I spent an hour last night with my hand on her heart, feeling it feebly bump, telling me it was probably time. She’d grown thin from renal failure, but those eyes, they still burned with that distinct feline conviction.
I think people who say they don’t like cats misunderstand their power. While dogs are rarefied ideals of energy and optimism that encourage us to be our best selves, cats are much more humanistic, prone to moodiness and fits of fancy.
Dogs are motivational posters. Cats are mirrors.
Pandora – Dora for short – was my secret therapist of 13 years. I can’t even remember how many personal truths I whispered to her, knowing her judgement was silent, and her silence absolute. I’d lie on the floor next to her, talking about all the hardest and worst things in life, and her yellow eyes would just stare back, gently. My stresses would fall into her fluff. Her powerful purrs reverberating against the rhythm of my heart.
She saved me more times than she knows. Part of the adult I am is the work of that cat, how she healed my heart, and warmed me, physically and emotionally.
She was my first trial at being a “dad.” The first thing my wife and I loved together, outside of ourselves. The first living creature I nurtured and raised from kitten to crone. I’ve loved and lost other family cats in my life, but Dora was wholly mine. My responsibility. My companion. My feline extension. She taught me about patience and temperament, all things I use as I raise my actual human daughter.
An accidental tutor that cat, years of tutelage in hairballs and head hugs.
We cry for the lost because of what they leave missing in us. A brush against the leg in the morning. An after work enthusiastic meow-borne greeting. As she passed today, left me one ally shorter in the literal cold of the winter, I feared one of the lighthouses flooding light onto the darkness of my mind had been extinguished.
In the short term, the shadows close in. But I know Dora’s spirit – those years of white fur and bright eyes – have permanently rolled back the fog on my psyche, and all I need is to think of that little face to arc a beam of light across even the saddest days.
Dora’s favorite song was “It’s only a Paper Moon” (the Bing Crosby version). She especially liked it when I’d whistle it at the highest pitch possible. If I couldn’t find her – inside our out – one chirp through the chorus and she’d come running.
While I know the song by heart musically, I’d never really considered the lyrics much until today.
Love for a pet is reciprocal in so much as you believe it is. Some people might think it a superficial love, or a lesser love,
But it wouldn’t be make-believe
If you believed in me
I’ll miss you kiddo. Until the next time your purrs and my heart meet