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Friday, November 28, 2008

RIP Fergus

Tim says how you know you've met the right kitty is that it picks you, not that you pick it.

I've spent hours at shelters before, looking for exactly the right cat, going into it desiring an all-black cat, and keeping my eyes focused for what I thought I wanted. And it was frustrating, seeing all the wonderful cats who seemed only just good enough. Not The One.

And then the right one will come along unbidden.

Fergus found me the summer of 1999. I went to Harmony House for Cats, entered a room filled with black kitties, and one jumped onto my lap, curled up, and fell asleep. I fell in love, but he had a bronchial infection, so I had to wait a week to pick him up. I think when I went back, they gave me the wrong cat, because Fergus never once sat in my lap for the rest of his life.

He was my punk kitty. He loved racing around the apartment (even better when I lived in a two-story apartment with a long, carpeted staircase to the basement), chomping down on my hair while I was sleeping, and climbing my clothes hanging in the closet to perch near the ceiling. He went crazy whenever there was a newspaper to dive under or a box to climb in.

For a long time, it was him and me against the world. He was my rock for a few years. I went through a lot, but I never got lonely at home with him by my side. I'd come home from work, and he'd run to the table to relax and watch me make dinner. While I ate, he'd lay beside me on the table, then curl up on the couch cushion next to me while I read or watched TV. After about three years together, I began waking up in the middle of the night to discover him curled in my arms. I could scarcely breathe; it was so special. He hadn't been a very affectionate cat, which I didn't mind so much because he had so much spunk and intelligence. But for a good year or two, I didn't get much sleep because I'd lay awake, treasuring those quiet, cuddly moments where he deigned to act like a cat instead of a little furry person.

When Tim entered the picture, it was all over for the punk kitty. Tim lavished so much love on Fergus, believing--accurately--that the way to my heart was through Fergus's, and he turned into a little love bug. A year or so after that, Tim was convinced he needed a friend, so we went back to the same shelter, and Olivia found us.

Fergus tried to kill Olivia the first day she was home. But after about a week, the hissing stopped, and after about a month, he allowed her to eat out of the same bowl. I don't think he ever loved her the way she loved him, but there was tolerance, and sometimes he'd give up the fight and let her snuggle him.

The happiest time for Fergus was in Alabama. He'd snake through our home-made cat door onto the balcony and roll around deliriously on the concrete, dirt-sprinkled floor. He'd "walk the wire" of the balcony, and click his tongue at the birds. And he'd spend a lot of time asleep on the World's Most Comfortable Chair, a place he always let Olivia share. I always felt bad leaving that apartment, and his outdoor freedom.

And then we came back to Chicago, and he started to get sick, and that's not something I want to remember right now. I want to remember his wise eyes, and the way I wasn't sure he ever knew exactly what I was saying, but certain he always knew my meaning. How he'd meow a kitty "bless you" every time I'd sneeze, or come running to my side with a concerned look on his face if I ever made a cry of pain or sadness. How he was staunchly anti-laps or cuddling in the living room, but could be counted on to curl his head under my chin at night, or let me rest my head, using him as a pillow, to listen to his purr.

And in the end, Olivia proved a good partner, whether he ever acknowledged her or not. At a time when another animal might have attacked him for being weak, she didn't push him to play, but instead licked his ears while he ate, grooming him carefully.

I think we all have one kindred animal spirit in the world, and it doesn't seem right that he's gone, but I feel lucky to have known him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh ellie what a lovely posting. love you, katie

6:50 AM  
Blogger erin said...

My sister's black cat, Leroy, recently had to be put down due to diabetes. My sister also noticed that her other cat, Hank, became more affectionate and nurturing toward Leroy when he started to get really sick.

Aw, kitties.

3:27 PM  
Blogger crys said...

oh, le.
i haven't camped for so long...
i've just finished reading about your sweet fergus & my heart is broken.

9:53 PM  

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