I didn’t make this post while I was in Australia because I thought it would upset me too much and I was concentrating on not letting it ruin my vacation. A few days after I left, Mark had to let Tigger go. He’d had kidney disease for several years but had only in the last month or so shown any real symptoms. When I booked my trip back in October, it was with no small amount of apprehension that something would happen to one or both of the cats right before the trip or while I was gone, but as they both seemed in relatively decent health at the time, I felt I couldn’t live my life based on “what ifs”. To my immense sadness, the worst case scenario came true and Tigger fell ill just before I left. He spent Wednesday night in the animal hospital. When I retrieved him on Thursday, he was not himself, although he was very clingy and did not appear to be in pain. I spent Thursday night with him sleeping on me and when I said goodbye to him on Friday when leaving for the airport, it was with tears in my eyes because part of me was sure it was for the last time. And unfortunately it was. He declined rapidly after I left and after another visit to the vet, it was decided between Mark, the doctors, and I that the time had come to let him go.
I can not express to you how glad I am that I have such a marvelous husband who took care of this for me. While I was gallivanting around the globe, Mark was home shoving several pills a day down Brachtune’s throat, cleaning up after Tigger in his final days (apparently he became a bit incontinent), taking both cats to the animal hospital (Brachtune also needs sub-q fluids every other day), and generally giving both cats the enormous amounts of love they need. Although my heart breaks at the thought that I was not there during Tigger’s final moments, I am comforted by the fact that Mark loved the little tyke as much as I did, and that Tigger loved him too – as much as he loved me. I don’t know that I would have felt comfortable about this with anyone other than Mark, but in the 8 years they knew each other, Mark and Tigger were just as close as Tigger and me.
I’ll share a brief story of Tigger’s life with you, if I may. In 1993, a friend of mine was planning to move back “home” from the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, in order to attend my university with me. I’d be moving out of my current apartment and we’d be moving into a new one together. A couple of months before the move was to happen, she drove a tiny 6-week old kitten the three hours from Ocean City to Towson, Maryland, and presented him to me, to be our kitty together when she herself moved up later. She looked exhausted when she arrived, stating the little one had screamed the entire trip. Having traveled much lesser distances with this cat in the future, I can tell you Lisa was nothing less than a saint for tolerating him for that long! I fell in love with the kitten on sight. Lisa named her Antigone, both because she liked the name and because another friend of ours had recently been in the play of the same name.
When the time came for me to move from the old apartment into the new, there were some sort of repairs that needed to be made to the new apartment that caused me to leave the cats (I also had at the time a stray I had taken in a while before) in the old place after moving all of the furniture. On my way home late one night after being out, I stopped by the old apartment to visit the cats and was dismayed to find one of the window screens had been cut and my little orange kitten missing. Either someone had deliberately stolen the cat, or (more likely) someone had been trying to rob us and was very disappointed indeed to find the place completely empty, and unwittingly let the kitten out, either by the front door when they left or through the hole in the window. Whatever the case, I was devastated. Friends and I spent the Fourth of July making Lost Cat signs that we hung around the neighborhood. I called Lisa, who hadn’t yet moved up from the beach, in tears. On the day we were to make the final inspection and move the one remaining cat to the new place, I was late meeting another friend of mine there. He asked me to go retrieve his bag from one of the bedrooms. I told him to get it himself. He insisted that I get his bag for him, which was behind a. closed door. When I opened the bedroom door, I was greeted not by his alleged bag, but by one tiny, orange, much-missed kitten! One of my neighbors had seen the bowls of food I’d been leaving out (but curiously not the signs) and, finding my friend heading in to wait for me, had asked if he was missing a cat, and he’d gone to collect my baby. I went to the neighbor’s apartment to thank her. She was a cat person herself and had taken good care of the little one for a few days, but insisted on calling the kitten a “he”, despite the fact that Lisa had always called it a “she”. I was not the brightest crayon in the box at the time and instead of peering under the kitten’s tail (I knew very well how to tell a boy from a girl cat), I simply assumed the lady was sloppy with her pronouns. A couple of weeks later, though, when my orange kitten got its first shots, I was of course made a fool of. Antigone, despite the girlish name, was a boy, and became from that day simply Tigger. And also king of my heart.
When Lisa and I eventually moved on and were no longer roommates, I took Tigger. I didn’t even give her a real choice in the matter. I loved him more than anything and wasn’t going to be parted from him. I was totally crazy for this cat. When singing along with songs, I substituted “Tigger” for most 2-syllable words and claimed all songs were in fact about Tigger (and how great he is). Tigger could be aggressive at times: if you looked at him wrong, he was sometimes apt to claw you. But I always sided with the cat instead of bloodied friends and family, claiming they must have provoked it and that he was just a little baby boy who never did anything wrong. When Mark and I were away from home – whether on a long trip or just at a bar – we’d ask each other constantly, “What do you think Tigger is doing right now?”
I met Mark in 2001. Mark and I were one of those sickening couples that falls almost instantly in love, but if he and Tigger (and Brachtune for that matter, but she loves just about every human) had not hit it off as well as they did, I’m not sure what would have happened. Mark even had to sacrifice his own cat in order to move in with me because Tigger barely tolerated Brachtune after eight years and would have probably killed Mark’s cat. (Mark’s mom now provides a very happy home for Mark’s cat, Din.) Mark was fond of saying that Tigger needed a male role model in his life and it did seem as if Tigger mellowed after being adopted by his new father figure. I’d never seen Tigger like anyone as much as he liked me – he barely tolerated anyone else on his best days – but he almost immediately took to Mark, and Mark to him.
I’ve had cats my entire life, but I’ve learned that you bond with different pets with varying amounts of intensity. The bond I had with Tigger was immense and eternal. He greeted me at the door whenever I came home, begging to be picked up and cuddled. As readers of this blog are aware, he “helped” me cook nearly every meal I made. He happily wore a harness and leash and went for jaunty walks around the neighborhood with me. He loved to be held like a baby and walked around the house by Mark. Mark and I would often pick him up and sandwich him with kisses. He tolerated me picking him up and dancing around the house with him. He’d put his paws around my neck and hug me when I was feeling blue. He was my best friend.
Mark told me on the phone when breaking the bad news that he was glad I was so far from home when things turned bad because all of my memories of Tigger will be good and happy, and I won’t have to remember the pathetic state he was in in the day or two before he was gone. Although it sickens and pains me to think I wasn’t there, Mark made a valid point. I knew Tigger’s passing was going to turn me into a sniveling wreck of a human being for a long time, but I was kept so busy in Sydney, that though I grieved, I had some time to adjust before coming home and dealing with the house being devoid of him, and the simple fact of his not being here is the hardest thing to take. I nominate Mark for Husband of the Year, however, and having gone through this, I am reminded of why I love my husband. Mark tells me that Tigger spent his last couple of days not budging from his lap (which was in a way a symptom of his illness, because Tigger wasn’t much of a lap cat). I know Tigger died a happy cat. And I’m so happy to have had him for nearly 16 wonderful years.
I was right in that being in the house with it empty of him would be the hardest part. It’s only beginning to really hit me now that I’m home. I missed him walking in the door because he was always there to greet me. I missed him when doing the laundry because he’d always stick his head in the washing machine as I loaded it. I missed him while making soup because he always helped me cook. I missed him while taking a shower because he always took showers with us. I miss him every minute.
He always helped me cook. How can I do it without him?
I just hope he’s in peace.
This is one of my favorite photos in the whole world: my two favorite boys.