Thursday, September 21, 2006

We Love You: a Tribute to Meshoe

You come into my life in 1994, while I’m an undergraduate student. I am working a summer job in Michigan, staying in temporary Woodland Agency housing, right behind the garages and office buildings. You are homeless, a tiny little orphan with mysterious origins. A fellow employee heard piteous cries one morning while driving to work, and pulling over, discovered you trembling under the hood. Your small size allowed you to survive the experience, but you retained a life-long horror of motorized vehicles. You cannot be returned to your mother, as no one knows where you came from. You are living in the garage with the heavy equipment, fire trucks and backhoes, subsisting on bits of turkey begged from sandwiches. You are “the baby kitty.”

I am instantly charmed. I want you to come over to the house and live there, with me. My boss wisely says that we cannot break the rules and have a pet in housing unless we really mean it; leaving you alone after a summer of company would be too cruel. But you are so tiny, you need a home. You can comfortably sit in the palm of my hand, with room to spare: you don’t even need the thumb or fingers for balance. I call SodaBoy. He is already living in the big off-campus apartment we’ll be sharing with other friends come fall, and has long been planning on getting a cat. I tell him I’ve found you, you’ve found me. It’s too late, he already picked out his kitten, just days ago. No matter. I cannot resist you. We decide since one cat is OK with the landlord, two will be OK, too.

You and I become fast friends. You wake me up each morning licking my eyelids, climb my pant legs with excitement when I arrive home from work. I can mimic your mews and we conversate regularly. You are insatiably curious about food, sipping from unattended beer mugs, licking ice cream cones, and begging to try all varieties of people foods. This is understandable, considering your circumstances not so long ago. And you are so adorable, the solicitations never become a problem. You are a model cat: you never scratch furniture or door frames, never knock over and break things, use your litter box without fail. You even delight in watching me clean the litter box, getting so excited you jump right in before I finish.

Both just a few months old when I return with you to school, you and SodaBoy’s kitten Phalaywho become inseparable, sleeping together in a little furry mound, chasing each other around the apartment. Phalaywho is a little acrobat, making wild leaps, skidding out on the hardwoods. Even as a kitten you are calmer in your play, prone to stop drop and roll, presenting your belly to be rubbed. You and she grow up together. You disdain the clam juice she adores, but show up to stake your claim whenever D makes his tuna casserole. It pleases you enormously when I sit at my desk to do schoolwork, you love crawling between me and whatever book I am trying to read, walking across every paper, batting pens and pencils around with your little paws, purring like a little engine the whole time.

You never went outside much in Michigan after I took you in, as pets were forbidden, and I didn’t want you to be observed. Our apartment at school is on a busy street, so you don’t go outside much here either, although you are so well behaved you can come out with us when we sit on the porch, and you won’t run off.

You and Phalaywho do everything together: when you go into heat simultaneously, it is a cacophony of yowling. We save up our money, and eventually you go to the vet together, come home with matching shaved bellies. You do well with all the people, friends coming and going. Everyone loves you. You and Phalaywho are quite the team; when B brings over his dog Cassidy, you form a two-cat pack and stalk her, until she cowers in a corner, whimpering for mercy. You get leis wrapped around your necks in a fit of silliness one New Year’s Eve, purple for you and yellow for Phalaywho. You don’t much care for it at first, but soon forget to notice. You get bigger and your kittenish mews develop into full blown squonking squawks. You continue to enjoy meowing exchanges.

Years pass. I finish school. I bring you out to the Cape with me when I move there for work. My apartment on the dunes is on a dead end street, and there is a hole in the screen door. So for the first time, when I am home with you to open the inside door, you have unfettered access to the outdoors. You love lying in the sun, eating grass, playing with bugs, and digging in the sand. Especially eating grass. Seagulls? Not so much. Whenever they wheel overhead (which is often) you panic, and slinking low, bolt for the door. SodaBoy comes to stay for a week between apartments, bringing Phalaywho. We decide you should see the sea, and carry you both over the dunes. We put you down in the sand, and you are like magnets, drawn to each other as you run for shelter.

By now SodaBoy and I are dating, and when I complete my work on the Cape, you and I move in with him and Phalaywho. I go back to school. You are happy to be reunited with your friends. You like our little apartment, with the screened-in back porch over the woods, and the long narrow hall. We are still in the city, on the same busy street, but the hillside behind the apartment was never developed because it was so steep. Phalaywho likes to go explore in these woods, but you get frightened whenever we bring you up there, and run straightaway back to the door, maybe deigning to eat some grass while you wait for us to let you back inside. You hate the kitchen sink, where we give you flea baths after Phalaywho brings them back from the woods, but you love to be on top of the fridge when we cook dinner. You love to go for walks down the hall. You love to be gently smacked on your back with paper towel tubes or empty water bottles.

