A neighbor knocked on my door this morning and told me in broken English my cat was dead in her yard.
Max, my cat, has been ill for about a month. I nursed him, fed him the medication the vet had prescribed, and tempted him with foods I cooked myself: roast turkey, fried fish, and grilled chicken. He ate, but continued to grow weaker. He enjoyed going outside to sit in the spring sunshine. Thinking that was good for him, I allowed it. On examining his body this morning, I concluded a dog had grabbed him by the neck and dragged him to my neighbor’s house. I don’t know if that killed him, or if he had already died.
I cried for awhile, then buried him and marked his grave with stone bricks. Max was over sixteen years old. He had come to my house on a very cold night fifteen years ago as a stray; he was hungry, and ill with a chest infection. I took him to a vet who proclaimed him a handsome splendid creature. The vet was grateful I had taken him in. He was gray with a white spot in the middle of his chest. He had a bobbed tail and was very large. The vet said he was part Bob Cat. He did not have a sick day after that until about a month ago.
He liked to lie on top of me when I lay on the sofa to watch TV. He would bury his face in my neck and fall asleep. After I went to bed at night, he would jump on my bed and snuggle up next to me. In the cold months, he would push his head under my down comforter; warmed by the covers, he would sleep beside me most of the night. Max was a silent cat; he rarely meowed. If he wanted something, he would stand in front of me and look up with large imploring eyes, a very effective method.
When Max was seven, I had to leave the US for six months so I left him with neighbors. When I returned the neighbor was very apologetic; he said he had not seen Max for several weeks. That night before going to bed, I called for him from my back door for ten minutes or so. About an hour after falling asleep, he woke me scratching at my window. I gave him food as soon as he entered the house. He ate ravenously and I returned to bed. After finishing the food, he issued a loud mournful cry, almost a keening. I rushed to pick him up and take him back to my room. He apparently thought I had disappeared again. All night long that night, when I stirred or turned over, he jumped on my back or side and lay there; he appeared to want to make certain I did not leave him again.
Five years ago, Max became a world traveler as he flew with me from the US to the Middle East. I was concerned he might not be a match for the feral cats who inhabit the villages here. One morning I heard a commotion of yowling. Outside I discovered Max on the ground, looking up a tree where he had chased one of the neighborhood cats. With that, Max had established his dominance and his territory.
Since moving to the village, I’ve adopted a couple of puppies who were abandoned. Max liked to play a game with them. If they poked their heads through his cat flap from outside, he would slap the dog across the face with his paw. With a look of confusion they would withdraw. Even as puppies they were larger than Max, and grew to become large dogs; he quickly established his dominance and took no sass from them. A quick swipe across their noses with his toenails sent them yelping away. They learned to respect his position as master of the house. After a period of time, they became friends and Max would sometimes sleep on their rug with them.
Tomorrow I will plant flowers around his grave. He was, indeed, a splendid creature.