Wednesday, July 17, 2013


"When I turn away from nature--human, animal, earthly, or cosmic--when I turn away, that is, from intimate livingness, it means, simply and always, that I am afraid."  --Sanfor Goodman

"A man who lives with nature is used to violence and is companionable with death.  There is more violence in an English hedgerow than in the meanest streets of a great city."  --P.D. James 

In recent years I've become more drawn to our neighborhood's canyons.  The girls and I discovered our favorite canyon haunt and I found myself coveting homes on the canyons, imagining a childhood with wild places to explore right outside, and birds, and quiet.  A retreat.  

We found our canyon home in April, and left our busy street for a cul-de-sac, fewer neighbors, a view of the park across the ravine, and more space.   The canyon part still needs work--our deck juts out over a steep grade and access to the flatter area below remains by rickety, rotting steps.  We have plans for switchbacks and fairy-attracting plantings and a landing at the bottom for pow-wows, forts, possibly a hammock.

The wildness surrounding our new abode was made apparent our second night at home when a large, bold raccoon sauntered the length of our deck and nosed around our driveway, undeterred by Husband:  when he opened the door to "scare" the critter away, our new friend ambled on over.  

About twenty minutes later we smelled skunk.  That evening was a reminder we needed to change our laissez-faire pet habits of open doors to back gardens and a dog and indoor cat free to explore safe, smaller, protected spaces.  Not that we hadn't seen coyotes and the evidence of raccoons--and skunks, of course!--at our old home on the busier street.  But we knew this was different.  The risks were tangible. 

Nevertheless, my habit became to open the door to the deck in the morning to let the dog out as I got my morning coffee and prepared for work, cat eating her food on the counter.  

On the Saturday in question a week and a half ago now, though, it was a lazy weekend day.  Koshka must have slipped outside for a peek off the deck after breakfast.  I'd left the the door open too long.  

By evening we knew something was wrong with our kitty, panting on all fours and hiding in the closet. A trip to the emergency vet confirmed my fear:  she'd been attacked by an animal in the canyon, scratched on both flanks and bitten on the back.  Miraculously, our 15-year-old small "micro-cat," my dad called her, escaped.  Last week was spent nursing her, loving her, and returning her to the vet for hydrations and signs of hope.  But by Sunday Husband knew her body was shutting down and made the difficult decision to let her go.  

I've been grappling ever since with my feelings of responsibility and emotions about our new home and its darker wild side, paired with acknowledgments of the instincts inherent in cats to explore and the need to accept what simply is, now.  

Our feisty cat might have lived years more; I was convinced she would.  Instead we celebrate her life that was.

My sister and brother adopted her from the local vet when I moved back to our hometown and into my own first apartment.  She'd been found abandoned or lost, too young to be without her mother and was dropper-fed by the vigilant veterinary staff before she was ready to come home with me.  

Her personality, aloof to strangers, choosy about her affections toward me and other family members, established itself early.  Never tolerant of other cats--I tried once to adopt the cat of a desperate friend but Koshie proved too mean--she welcomed our puppy six months later and the two of them grew up together with daily moments of cozy affection, fond friends.  

She loved to lurk around corners and swipe at unsuspecting ankles, a practice that encouraged Little Sis's wary distance.  

Big Sis, on the other hand, developed an extremely close relationship with our cat over the past few years, snuggling with her and her books in our bedroom, and seeking her daily affectionate head butt from her buddy.  She and Koshka held conversations.  

We couldn't crack an ice cream container without that cat coming from far reaches at the mere sound or whiff of cream.  She'd creep along the back of the couch to poke her nose in a bowl of late-night treat without fail.  She also nibbled on plastic bags, a mystifying habit she indulged in late at night or in the mornings.  But her most distinguishing feature was her squeak in lieu of meow.  We could initiate dialogue with her by greeting her with a facsimile of her peculiar sound.  

We loved our cat.  We want to believe we didn't let her down, just as I am explaining to our thoughtful, mourning, wise eldest daughter that our kitty didn't give up in the end, but succumbed to her time.  And, how we appreciate the time she gave us.  

Sweet dreams, sweet Koshie Cat.  

1 comment:

aitchpea said...

I am so sorry, Fer. When you posted about this on Facebook, I just assumed she had died of old age; I didn't know that there was an element of responsibility. It is hard to get over the loss of a pet, even harder to get over a loss that you wonder if you precipitated. It sounds as if you are beginning to forgive yourself, and that is good. The "what if" is a terrible burden, but it is likely there was nothing you could have done to avoid this. It was just her time. I am sorry for the emptiness that remains in a house after the loss of a beloved pet.