I am not a cat lover, in the least. I fell madly in love with a young Persian named Permer many years ago and when he was gone, I was so broken all I could imagine was that I could never again love a cat.
For the vast majority of my life I thought cats were useless, egotistical and strange. Cats are the boorish bully of the home pet world and for that alone, I avoided them like a plague.
When I accidentally had a number of children, they seemed to attract cats like poo attracts flies. They would come and move on and no one really seemed to notice.
A couple of years ago a daughter of mine was flying out of our local airport for Christmas to some other city at the same time I was returning from somewhere else. We exchanged car keys in the airport and she told me there was a present for me in the downstairs bathroom. I only like presents that are white dress shirts or expensive cycles, neither seemed appropriate for a bathroom present.
When I got home and opened the bathroom door there was a small gray, long haired mess standing rather proudly in a brown puddle of his own making.
To say I was irate would be an abysmal understatement. I don’t like cats, even my own daughter should have known that. His only skill in life seemed to be the relentless manufacture of diarrhea, which meant he would eat, make a mess and I would stick his funky butt under the warm water in the sink, rinse him off and dry him. Within an hour or so, he would eat again and the same scene played out. I kept the cat around, naming him Foxtrot, for a few days, until my daughter returned and we brought him to the local animal shelter, where I was sure we could drop him off and forget about him and his diarrhetic ways.
There was no room at the shelter, no cage, shoe box or anything else acceptable as a short time living place for Foxtrot. They gave him some sort of kitty shot and asked if we could keep him a few more days and they would call when they had space.
We got home, the shot seemed to cure him of his ills and his digestive idiocy and the shelter, to this day, has never called.
Foxtrot soon became Foxtrot Tango, but that only lasted until he started to put on weight and gain a personality that was one part sweet heart and another part desperate crackhead.
That first summer, with temperatures always in the 100’s and Raltraz (his new name) not really understanding the concept of personal hair care, we brought him to a barber and had him shaved down to a very light coating of silky soft fur. He thought he looked like a sexy lion, we had to hold back laughing out loud. Either way, his macho stance and silly demeanor won us over.
He became as much of a friend of our family as our lesbian dog, her tormented and over sexualized lover a vicious and hate filled cat and now this, Raltraz, certainly no intellectual, but his gifts at stoner humor (he began to indulge in catnip as he grew into his teenage years) and his happy willingness to torment his housemates with surprise attacks and racing the stairs made him a rising star in the competition of favorite neurotic family member.
He owned everything. My own bed became his, which he would share, upon request, but mostly, it was his to use. This past winter, when we added a large hand woven rug to the entryway, he thought of it as his own magic carpet. He would run from the far corner of the kitchen, through the doorway and hit the carpet and everything would bunch up against the front door. A couple of these sorts of exploits and it was time for an extended nap, which he would do on the rumpled magic carpet. It was magic and it was his to enjoy.
He was a hunter, a gatherer and a show off of all things Raltraz. He thought of himself as a Jcrew model and so did we. He could strike a pose and hold it and then just disappear onto his next adventure. A little cracky, a little handsome and quickly becoming some family member we could never be without.
I recently caught Raltraz scouting the angry fish we had in my daughters bedroom. This fish was one of those carnivorous beasts that eat anything that comes near the tank. I fed him from a distance, but his slashing and spraying of water which made that endeavor seem life threatening. Imagine my surprise on recent day when I found silly Raltraz with a paw in the fish tank, dangling it in front of the ferocious fish like a furry meal. Nothing came of that interaction that day, but in my heart I knew those two would someday fight it out and I secretly was looking forward to it.
In early April of this year a fire completely destroyed our home and also burned our neighbors house. None of our pets escaped and Raltraz is buried in a mix of brick, plaster, sludge and everything else we once thought of as ours.
When you lose everything you only gain the knowledge that stuff does not define us. That is all, everything else, the photos and the videos and the paintings and the clothes, they disappear in an instant, as do the pets who had only loved us in a way they were comfortable with, which was far more than we had imagined.
Raltraz had done everything to not be part of our family and when the door was open and he joined, it was like we all had been made for one another. He is gone, our dog is gone, our over-breeding cat is gone and the dangerous fish has moved on to bigger waters.
I still believe in the magic of love, even love that has failed in some way, when you open your heart and you love someone, that special bond, maybe broken, still exists in your heart.