Monday, July 13, 2015


ZEN CAT


Guest post by Jean Lorrah

My cat Dudley came to me early in 2002, after my Siamese cat Soolin died. Dudley was a rather ordinary looking gray tabby, but he had personality to spare. He loved everybody, including the dogs, and quickly settled in as family.

Dudley soon figured out that if he joined the dogs when I got them together to come, sit, down, and wave, he would also get treats if he did what the dogs did. I put a harness on him, and he quickly learned to walk on a leash simply because he was a laid-back cat who went with the flow. I often took him to school with me, and my students were delighted to have him wander about the classroom, sitting on laps and taking naps on backpacks.

Soon my friend Lois Ruiz urged me to join the newly reorganized Pet Therapy program through our Humane Society. Dogs had to pass obedience training, but my remaining dog Kadi ended up with a certificate of attendance. She was a rescue who had been abused as a puppy, leaving her with brain damage, a sweet personality, all the instincts of a herding dog, and very little sense. So we just loved her, and let Dudley take on pet therapy duties. Cats only have to behave well on ten supervised visits (as well as passing the same health tests as dogs) to be certified,

As the first and for a long time only cat in the program, Dudley quickly became very popular. Children loved him, as did the cat lovers in nursing homes. He quickly became the most photographed cat in town, riding in Homecoming and Christmas parades, and participating in fundraising activities. International students in particular seemed to love him, so I'll never know how many of their selfies with him are circulating online.

Dudley had an active social life, and for the first five years he lived with me seemed perfectly content as an only cat. But then, Dudley was always content. Twice during that time I fostered kittens until homes could be found for them, and he paid them no mind. But then a friend brought me a half-grown tabby/tuxedo kitten to find a home for--and Dudley decided to adopt this one! He took over training, cleaning, and disciplining the kitty I named Splotch for the strange configuration of his coat pattern.

I watched Dudley go into sensei mode, teaching Splotch the cat form of martial arts, complete with formal addresses before each match. He also taught him how to interact with dogs, and how to catch mice and crickets in the garage. Eventually Splotch grew to be larger than Dudley, but Dudley could always beat him, even when he became old and frail. Splotch followed in his master's pawprints in becoming our second therapy cat.

As he grew older, Dudley grew fat. I told him I shouldn't have nicknamed him my little Buddha, but he didn't care. He just went on living in the moment and enjoying life.

But life changed around him. Lois lost her therapy dog Tessa to old age, and for a while took Splotch on our pet therapy excursions. Then she adopted a little chihuahua/terrier mix, and named her Fancy.

Kadi's brain damage was finally too much for her medication, and she passed over the rainbow bridge. I adopted Bianca, a dear little Maltese, and Lois and I signed up for obedience class, planning to train our dogs together for pet therapy. But then Lois suffered a fall and a broken pelvis. While she was in the hospital, Fancy stayed with me. But Lois never came home: in the hospital she suffered a massive stroke and died.

I kept Fancy, and also took in Lois' smallest cat, Blue, while Lois' daughter took her other cats. Through all of this, Dudley remained a calm center who had many tears shed into his soft gray fur. He became Blue's protector, as Splotch was reluctant to give up the position of youngest cat. Lois had rescued Blue from some children who wrapped a wire around her neck and dragged her down the street. She was afraid of everyone and everything, except Dudley and Fancy. Dudley taught her the same moves he had taught Splotch, and she learned to stand up to the would-be bully.

Then in 2013 Dudley had his first brush with mortality, when he developed bladder stones. Never one to complain, he didn't know how to tell me he was in pain--but he knew he needed help. So one day when I was putting on my makeup in the bathroom, he came in, ignored the litterbox, jumped up on the toilet and peed in the bowl.

Peed blood into the toilet.

I went from, "Oh, Dudley, you're so clever," to "Oh, my God!" in a split second, and rushed him to the vet. He had to have surgery, and then a special diet for the rest of his life to make sure the stones didn't come back. He recovered well, without complaint, and went back to his usual routine, including keeping Splotch in line.

For two more years I had my lovely zen cat--but this spring he began losing weight. I hoped he was just losing the excess, for he continued to be his sweet self until one morning in May he staggered into my bedroom and fell over. Thinking he had had a stoke, I once again rushed him to the vet. The diagnosis was vestibular disease, which affects the inner ear. With steroids and antibiotics, Dudley recovered, but the weight loss continued. I noticed that while he still came when I put food out, he ate only a few mouthfuls while I was watching, and then quit.

I took him back to the vet to discuss how to coax him to eat more, and she discovered a mass in his abdomen that had not been palpable only three weeks earlier. It was an aggressive cancer, and although I had it removed to give him the best chance to live, he survived only a few hours and died in his sleep.

It was very hard for me when the vet called to tell me Dudley had died alone in the night. Since I have been an adult all the pets I have been responsible for have died in my arms.

But that was my Dudley. He didn't want to suffer, and he didn't want me to suffer. I've tried to see it his way: better to go quickly, without the pain that recurring cancer would have caused. He had lived a good life, touching many lives both animal and human. My tribute to him online drew over a hundred comments and emails. He will be remembered.

1 comment:

  1. I've lost 3 cats in the last 2 years, A 20 yr old, 19 yr old, and 13 yr old. You can't replace those souls in your life, but when a new one enters your life it helps ease the pain. :)

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