Monday, August 15, 2005

Cookie's Story

For a couple of years we had no cat, and my mother and I would try to convince my father to get another one. Growing up we seemed to always have a cat. Ever since the time I was about 4 I guess, previous to that we had St Barnard, but that’s another story.
In 1990 the cat plot that my mother and I were nursing picked up momentum. We discovered we had mice in the basement. We referred to the “How To Do Just About Anything” guide, a constant reference in our house, and read that the best way to get rid of a mouse is the presence of a cat. Even the presence of cat smell, and hair would make the mouse reconsider. We put this to my father and he just about capitulated. Around that time, my mother had cut out a photo from the newspaper of the “pet of the week” from the local humane society, and hung it on the refrigerator. As best as I can recall, it was Cookie. But we didn’t get a cat right away, I was away at college, my father wasn’t entirely convinced, whatever the reason there was a break in time. Then we resolved to do it, and my mother and I found directions to the humane society, and set out to find it. After some effort we did, it seemed to be at the end of a dirt road or something, not easy to find.
As we walked into the office we saw Cookie. She seemed have the run of the place. She was perched on a high, carpeted cat perch thing, in the corner of the office. I remember saying she was beautiful. Then we went to look at all the other cats. They were in the next room in cages. There was about 4 or 6, I can’t recall, and we almost half-heartily picked what we thought was the best of the bunch. We went back out into the office to fill out the paperwork. As we waited Cookie just about jumped into my mother’s arms and my mother held her while we waited. The attendant came out, and asked if we found a cat, and we said yes, then my mother said, “but we like your cat better.” The woman thought for a moment, and said, well, she’s not really our cat I guess, it’s just that she’s been here so long,” and she thought, and said if we wanted her, we could take her.
She had been there for a while. She was about 2 years old. If the picture we saw was her, then it was months ago. Cats who are brought to the humane society, and are not picked up by people and usually put to sleep. Somehow she had charmed her way out of that and became their “office pet.” We took the cat and drove home. We stopped for some cat food and kitty litter, it was while cookie and I waited for my mother to come out of the store, that I noticed the first of her few eccentricities. She liked to stand on her hind legs.
We got her home, and as I recall she only pooped on the floor once, other then that, it was a go. She liked to scratch doorways as she sharpened her claws, to break her of this habit I made her a scratching post. And another, maybe bought one too, she was just gonna scratch wherever she damn well wanted to. We thought we’d rename her. I was going to give her a Russian name, because I had just started to study Russian. We tried a few names but she wouldn’t answer to them, so we decided to stick with Cookie. We later realized that she didn’t answer to that either, she just didn’t answer to anyone much.
My father eventually got to liking her. Although he sort of enjoyed his intolerance for cats at this point. He insisted he didn’t like her. But having retired it was he and her home all day. She would win him over. Her way of wining someone over was to sit in the room with them. Look at them, eventually wink at them. She was rather coy about it, perhaps shy, but this is the charm that probably saved her life, and eventually my father was even seen to pet the cat.
At my father’s funeral, about a year or two after we got the cat, I placed a single cat hair on he suit jacket. Not entirely realistic, because she shed so much that anyone who spent a moment with the cat would be covered in cat hair. Anyway, it was a jester that helped me say goodbye. Over the years Cookies hairs have been spread around the world.
So I was at college, planning to do a study abroad in Ukraine. But my mother was home alone now, very depressed having married very young and for nearly 30 years, she honestly didn’t know how to go on. Cookie became her company. She loved her, and they grew incredibly close. I was going to stay in the US, and not go to Ukraine, but my mother convinced me I should go. Before I went, I did what would become a ritual. As I left I went to see Cookie. Told her I would miss her, and told her to take care of my mother. I promised her, that if she took care of my mother while I was gone, then she would always be taken care of. I like to think I kept my end of the bargain, she did hers.
I made many trips to Europe in the following years, saying goodbye the same way, never really dreaming I would have to make good on my promise. By the time Christmas 1997 came around my mother became sick. And in January she was hospitalized, and it became apparent that she had rather advanced cancer. While she was in the hospital, I would go to her house and feed Cookie, morning in night, and then one day she said I should take Cookie to my house. It was then that she admitted to herself that she would not be going home. Anyway, we planned that she would move to my house for recovery; use the proceeds from her house sale to pay for it. Everything happened so fast, but when her condition deteriorated to the point when she needed life support, and there was a good chance that she would never come off of it, my mother decided she wanted nothing to do with it, she gave up her fight, took off her oxygen mask, and died later that night.
So Cookie was in my charge. I promised my mother on her deathbed I would take care of her, I promised Cookie, and that was all there was to it. Since then we’d seldom been apart. My mother’s ashes were delivered to my house, and cookie would sit with the box, as if she somehow knew. I took her to Seattle when I wanted to move there, and back when I changed my mind. For a few weeks she stayed with my friend Adam when I was homeless, at least she had a home, I slept on couches. But I was back on my feet rather quickly, and we were living together again. The window “kitty hammock” that my mother bought her was her favorite place to sit. She ate from the same food dish she had all of her life, I suppose after a few years cats forget the people in their life, but I like to think that she remembered my mother, and missed her like I did. She helped console me no doubt. As the years when by I realized that she was the one taking care of me. She was a constant companion; coming home always meant coming home to her.
Aside from a few sicknesses, she made it thought 17 years, that is more then I honestly thought she would. She was about 9 when she came to me, she was always very overweight, and a sit around house cat, I always thought our time together would soon come to an end. She had a few sicknesses, but I tended to her the best I can, ran up some big vet bills, but she always pulled through. And I was always rewarded for all my care by her presence. She was a lap cat, but only for me, a few other people maybe too, she was very picky. After a particular sickness she went deaf. It only seemed to make her more placid. Even though she lived for a long time, and our time together was nothing but positive, I was still shocked when the vet told me that her current illness was terminal. She advised me that it may be a good idea the euthanaise her. There were a few futile things to try, but even then she may only live for a month. When I got the phone call I cried like the idea of her leaving never occurred to me. I can say that I love her. I brought her home today, she still seems comfortable, at least for now, and I could not just give the order to put her down. So she came home with me, for at least tonight. She sits across from me, with a tired but dignified look on her face. She sits and purrs with me. To console me thought just one more passing, her own.

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