Last week was a somber one in the CrazyStable, because the time finally came to euthanize our oldest cat, Raffles. His story I have told; he was our oldest guy (at least 16), and had gotten skinnier and less continent (in ever more unpredictable and creative ways) for many months with no apparent slacking-off in energy or joie de vivre. Above, his last portrait; below, just last Thanksgiving, seeking turkey molecules in the sink.
(A dry-chow boy all his life, and our only non-glutton, he became an avid table-scrap scavenger as he grew more wasted.) Poor fellow, we gave up on various medical interventions, which seemed only to burden him, and just took up all the rugs, put down lots of newspapers and old sheets, and waited for him to tell us when he was Ready. That day came last Thursday, when he finally seemed tired and confounded by it all, although his marvelous ready purr never left him. Our beloved vet Dr. Dendtler gave him a dignified end in our arms, after we kept him plied with chicken tidbits in the waiting room.
His bony little frame is now interred in the garden, and over it I will plant the first spring pansies I can find at the greenmarket. (We can also start to ponder the replacement of the downstairs hallway flooring; Raffles and his renal failure made us very glad that the splintered and unsalvageable parquet was destined for a dumpster anyway.) So that leaves Lexi the Gorgeous Ragdoll and Cocobop the Grey, who will be joined by as wee and fuzzy a new sibling as we can find at the animal shelter, after the elapsing of a Decent Interval. He or she will be wonderful, but there's no such thing as a "replacement" when it comes to animal friends--not for that zany checkerboard of a face whiskering me awake in the morning, nor for his jaunty ear-swiveling, tail-bobbing, or curious occasional "announcements" in moments of stress (including, the Child insists, "uh-oh," "help me!" and "Wowee-wow-wow!")
In honor of Raffles, who delighted us by "brisking about the life," here is an excerpt from "My Cat Jeoffrey" by Christopher Smart, a friend of Dr. Johnson's who wound up in a lunatic asylum (no wisecracks, please), where he penned this lovely ode to a comforting feline companion. (My book-arts mentor Malachi McCormick offers a gorgeous little volume of this poem in a hand-made calligraphy book, seen here.)
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food.
For having consider'd God and himself he will consider his neighbour.
For if he meets another cat he will kiss her in kindness.
For when he takes his prey he plays with it to give it a chance.
For one mouse in seven escapes by his dallying.
For when his day's work is done his business more properly begins.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he counteracts the powers of darkness by his electrical skin and glaring eyes.
For he counteracts the Devil, who is death, by brisking about the life.
For in his morning orisons he loves the sun and the sun loves him.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger...