I’ve done it again. I’ve waited much too long to write you and now I have so much to say that I don’t even know where to begin!
I need to tell you that had to say goodbye to both Bear and Bubba, my beloved cats, a few weeks ago… and only 3 days apart. Bear was 18-1/2 and Bubba was 17-1/12. I was with them so, so long… and would often joke that my relationship with them was the longest relationship I’ve ever had with a dude. It’s funny because it’s true.
I so clearly remember the very day I brought Bear home at 8 weeks old. I had actually intended to adopt his sister, a little grey tabby who I had picked out a few weeks earlier. On January 14, 1999 (the day she was to be ready for adoption) I arrived at the Minneapolis Animal Control adoption just minutes after they opened and she had just been claimed by another family. However, her brother, a black and white little guy with the cutest nose on any feline ever, was still available… so I took him home. I think it was fate that brought us together—since I had only a 20 minute lunch break, I had taken that day off to not only adopt my new cat, but also to renew my vehicle registration tabs which had expired 4 days earlier. While en route to the shelter, I was pulled over for expired tabs and given a costly ticket… resulting in me getting there just a few minutes too late. Had I arrived as expected, I’d have adopted an entirely different cat. I’m thankful for that delay from that Minneapolis cop, albeit not so thankful for the extra cost of the ticket.
I’ll never forget your face when you came home from work later that day and spotted this tiny little kitten sitting up on the couch next to me… staring at you with his huge eyes and “bat ears” that he had yet to grow into. You guys were best buds from the beginning and you taught him all the ins and outs of the ways of the world and of football. I remember watching you pick him up and hold him close to you as you told him all about the man on the poster above your TV, Randy Moss. “This,” you said, “is #84, Randy Moss. We love Randy Moss. We love Randy Moss because he’s going to help Chris Carter get us to the next Superbowl, OK?” Bear looked up at you adoringly, and at the poster, as if he understood every word you were saying. His favorite toy was a little purple and white foam football with the number 84 on it… it was as big as he was! He’d roll around on the floor with it, hugging it and kicking at it with his back legs as you cheered on the Vikings from the couch.
It did always seem you and Bear had an extra special bond… he followed you around a lot as a kitten. So many nights Bear would “tuck you in” at night by kneading the covers along both sides of you as you lay in bed. As adorable as that was, I admittedly was a little jealous of how much he seemed to prefer you to me. Remember the time he got stuck in your bed’s box spring? There was a hole in the fabric on the underside of it and he’d crawled in there. We kept hearing these little mews but couldn’t find him anywhere. Then we realized the sound was coming from inside the boxspring but he couldn’t figure out how to get back out the way he went in. You and I ended up punching holes in various places around it to make room for him to jump out. It took a while, but we finally got him out. He always was adventurous and had a mischievous streak in him.
I also recall one day when I was about to leave the house for the day when Bear was only about 3 months old. I’d just closed the door to my large bedroom in our apartment where he was contained during the day with his litter box, food, water, beds, scratching post and a plethora of toys. As I walked away, I could hear him jumping against the door and crying his little heart out as if to say, “Please don’t go, Momma! Stay here! Stay!!” It ripped my heart out to hear those mournful little sounds so I changed my plans and decided to stay home with him. He had my heart from the beginning.
At our apartment, there was an “island” between the kitchen and our living room. Bear and I spent so much time playing “hide and seek” around it and he was shockingly good at it; he was so smart and I still insist to this day that he seemed to even demonstrate a sense of humor, if that’s even possible for a cat. But he wasn’t just any cat. He was super sassy and feisty and he absolutely LOVED the bathroom. He used to nap in the sink, play with his toys in the sink and he was particularly enamored with the workings of the toilet and loved to watch it flush; his little head would circle around and around as his eyes followed the downward spiral of the water. However, your ever present shadow, he also tended to follow you into the bathroom to “help” you do your business. I’ll never forget the time you came out of the bathroom laughing uncontrollably as Bear trailed behind you, shaking his head. Turns out Bear suddenly stood up on his hind legs and placed his paws on the rim (as you stood there peeing into the toilet) to get in on the action and watch the bubbles form in the water. But he did it pretty suddenly and it startled you and you ended up accidentally peeing on his head. Pretty gross… but also hysterically funny. His love of bathrooms continued into his old age because even up until 2 weeks ago, he’d still follow me in there and sit by my feet when I was on the toilet or he’d sit on the bathmat and wait for me to finish with my shower.
Bear was only 2 years old the day I brought 1 year old Bubba home. I hadn’t intended on getting another cat; a co-worker had told me about an acquaintance who was looking to re-home her cat and we drove up to Monticello “just to meet him.” I knew better… I should have known I’d have left with him. The very first time I saw him, he was hiding in the basement. They opened the basement door and called to him. I walked to the doorway and at the bottom of the stairs sat this amazingly handsome, white cat tentatively staring up the staircase at me. The father of the house went down to carry him up to me; he placed Bubba in my arms and Bubba just melted into my lap and fell asleep. How could I say no to that? The first few weeks were pretty rough; neither of them seemed too keen on the idea of sharing their space with another critter. There were a number of battles I had to break up over those weeks and there were even moments I was considering contacting the family to take him back as I wasn’t sure they’d ever adjust to one another. But we all stuck it out and I’m so glad we did because, though they still had their bad moments up until the end, they became very good friends.
A few weeks after I’d brought Bubba home, I awoke suddenly because I could feel my bed shaking a bit; I looked towards the foot of my bed to see Bubba having a seizure. I brought him in for a check-up and overall he was in perfect health, aside from a slight heart murmur. They didn’t medicate him for the seizures until a few years later when they became more frequent. I’ve often wondered if that’s why the family gave him up but just never disclosed that… but I don’t really care. He was a fabulous cat and giving him a pill twice a day to keep his seizures under control was hardly a deterrent for me. He was a bit of a “gentle giant.” Big boned and strong but with a very soft demeanor about him. I used to call him “sloth” because he never was in much of a hurry to get anywhere… except after a dose of catnip when he’d turn into the incredible hulk, beating the crap out of his toys like a boss.
During the years I had Sophie, whom I had to euthanize at age 7 just 4 months after you died, Bubba was the best big brother to her. I’ve got stacks of pictures of the two of them snuggling and he’s visibly hugging her. He adored her and looked after to her like all big brothers would. The vet came to the house to put her to sleep and after it was done, Bubba went over to the pillow where she was lying… he snuggled up next to her, licked her face and then rested his chin upon her. It was his gentle way of saying goodbye to his baby sister. He had the most gentle soul.
Together, Bear and Bubba were my tribe and I experienced so many life-changing things and experienced so much loss during our time together. They were with me all of those times my depression won out and I didn’t leave my bed for days on end or I was harming myself on the bathroom floor. The 3 of us were together years before I met my ex-husband. They were with me when my Grandma died in September of 2009. They were with me in my car for the 2-day drive from Minneapolis to Austin, Texas when we moved there in the fall of 2009. I didn’t want to move there but having them along during that huge transition was such a great comfort to me. They were with me those 3 months after I’d found out about your depression and worried about you every single day. And they were still with me when I got the call from Mom on October 13, 2010 telling me that you had taken your own life. The 2 of them snuggled up next to me after I collapsed to the floor that night, choking and gasping for air. They knew something was wrong with me and they didn’t leave my side for some time after you died.
They were still with me a year later when my marriage of 7 years ended. They were with me when I moved in with my significant other of a few years and when it unfortunately fell apart shortly thereafter. They were always such troopers when I moved… but that time was more difficult. I had just moved into his house after vacating my apartment. That breakup was the worst one of my life and not only was I emotionally devastated, but I was incredibly stressed about finding a new place to live. After staying with some very generous friends for a week after the split, the 3 of us moved into a room I had rented in a stranger’s home. It was just me and my 2 cats contained in that tiny room filled with the only belongings I could fit in there; the rest of my things were in storage until I could find myself a permanent living situation. I felt so lost and humiliated… it was incredibly humbling to have felt as though my life was crumbling around me, at my own doing. I lived in that room for an entire month and they were such sweet companions! When I wasn’t at work, I was in that room sleeping, crying or drinking whiskey and they were always snuggled up next to me. I found myself a new apartment and we moved yet again! That new apartment made the 5th place these little guys had lived in just 7 weeks and they settled in at each new place as if they had no worries in the world. The fact that they weren’t stressed made that horrible time just a little less awful for me. **I like to think it’s because they loved me and knew that I would always take good care of them and they didn’t worry about all those new places to live. They just always took to new places surprisingly quickly for cats so maybe I was doing something right after all.
They were still with me 5 months later when our Momma died… and another 9 months later when I finally made the move back home to Minnesota where I belong. Who would have thought a couple cats could be such amazing traveling partners?? They took to the car surprising well again and settled in each night at the hotels I found for us to get some rest. Upon getting back to Minnesota, we again were contained to one room in a friend’s house while I looked for a place to live… and again, they seemed unaffected by it all. I found the most perfect house for us and we moved in just 6 weeks after moving back home. I was not at all surprised when they took to their new house as if they were meant to live there all along.
Unfortunately just 6 weeks later I had that whole “breaking both of my ankles” incident and was homebound for a while. They were such good caretakers and wouldn’t leave my side yet again. But I’m now all healed up—I can drive again, I can walk again and I can take care of most things around the house again. And I’m also now in the most relaxed and happiest relationship of my life. My depression feels more under control now than at any other time I can recall. I had adopted a 3rd cat named Bart, a 3 year old I found at the Humane Society, in February so I’m still not alone. I almost wonder if they didn’t sense that their job here was done… that I was finally in a truly healthy and content place after all the trauma and that they could finally let go.
I’m sure there are those who would believe that is giving way too much credit to a couple of animals… but I don’t care. They stuck by me through 15 moves over those years, countless depressive episodes, job changes, many breakups and the death of my brother and my Mom…. by far the worst losses I’ll ever experience. They were far more than “just animals” to me… they were my best friends, my support system and they were my family.
I’m going to bury them together beneath the memorial tree I have for you and Moomie in my back yard soon. I hope that Bear and Bubba found their way to you and Momma up there in your part of the universe… please tell them I love them so dearly and I’m beyond grateful for all the love and loyalty they showed me in return. I’ll never forget them.