We get home one evening and find Phalaywho suddenly sick, with no advance warning signs, too sick to even stand up. We rush her to the emergency vet clinic, but it is too late, and she is dead within the hour. We return to the apartment, shell-shocked and empty handed. We do not mourn alone. For weeks you prowl the apartment, looking for your friend, howling at night with loneliness. We think about getting another cat, to keep you company, but never get around to it. Phalaywho is irreplaceable.

You become quite pudgy and the vet convinces us to put you on prescription low calorie food. You love your crunchy little dried food bits. You turn up your nose at the stinky canned stuff, so much that after dental surgery, I have to pour water on you dry food and soften it up so you have something to eat. You love pork chops, and diet or no, always manage to beg a few choice bites.

When I finish grad school, I travel to Minnesota to work, and then eventually back to Michigan. You stay with SodaBoy, and it is the both of you I return to in the winters, year after year. My grandmother gives me a stuffed cat that she bought because of its resemblance to you. I call it the mini-Meesh and bring it with me to Michigan, keeping it along with several framed pictures of you in my room.

When we need more space, SodaBoy finds a new apartment, an upstairs flat on the nicest street in the university area. I come back and help with the move. Our first day in the new place, we go for a walk, and make a new kitty friend. Elijah immediately takes a liking to us, following us all the way around the block. Our downstairs neighbors tell us he lives nearby and comes to visit them for the catnip. The new apartment is sunny and bright, and seems enormous. There is a window seat we cover with throw pillows. It is your favorite spot to nap.

There is a tiny walk-out front porch, and you learn to open the screen door by yourself, napping on the cushy patio chairs, going out on the roof to nibble on the box elder leaves, grazing from the flower boxes. You start eating house plants, too, favoring the spider plants. We get a real bed and set the futon up in the spare room as a couch. You realize you can crawl beneath it, the ultimate safe house. You develop a fear of the door bell, and scurry beneath the futon whenever it rings. You discover a great love for boxes, especially the low ones used to package cases of bottled water. You will “get in your box” on command, virtually roaring out your pleasure with great rumbling purrs. You love to be brushed. You love the laser pointer. You squawk along at appropriate moments when SodaBoy and P play video games; P declares you a "quality feline." You love to sleep on things that are on top of other things.

I get sick of constantly moving, of missing you and SodaBoy, and get a job in town. We get a couple of dwarf hamsters, and set up their cages in your room. You are barely interested in them at all, and seem to completely lack the instinct to hunt them. We can place the hamsters right on your back and you let them dig away at your fur, barely sparing a glance. There was a great escape one day, but it was only discovered when you walked into the room, with an unharmed hamster trailing at your heels.

Photo by Sis

The lease on the downstairs apartment seems to turn over every year. The second set of neighbors brings Elijah inside all winter long. When they move away, he comes to us the following winter. You finally have another kitty friend. Elijah does love the catnip. He gets all feisty and fierce while he’s hopped up, occasionally attacking you in a fit of energy. You give it right back to him, even though the catnip doesn’t seem to affect you the same way. Rather than roll in it foolishly like many cats, you have a much more dignified approach, and will calmly and tidily eat small piles of the stuff.

The years are flying by. Rubbing your belly one day, I find a swollen nipple. The vet agrees to see you that day and I know it’s a bad sign. You have mammary cancer, and are operated on immediately. The vet reassures us that we caught it early, probably because of your fondness for belly rubs. You heal up well, and your belly hair grows back, but for a long time don’t want your belly rubbed. I diligently search for recurring tumors but find nothing. You seem well, fat and happy like always.

We finally buy a house. You love lolling on the screened back porch. There is a cat door, and Elijah comes and goes as he pleases, but you are much more timid. I bring you out sometimes so you can eat grass, try to show you how the cat door works. The neighbor girls fall in love with you, asking to see you all summer long. You are terrified of them, of all children, and I often put them off, but bring you out occasionally. We set the futon up as a bed in a spare room, and it becomes your room. You love to nap there. When we get a dehumidifier for the basement, you are scared of it, and we move your litter box upstairs into your room for you. You love thumping up and down the stairs, especially when one of us walks along side of you, and you can stop to squawk for pets every few steps.

Then the sad days come. By the time you are symptomatic and stop eating, it is far too late. Your breast cancer has metastasized, and filled your lungs top to bottom. You cannot breathe. It is horrifying, and then you are gone. You were a happy kitty and we remember those happy times. We love you, Meshoe.


Erin said...

And now I am crying at work.

She really was a wonderful kitty. I wish I had seen her when she first came into your life and was so tiny. The pictures are all so charming, and your thoughts and love are so well-expressed.

I am so sorry for your loss.

Casey said...


Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

And I am crying too.


Meshoe was so sweet, so cute, such a good companion.

I am so sorry.

Your writing here is very nice (as usual!)

Sara said...

I had originally had a few more pictures picked out to accompany the piece, but blogger was being turdly.

I wonder if that's why so many people use Flickr for photos?