Monday, January 28, 2008

That Which Animates





Two weeks ago my cat Pooping Genius died. I didn’t even know he was sick. When I left for New York he was doing just great, a little skinny because he was getting on in years. Is ten years old getting on in years? And near death? That never entered my mind.

Then a week after I got home from New York Pooping Genius started showing signs of disorientation. Like, he would cry out when I got up and away from him. Or, he would curl up in places where he never did before. Then one day he just stopped eating and crept into an empty drawer. I thought he was just chilling out. The following day, he was still acting lazy, but nothing that showed signs of failing health. He slept most of the day (like most cats do) and then… and then he died at midnight. I found him after a very long and involved phone call with a girlfriend. Poopin’ was lifeless on my bed.

I was stunned, shocked, devastated. I loved Pooping Genius. As a rescue kitty of four weeks, I bottle-fed him and his six littermates. He was the fluffiest, most impish little thing ever. He had imploring eyes and followed me everywhere. When I went near him he would immediately flop over on his back and stretch his exposed throat for me to tickle and give me his paw to shake. Pooping Genius was very loving and gentle but when it came time to take him to adoption days at Pet Express, he would act out, hiss, snarl and claw at the person who was looking to adopt him. I took him several times and ended up taking him home each time. I guess Pooping Genius wanted to live with me.

Anyway, Poopin’ died at midnight. I called the friend who cat-sat for me when I was away and she said to put him in a glad bag, and to think of the glad bag as a shroud. Thanks a lot, friend. Then she said to make a funeral pyre in my yard. What the hell? I guess midnight was the wrong time to call her because I wasn’t loving anything she said to me.

I ended up swaddling Poopin’ in a towel and holding him next to my heart all night. I knew I would have to bring him to the vet for cremation in the morning, but in the meantime, I was going to hold him all night for the last time.

I shut his eyes tight and nudged his mouth closed. I couldn’t take my eyes off him all night praying desperately and weepingly that I could will him back to life. Where did his life-force go? When he was alive Poopin’s energy was vibrant, his body quick and nimble, his eyes sparkly, his meow loud and demanding. I know his heart stopped beating and there were other things that stopped working inside, but where is that which animates… where did it go?

It’s been two weeks now and I just got a call from the vet letting me know that Poopin’s ashes are back. I can’t believe he’s gone. Now I’m holding on tight to Mau, my 14-year-old yellow tabby, and watching vigilantly the rise and fall of his chest, listening for the whisper of his breath, the breath of life...that which animates.

5 comments:

Words For Hire said...

Maya,

Poopin' Genius sounds like quite a cat and your tribute was beautiful! You made me miss a cat I didn't even know. I am so glad for people and animals who love us and give us joyful memories. It is a comfort when they are gone to know that we have shared a moment in time.

Farewell Poopin.--Karen

Raffie said...

I too am a cat lover. My two oldest cats are almost 16 and 15 years old. Ben from Albuquerque is the oldest. I took him home as a little kitty after a co-worker then at UNM Human Resources called out several times. "this is my last call...whoever wants this cat speak now or I will take it the shelter.." I took Li'l Ben home. Named him after my friend who was named Sister Benjamin when it was still fashionable to use male saint's names in the convent. She later became Sr. Janet, my former postulant director who became my dearest friend even after I had left the convent and helped me through my transition back to the real world, so to speak. Ben stayed in a vet kennel for a good month while my father and I returned to visit the Philippines, my first time since 1971. This was 1992. In Surigao, I got so bored because I could not speak the dialect. My aunt directed me to a little kitten one morning who was in a milk crate, crying out. He was so tiny, flea infested and very scrawny looking.
I found a companion!!!! I washed him up in the faucet outside, scrubbed him off good and took him everywhere I went, stashed in my pocket. Everytime I had to board a plane, I had to make sure that I carried vet papers. Surprisingly, that even in Surigao there was a vet who provided such papers. I carried him in a shoebox. Took him to Baguio to visit my friend, Sr. Esther Maria, SSPS, at the Holy Spirit Retreat House in Baguio where I stayed for a few days. Leaving Baguio was another story. The flights were cancelled due to the bad weather. I had to resort to taking the bus to Manila. Like in the movies, Sr. Esther and I knew that a cat is not allowed in the bus. She told me to cover the kitty well under my bags and make sure that it does not 'meow' or I might have to leave him outside the canyon road. Lots of prayers I prayed until we got to Manila. I stayed at my friend Mitchie's house in Quiapo. By the time it was time to leave, her husband had his driver took me to the vet in Quiapo to get him further certified for US transport. The driver's name was Raffie and that was what I named this cat. Another friend who took me back to the airport, brought me a carrier for this little guy. She, all along, shaking her head and stating that I was indeed 'nutso' with this little one. Lo, and behold at the airport the final test of nerves came when I was told at the ticket counter that it would cost $300.00 to board this little Raffie and that he would have to be quarantined in Hawaii for at least an hour. Herein, I heard similar comments from my father, "you are crazy to bing this cat when there are so many cats in the US." How could I leave such a precious little scrawny kitty at the airport where no one would take care of it? Heart sank to knee, could not do it. Thank God for credit cards..I had one!!! Hawaii was a breeze. At LAX, I was told that I needed to get him back to New Mexico via United Freight. Had to have someone drive me to other terminal to get him boarded. Another $75.00!
Again, thank God for a credit card!
As soon as we got back to NM, picked up Raffie at the other terminal and headed home. Picked up Ben at the vet. Ben looked so handsome!!! After a month at the vet, he was healthy, clean and ready to go home. Ben and Raffie became the best of friends. Leaving NM to Florida was another adventure. Loading up the car with stuff along with the two cats was like driving with children. I stopped almost every 3-4 hours along the way. I stopped at a Dominican Cloistered Monastery in Lufkin, Texas overnight. The old nuns requested a visit with the two kitties before we drove off the next morning. A good hour with them seemed like to heve been what the doctor ordered for those old nuns just took to those two kitties lovingly. Eventually found a little house across from Barry University where I was to start school for my masters in SW. The two kitties adapted to the little space and kept me company. Fast forward to now, both are getting older. Raffie is the closest to me and really, the three of us are so closely connected that we understand each other's languages.
Raffie turned out to be a Japanese bobtail breed and has the temperament of a Pinoy, 'masungit' but very loving nonetheless. I have since collected a menagerie of other cats but both Ben and Raffie are the dearest ones. Ben is holding up well. Raffie, I am beginning to notice, old age setting in, still eating but shrinking now in size. I cannot sleep without him and as soon as I call him, he comes immediately.
I have had 3 other cats die already and all were heartbreaking. If and when Raffie and Ben goes which will be inevitable someday, I certainly will be inconsolable. Ben also is very close to my soon to be 96 year old father. Wow!!! As a hospital SW, I have always maintained strength and composure in dealing with dying patients. It will not be the same for me when it is my turn.
Life long companion pets are best friends as well and their loss is just equally/relatively devastating.
So sorry for your loss with Pooping Genius.

Elena said...

Raffie, I know you!
You are the original Catwoman, just like Miss Womanity, the original Kutingting. Power to woman's best friend!

Tormod said...

Too sad. :(

Anonymous said...

Wow, that was quite touching. It's always sad to lose something that is cherished, but it is also comforting to know that loved ones lived their lives knowing and feeling the love. Although the life force is no longer contained within the body, it remains forever present. Thank you for sharing your experience and blessings to Poopin' Genius!