We found each other my first 24 hours in California. He was 3 months old. A stray that had been rescued by the woman who was taking care of my new roommate’s cat. I was 27, arriving in Los Angeles with big dreams and stars in my eyes.
It was love at first sight.
I had no intention of getting a cat. But I was lonely. LA was a big place and I knew two people – sort of. My roommate (we were both ex-girlfriends of my first love), and my cousin’s college friend, who I’d met twice. Kitty came home with me.
I had a hard time naming him but he was such a little guy, he ended up being Squirt. Squirty for short. 😉
16 years we spent together. He was there for all the big moments in my adult life.
He was there when I was drugged in a local bar and blacked out for the first and only time in my life. (Thankfully a friend had walked me home and though the aftereffects were horrid, things could have been so much worse).
He was there when my roommate got drunk and decided to tell me what a horrible, lazy person I was. That none of her friends like me. That not even our mutual ex-boyfriend liked me anymore. I stood there, stunned, for 20 minutes before realizing I didn’t have to keep listening. I gave her my notice, went into my room and shut the door, crying into Squirt’s soft fur.
He was there when I moved into a little studio bungalow of my own. He kept me awake nights, attacking the mirror or being chased by his new brother, TC, who’d shown up on moving day.
He was there when I fell in love with a cheating, cocaine-snorting Hollywood writer-producer and had my heart broken. He was there when the friend who’d been secretly in love with me found out I was dating someone else and spent the night on my doorstep, waiting for me to come home. He was there when my best friend and I decorated the entire place with waxed paper snowflakes, strung from the high ceilings. He was there when I got a phone call to turn on the TV and sat there shaking, watching the news on September 11.
He was there when I met my husband, when we bought our home, when we fought over how much stuff I had. He put up with the new dog and discovered cat heaven in the bushes and trees of our hillside getaway. He was there for that first Christmas when all our friends brought an ornament to decorate the tree in our new front room. (Those ornaments still go on the tree every year, though I think we broke the Christmas pickle).
He was there – though mostly hidden – when our house was full of laughter and wedding preparations and he purred next to me on the couch as I wrote paper after paper for grad school.
He was there when we cried over the first miscarriage and when we brought our beautiful daughter home. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of her and spent his life being slightly terrified, though when she cried, he always came to check on her.
He was traumatized by our move to Ventura, going from the safety of a wooded lot to the barren, sun bleached sand of the beach. It was only as his life was almost over that he seemed truly comfortable again outside. Maybe he was just too old to be afraid anymore.
He was there through the next miscarriage and the grief of stillbirth. He purred in our laps as we watched Ada grow up. Quiet, gentle and sweet, he got quietly sick numerous times. First with kidney stones, then diabetes (which he reversed and recovered from in record time) and finally cancer.
A week ago I realized he was skin and bones. The vet found a mass in his belly they hadn’t detected six weeks earlier when he was in to have a tooth pulled.
Tuesday we saw the other vet. The one who helped reverse his diabetes. The one who saw him for the first time her second day at the clinic six years prior. The one who had a vested interest in his survival and a big love for his sweet soul.
We decided not to intervene.
I took him home and stroked his belly, listening for his now-faint purr. I fed him treats and baby food. I told him how much I loved him. I asked him to make it clear when he was ready to go.
Wednesday morning I thought he might last a few days longer. He was eating and talking a little bit more. Then at lunch I found him hiding behind the recycling can, his breathing labored and raspy. I looked into his eyes and I knew.
He gave us the sweetest gift before he left us. Lying on the bed with Ada, he reached out and did this.
After spending 8 years running from her, he let us both know that underneath it all, there was only love.
Before he died I told him he could come visit anytime. However he wanted to. And then he was gone.
Friday a young dragonfly flew into the house and hovered near me, landing on the door before flying back out. I felt Squirt’s presence and cried.
Twice since he died I’ve had the opportunity to communicate with cats. Once for a client and once for a Facebook friend whose cat went missing. I don’t do much animal communication so the synchronicity is not lost on me.
I miss his sweet face and personality very much. I also believe I have a new spirit ally in my work.
Even in loss there can be magic.