This morning we said goodbye to a small member of our family. Alexi's kitty Jasper, who's been suffering from the ravages of time, curled up during the night and found some permanent rest.
Alexi's handling it well, we started noticing his decline about 2 years ago, and I think she's been preparing for this for some time. It's a relief in some ways, actually... There was little joy left in his life, and it had become obvious that he was suffering. Last night Alexi and I had finally made the decision to take him to the vet on Friday, but he took the responsibility from us, and instead passed peacefully in his sleep.
I haven't written anything "real" here in awhile, so as my own form of therapy, I thought I'd tell you Jasper's story...
After my cat Tigger passed away 9 or so years ago, I said I wasn't going to get another cat. I became allergic to anything with fur after I had CJ, and as time went by my allergies kept getting worse. It's a contact allergy, when animals touch certain parts of my body, I get wicked hives. If I get it in my eyes, they itch and swell until I want to gouge them out with my fingernails. I've had a cat since I was four years old though, and I didn't last long without a kitty in my house. About six months later we found ourselves making a trip to the humane society.
The first ward we visited at the Humane Society was the sick ward. It's where they quarantine all the animals with kennel cough. These are the ones who really need a home as they've been in there too long already. I found MacDuff right away, and decided he was my cat, he was so soft and sweet. While I was sticking my fingers through the cage to scratch him though John called out to me to come see this other cat.
As I walked to the other end of the kennel, I saw my family clustered around a monster cat who was trying to find a way out of his cage so that he could attach himself to the humans who were standing so tantalizingly close. He was HUGE! Not fat, in fact he looked like he needed a good meal or seven, just really tall with a wide face that looked like it belonged on something that was at home in the plains of Africa. He was gorgeous, and obviously very friendly as he rammed his humongous head against the bars of his cage trying to get closer to the fingers that were poking through.
No, no, no, I shook my head. I'd already picked out a cat. He was a normal sized fluffball down at the other end of the kennel, and if everyone would just follow me they could fall in love with MY cat and forget about this monstrosity that was now meowing loud enough to wake the dead. They reluctantly followed me, but not without a few backwards over the shoulder glances at the mini lion who was looking at them with mournful eyes as they walked away.
After we adopted Duff, we checked back in on Jasper and were happy to see that there was a young couple who were discussing taking him home. At least he wouldn't be in the kennel much longer, as it looked like he'd soon be going to a new happy home. A new happy home that wasn't mine.
Or so I thought.
A day or so passed, and John wondered out loud if that couple we'd seen at the Humane Society had actually adopted Jasper. He was just such a cool looking cat, he said, it would be a pity if he was put down. I didn't think much of it, until the topic was brought up again the next day. I told him that I was sure Jasper was curled up in a cozy chair in some trendy apartment somewhere, basking in the love of his new owners, but John wasn't convinced. So, I told him to call and check on him, just ask if he'd been adopted, and he could stop worrying. He said no, but continued to ruminate on it, so eventually I called in myself and asked. Turns out, the young couple had second thoughts, and Jasper was still there, hacking up a lung from his kennel cough, and using his battering ram of a head to beat at the bars of his cage.
Ok, well that was distressing news, but I was sure he'd find a new home soon, he obviously had a lot of love to give some wonderful family out there. Love to give to a family that wasn't mine. Did I mention I'm allergic to cats? Two more days passed, and the topic was broached again, by John I'd like to add--the resident animal hater. I said OK, if he doesn't have a home by Thursday, we'll go get him.
So that Thursday Jasper found a new home... My home. I guess it was just meant to be.
The joke at first was that Jasper was John's cat, since it was John who was so worried about his fate. Jasper had this habit of nipping people he really loved though, like a mother cat would give a kitten a love nip, and he and John came to an impasse when Jasper bit his nose about three days after we brought him home. He managed to get one of his really large fangs right into John's nostril before he clamped down, which brought tears to John's eyes, and their relationship was just never the same after that. And so it came to be that he attached himself to Alexi, and after awhile he was just *her* cat.
While Jasper may have loved Alexi best, he was not a one person cat by any means. In fact, he was quite an attention grabber. If anyone sat still for too long they were sure to be accosted by the beast, and he refused to take no for an answer! If you pushed him away he was back at your side within seconds, butting you with his head, licking you and sprawling on top of you until you got up and walked away. When guests came over he was the first one to greet them, and heaven forbid you were allergic or didn't like cats because he especially loved to bother those people.
We often thought that Jasper was a dog trapped in a cat's body. He'd drool when he was really happy and his meow was almost like a bark. He was certainly the right size for a dog, our UPS delivery man was terrified of him because of his abnormal size, no matter how many times we told him that he was extremely friendly, he wasn't convinced that Jasper wasn't part wildcat.
We weren't sure how old Jasper was when we adopted him, the vet thought he was probably around seven, if not older, but we had him for over eight years. About two years ago we noticed he was starting to get stiff in the hind legs, arthritis and old age were setting in. Then, about six months later he had an accident trying to jump into an open window. He misjudged his jump, or his legs gave out, and he ran into the sill instead. His right eye filled with blood from the impact, and was never the same again.
In the last two years he had an increasingly hard time getting around, he developed a cataract in his left eye, and almost completely lost his sight. His hearing also became severely impaired. Alexi insisted that he was still full of love though, and he was. Even last night as I extracted him from a corner that he'd gotten lost in, he purred and snuggled into my arms.
Early this morning he woke up John and I as he struggled up the stairs. John helped him the rest of the way up, carried him to his most favorite place in the whole world, and laid him near Alexi's bed. It was there, where he was most comfortable and with his beloved human sleeping nearby, that he passed on.
As much as he drove me crazy, I'll miss him. He was a good cat, with an amazing personality, and our house won't be the same without him in it.
Goodbye Jasper. I hope you were happy here with us. I hope we gave you the love you needed, the love that you didn't have before we took you home. I hope you're sleeping in a window somewhere with the warm sun streaming in on your soft fur, and that you're content, and no longer in pain.
We'll miss you.