I had to say goodbye to someone close to me today.
But first let me tell you how we met. And it begins with Dante.
Not the poet, but the dog. A sweet rambunctious lab mix my wife who my wife and I couldn’t resist as he wagged his tail furiously from his holding pen. We were shopping at Publix, and a no kill shelter had set up a makeshift adoption center outside the store and was taking donations.
We brought Dante home to what was then a tiny little duplex and proceeded over the next two weeks to understand that dogs are simply furry human babies in disguise. Crating this puppy for most of the day, we felt, just wasn’t right, and when I came home one day to find my cat Cleo backed into a corner hissing her brains out, Dante wagging his tail like it was a propeller, tongue lolling, cheerfully barking after escaping his crate somehow, and Cleo’s well placed scratches all over his face, I said to myself “This isn’t working. He deserves better.”
My wife and I get attached easily to animals, so it was with much sadness that we took Dante back to the no kill shelter. Arriving, Dante jumped out of the car and began cavorting around with his fellow pups. The woman running the shelter, a fat smiling woman in a pink flowered sundress, with eyes just to the left of crazy, asked “Wanna see the kitties?”
We walked over to a crate supported by a couple wooden boxes. “Three left. Yeah, that’s the mother- we call her Abby- and there’s her two kittens, Weebles and Wobbles.”
Abby regarded us from a sleek tabby face and disdainful green eyes. Her daughter Weebles gazed curiously from a small black face with a white mustache. Wobbles- well, Wobbles was wobbling. He tried looking at us, but his head jiggled back and forth enough to make him lose focus within a few seconds.
“Yeah,” the woman explained, “Got his head stuck in the bars of his crate a while back, and now his head won’t stop doing that. ‘Member the toys from way back when? Little egg shaped people? “Weebles wobble but they won’t fall down.” Ha! Kinda fits, unfortunately. He’s a precious one, but I’d like to leave him with his Mama a bit more. Watcha think of Weebles?
My wife, tears still running down her face from the pain of giving back Dante, picked up Weebles, who started licking her thumb. “Cool,” I thought, petting her. She seemed like a nice, laid back kitty.
I knew once she was in Erin’s arms, that kitten wasn’t going anywhere but back to our house. So I turned to the shelter owner and said “She will have a good home with us.” And with a donation to the shelter made, and a couple of papers signed, we went back to the car, Weebles in tow.
Getting in the car, we sat for a few minutes, letting our new family member settle in Erin’s lap. “I’m glad we got her,” I said, “But Weebles?”
Doesn’t seem to fit, my wife agreed.
The name just meandered across my mind, amidst directions home, getting the new one stuff to eat at the store…
“How about Suzie?”
“Yeah, she looks like a Suzie.”
“Okay, sounds good.”
In hindsight, I wish naming my son had been that easy…
Driving home, I glanced over and saw something that I will never forget. Erin still had tears in her eye, and I watched as Suzie looked up at Erin, then over to me, then back at Erin. And with a confidence bordering on the absolute, with a look in her eye that said “I own these people,” she lifted her paw and began washing herself, content with her new surroundings.
That was about thirteen years ago. I have never had a cat give so much love and joy as a pet. So when her tumor developed, it was quite hard to face the fact she would not be with us always.
But she passed away peacefully in my arms at the vet tonight, her battle over. Our vet, (the best vet in the world), Dr. Hayes, offered to say a prayer over her, and together we thanked God for the gift of her life to my family. It was hard to say goodbye, but after she passed, I could still feel the vibrations of her purring on my lap, as if it was one of the hundreds of times she had fallen asleep on my lap.