There were times when I thought she might live forever. I could have handled that, just fine.
But fate had other plans in store for the Infernal Rose - my pizza eating, pasta loving, hamburger stealing literary muse.
Rose, whose basic philosophy was “If it’s good enough for you to eat, then it’s good enough for me, buster,” went from the most graceful, feisty cat we’ve ever had to an unsteady-on-her-feet shadow of her former self with bewildering rapidity.
Rose, my writing partner-in-crime - many is the time she would perch herself next to me on the chair as I pounded the keyboard - suddenly lost her appetite for solid food; X-rays revealed that she had a large, inoperable mass inside her.
We could have kept her alive for a short time by artificial means, but she deserved to die with a measure of dignity. We owed her that much.
So Rose, who was born into a home with 30 (no, really, 30) cats - the house was later condemned because of the smell - came to live with us in 2001. Never one for developing social skills, I seemed to be the only living creature she had any use for, though she and the late Action Dog (I have written about their relationship before) had reached a sort of accommodation with each other over the years, and spent a lot of time together in the last few years.
Not cuddling, but laying within a couple of feet of each other.
As for the other dogs? She was liable to haul off and belt them one if she was in the mood, and she frequently was.
If the secret to any fight is self-confidence, then Rose had any potential conflict with a dog already won. In her mind, she was convinced that she could take on any dog, fair fight or not, no matter their size.
And as for the dogs? Well, they were pretty much of a mind that she was right, and stayed on her good side.
She was the most graceful of all our cats, and, indeed, we often suspected that in the night, she stole the brain cells out of the other cats; next to them, she was Stephen Hawking.
Some years ago she developed a taste for pizza - she’d eat any piece offered, whether it be dough, mushroom, pepperoni or hamburger.
And yeah, she loved meat of any kind. Once we had made a batch of hamburgers and when our back was turned she grabbed one of the hamburgers and ran off with it. Ate the whole thing, too.
We would wonder where such a small cat could put all that food.
At night, when we were watching TV in bed or I was reading, she would stretch herself over my shoulder - until she’d get bored and find another place to set herself.
We thought she was going to die this last Tuesday night, having found a small spot for herself the bathroom to lie down. But we were wrong. After an hour or so she emerged, climbed onto the bed and demanded attention, even sleeping on my pillow for a time.
That night she went into a part of the house where a Shar Pei (I’ll tell the story of how he came to us one day) sleeps at night. And what did this ungainly creature, whose natural prey is a cat, do upon discovering her?
He charged to our bedroom door, barking loudly, as if Russian troops had broken in. The cause for his alarm?
Rose was laying on the floor, looking poorly.
I brought her back into the bedroom.
The next morning we knew it was time; she lay wrapped on the floor in a towel while I sat next to her reading a book, checking on her every couple of paragraphs. Occasionally she’d come out and lay next to my shoe. The truth is that I hoped she would die in her sleep at my feet, and we would not have to take her to the vet.
And then we made the last journey, the one you don’t need the details of.
For all her lack of social skills, for all of her small size, she had an impact on every living creature in the house. And when she left this world, she played the cards she was dealt in a way that would do any human being proud.
This has come to a maudlin end, and I don’t want you to remember Rose that way. So I’ll just leave you with this story - a typical Rose story.
One night, as we were in the living room watching TV, Tracy said, “There’s Rose, in her spot on the cable box.”
I laughed. “That’s my girl.”
Rose then cast a baleful eye upon us, turned and threw up on the cable box, shorting it out.
“Yeah,” I said, “that’s my girl.”
The mellow sound of the Vince Guaraldi Trio and their CD “A Charlie Brown Christmas” provided this evening’s inspiration.
A great album to listen to, no matter what time of year it is.
Now on YouTube: Ode to a Drive-In
My monologue in praise of drive-in movies, made on the site of the old 62 Drive-In in Fayetteville, just before it was turned into a Walmart Supercenter.
Quote of the Day
I cling to my imperfection as the very essence of my being. - Anatole France