying.