Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Across the Rainbow Bridge

In 1992, I made the acquaintance of a six-month old brown spotted tabby, who was peering hopefully at me from a cage at the humane society. His previous owners had moved, and they put him up for adoption with all his papers.  He stuck a paw out and suckered me in, and I took him home. His name at the time was Jesse, which I thought was a dumb name for a cat, but what to call the handsome fellow? When I tried to clip his claws that evening, everytime I thought he was going to settle down and accept things, he came back with another round of growls, teeth and I named him Rocky. Yesterday, I had to make the heart rendering decision to help him across the Rainbow Bridge. At the age of 20, he was still determined to snoop around, living up to one of his nicknames "Inspector 12."

My previous Tortie had been named Tisha, but we called her Tickey. My mom kept calling Rocky Tickey at the beginning, so he quickly became known as "BooBoo cat" after the cat in Laverne and Shirley. Because he was a prim and proper cat, he was usually referred to as Mr. Boo.

I took him back to my apartment the first day. He stepped out of the cage, looked around, spotted the food and the water and settled in. The very first night he curled up on the bottom of my bed, and there he stayed for the next 20 years. When I married Dave, he and Boo had a battle of wits. Dave had decreed no cats in the bedroom. For the first 3 months after we were married, he banished Boo at bedtime, and Boo spent the rest of the night yowling outside the door, or scratching at the  carpet. After 3 months, he had the carpet down to backing in the area by the door. I convinced Dave to try a cat bed. Boo would start the night in the cat bed, and then once Dave was asleep, he would sneak onto my side of the bed and hunker down. The jig was up the night Dave woke up and looked at the bottom of the bed and realized the mound of blankets had ears and eyes shining back at him. For the next 2 weeks, Dave would spring upright several times a night, jack-in-the-box fashion to try to catch Boo on the bed. One night I was going to bed with a migraine, and I pointed and Boo and told him to lie down., and then I pointed at Dave and told HIM to lie down, and the battle was over. Boo stayed on the bed. In later years, he slept between us, often curling into the curve of Dave's legs.

Boo was a protective cat, and if he slept on your head, there was trouble a foot. Invariably, something befell the person he protected. My mom fell and broke her hip the day after Boo had slept on her head. I was in a bad car accident, and Dave fell going out the steps and sprained his ankle. Each time, Boo had slept on our heads. I learned to pay attention at my peril.

For all he was protective, Mr. Boo was also prim and proper. He had a very strong idea about how a cat should behave. He was always impeccably groomed, and he would never have sit completely on our laps-he would sit near us or beside us, but never on us. If he was feeling particularly friendly, he would sit on the arm of the chair and put 2 paws on my lap. Only 2 paws, mind you, boundaries had to be maintained. Max didn't have much dignity, and Boo was appalled by his antics. Max once jumped to the top of the bedroom door, and managed to get himself straddling the door-right paws on one side, left paws on the other. Boo was on the bed, and he stood up, executed a 180 degree turn and turned with his back to Max. He wanted nothing to do with THAT-Max was on his own! I suspect Boo was a British Colonel in India in a previous life.

Boo never got too upset about things. He outlived 2 other cats, and survived the arrival of our daughter. She was a bit bouncy for his taste when she was small, but he got quite fond of her when she was old enough to give him chin rubs.  He stayed upstairs most of the time in the last years of his life, so she never formed an attachment. When the house got quiet when she was finally in bed, he would emerge and hop up beside me in my chair for a visit.  He liked the gas fireplace, and he was very fond of the air conditioning in our bedroom. IF the air wasn't on this summer, he stayed on the floor on Dave's side of the bed. As soon as the air came on, he would be back on his spot on my side of the bed, although he always moved to Dave's side in the evening, just so that Dave would understand that he had shared my bed long before Dave did!

He seemed to get old overnight, and the last few days have been tough. I didn't want my dear old friend to suffer, and it seemed on Saturday that he was asking for my help to cross the Rainbow Bridge. I know that sounds flakey, but it was true. He was ready to move on.  He deserved to die with the same dignity that he lived his life, and he couldn't groom himself any longer.

So here's to my dear old friend. You made me laugh, you protected me, you kept me company and you sailed through all the chaotic times calmly and serenely. You never once scratched or bit when the kid was small and a bit too enthusiastic with petting you. You accepted  (grudgingly) other animals into the house and you still enjoyed chasing your old mousey right to the end.

Be at peace Mr. Boo. I hope there's lots of new places to explore. I'll miss you terribly.

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