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Saturday, March 7, 2015

F is for -- Friendship. Feline Friends Forever.

[more coming soon]

Friday, March 6, 2015

E is for -- Everything. Thomas Jefferson was my Everything.

Thomas Jefferson, my soulcat, along with his siblings Betsy Ross and Tom Cruise, were born to a feral mom on a stormy Fourth of July, 1994, in a cat shelter volunteer's back yard. The volunteer picked up the whole family and took them to the shelter. The mom later ended up on a farm in Wisconsin, and both Betsy and Tom were adopted as kittens. Time went by. No one adopted Thomas Jefferson, so he settled in at the shelter.

I am a volunteer at that same shelter and used to help out on weekends. One Sunday afternoon in late November of that same year, I was sitting and doing some serious cat socializing when out of nowhere this pushy, bossy, skinny tan cat jumped up onto my lap and pushed off a couple of drowsy felines whom I had been petting. He demanded a few pats, walked around in circles on my lap, kneaded a bit, then promptly curled up for a snooze.

About a half hour later, it was time for me to go home. I gently joggled my thighs so the cat would wake up. He did, stretched mightily, ignored me completely without even a “thank you for your lap” or “it was nice meeting you,” jumped down to the floor, and ran off to a bowl of dry food. Well, okay, I thought.

I returned to the shelter the next Sunday afternoon and mentioned to the shelter manager that I was in the market for a black cat that would look great curled up next to my tuxedo cat at home. We found a few black cats that were sleeping in various corners of the no-cage shelter, but none of them plucked at my heart strings.

“What about Thomas Jefferson,” Kathy asked. “He's been here for six months and has seen his family get adopted, but no one has chosen him yet.” Kathy proceeded to do her cat-shelter-volunteer spiel, telling me about Thomas’s history and endearing characteristics. “Thomas Jefferson,” she yelled repeatedly. “Thomas Jefferson, where are you?”                        

Sleeping cats awoke and lifted their heads to see who was making such a racket, but no Thomas Jefferson appeared. Kathy and I sat down to discuss my personal needs and wants regarding adopting a cat. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a skinny tan body jumped into my lap, did his circling thing, kneaded a bit, and promptly tucked himself into a furry circle for sleep. I told Kathy that this was repeat behavior from last Sunday. I’d already “met” this very brash cat.

“Ah, that’s Thomas Jefferson! And, Carol, I think you have been chosen.”

Thomas went home with me that same day, December 4, 1994, and was my constant companion for nearly fifteen years. If I was eating, he wanted to know what it was and usually gave the bowl or plate a few cursory licks after I finished (he’d prefer WHILE I was eating), just so he could think we had shared. His most favoritest treat in the whole world was Italian beef from Portillo’s, a Chicago franchise. No other beef would do. And if I was reading, he was right there on my lap checking out the title and sniffing the inside of the book. He would sit on the tabletop and intently watch me with wide eyes as I mended clothes or wrote thank-you notes or did crossword puzzles, like this was something he needed to know how to do “just in case.” Part of his job, he felt, was “helping” me in any way he could, so that when I did the crossword or had any paper lying on the table, he would sprawl all over it to be the best paperweight ever. He loved napping in our over-sized velour recliner.

Throughout his lifetime, he remained a pushy, bossy, skinny tan cat (probably part Abyssinian) who always has something to “say” about something--and who could jump from chair to cat condo to the top of the computer table in order to walk along the tops of the drapery rods and use his tail to whisk away any cobwebs in the corners.

* * * * * * * * * *
March 5, 2009

Thomas had a good morning this morning. He sat for a while in the window that looks out onto the back yard. An old magnolia tree sits right outside the window, and birds and squirrels are often seen cavorting on its branches. That window was one of Thomas's favorite perches.

The sun was warm this morning and flooded the window as it blanketed Thomas. He napped for a couple of hours and then, while I lay on my back on the living room carpet, hunkered down on my chest (as he often does), nose to nose, and gave me a couple of licks on my chin. His fur was like that of a teddy bear--not hair like a regular cat, but thick fur. I rubbed behind his ears and along his cheeks and told him how much I loved him and what a good cat he has been all these years. He closed his eyes in contentment (and agreement). I told him he was going to see the kitty doc-doc in the afternoon and we would find out what was wrong, why he had such trouble breathing, and why he was so tired all the time. He licked my chin again and jumped off my chest. I saw him go into the kitchen and then didn't see him again before I left for work at one o'clock.

Around 2:15 p.m., my husband called me from the vet's office. "Thomas has congestive heart failure. He's going to get weaker and weaker, will be sleeping a lot, and his breathing will become more and more labored. It doesn't look good."

I was stunned. The past 14-plus years sped through my mind. Would Thomas want to continue to exist mostly just as a wheezing lump curled up on a chair and not being his usual feisty and very active self? I made the snap decision that I am still feeling guilty about to this day. "Tell the vet to put him down. Thomas would hate to be an invalid."

"Are you sure?" my husband asked. "The vet might be willing to do more tests."

"I'm sure. I don't want him poked and prodded any longer."

Thomas crossed the Rainbow Bridge around 2:45 p.m. on March 5, 2009. His body was cremated, and his ashes sit in a little urn at the top of one of the bookcases that he loved to nap in and sit on top of. I've told my family to mix his ashes with mine someday when it's my turn to be cremated. If he's not waiting for me in Heaven, I don't want to go there. 

Thomas Jefferson was my 1994 Christmas gift to myself and will be in my thoughts every day for the rest of my life.

D is for -- Daniel, (Princess) Dido, (Little) Debbie -- and Death.

[difficult to write, coming soon]