I’ve always had a pet; sometimes a dog, sometimes a cat or two and, most recently, two cats and one dog. Sadly one of our feline family members passed away four days ago. I’ve lost numerous cats over the years. Since losing the last one, I’ve lost four significant people. I would have thought that having lost human friends and family members would have made it easier to lose a pet. The opposite seems to be true, however, in this case. I’ve been walking around with a heavy heart since our little Armand died.
Armand joined our family eleven years ago as a kitten. Teenage Daughter and I went to the RSPCA animal shelter and picked him out. Actually, he picked us out. He walked to the front of the cage and began to purr. When we held him, he purred more loudly and when we put him back in the cage, he watched us expectantly as we held and patted other kittens. In a sense, he never stopped purring.
Almost as soon as we got him home, he was staring longingly out the back door. Once we were confident he would be safe, we let him venture outside. He ran across the grass, frolicking and chasing things. His personality was too big to be contained in the back garden and, before we knew it, he was under the back gate or up a tree.
Eventually, he began to jump over the fence to the front garden and sometimes venture up into our quiet cul de sac. One time I saw him sound asleep on our next door neighbour’s roof, enjoying the sun.
Armand was a hunter. We were very pleased by the fact that we often saw him with mice or rats in his mouth. We were confident that with him keeping down the rodent population we wouldn’t have to worry about snakes. It was difficult sometimes to reconcile the ruthless rodent slayer with the charming boy who used to cuddle on our laps, kneading with his paws and purring himself to sleep.
I didn’t use the word ‘charming’ lightly; he really was. He would greet me when I’d been out with a friendly meow or approach me for no other reason than to say hello sometimes. He always kept me company when I hung clothes on the line, rolling around in the sunshine. Whenever any of us were sitting under our back pergola, it was guaranteed that Armand would join them for a cuddle.
The problem is that we were wrong about snakes. On Wednesday afternoon, a Brown Snake was seen in our cul de sac; on Thursday morning I found my charming boy dead. Since he was perfectly healthy the day before and people around here don’t bait other people’s cats, I think it’s safe to assume that Armand’s fearlessness and curiosity got the better of him and he took on the wrong opponent this time.
Husband dug a grave in the back garden and we placed our boy in. I don’t really know if it’s Jewishly correct to do so but we said the Mourners’ Kaddish prayer for him and each of us placed a shovelful of dirt over him. I even stepped back from the grave, according to custom. I found it heart-breaking to do so.
Yesterday evening we were driving home and Teenage Son said, “Look at the dirty paw prints on Dad’s front windscreen. They’re Armand’s.”
My boy’s footprints were still there. I imagine they’ll be washed away in the next rain or when Husband washes his car – whichever comes first. The little feline paw prints he left on my life will remain, however.
Cheers and give your pets a pat from me.