Dexter here. I haven’t been feeling well. Couldn’t tell my humans, but they figured it out, and took me to the vet. I don’t like vets, but Dr. Heidi, and Debby, are pretty nice, and they think I’m cool. They’re right, of course. I had an intestinal tumor, who knew. Anyway, it didn’t look good, so my humans realized Gramma Marge needed company. I really missed her and haven’t gone into her bedroom, since she disappeared five months ago. She was here, sleeping in a tiny bed, breathing deep, then she was gone. The next day, the bed was gone, too.
Today, I left home to keep her warm, with all of my love, and, handsomeness. I don’t know where Heaven is, but, my humans said I’d find her there, and she’d lead the way. I’d like to leave you with a bit of Dexter advice: always be kind to your pets, because we love you unconditionally. Even us cats. Well, most of us. Love, Dexter
I’ve only seen my husband cry three or four times in our twenty-four years of marriage. We were at dinner in Santa Monica the first time. His best friend, Jesse, called to tell him his only son had been killed in a motorcycle accident. I don’t remember the restaurant, or what we had to eat. The sun had barely set over the Pacific Ocean, and soon disappeared, leaving a few sailboats emulating stars tottering off water. I remember the expression of ache on my husband’s face when hearing the news. His hands immediately planted fully over his face, and, he sobbed. I just sat there, honestly, not knowing what to do, so I stared.
I never knew Jesse’s son. It was before my time, and, not having children, I couldn’t completely understand the depth of heartache that encompassed Jesse’s grief. Terry had known his nineteen-year-old son since birth. Terry felt the pain of losing someone almost as close as a son. Many of our friends have lost mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and, siblings, since then. That heartache, I have learned firsthand.
Although many do not comprehend the loss of a pet, or the empathy attached to it, I do. I didn’t have the privilege of being a mother, or grandmother, but God gave me the honor and empathy to love animals. Some people have said I wouldn’t love my pets as much, if I had had children. Maybe, but I have many friends who have children, and still, bring their pets, as partners, in to their family. That’s how I see empathy and compassion.
In January, a few months ago, Terry received a text message. We were on a reunion cruise out of Miami. Our beloved brother-in-law, Lawrence, passed away from leukemia. We weren’t ready. We thought there was more time, and secretly, hoped to surprise Lawrence and Terry’s sister, Susie, with a trip to California. Susie loves palm trees, and sunshine, and, the occasional In & Out burger. Lawrence loved Susie!
Terry’s words, ‘oh, my God’, stopped my train of thought, as I read some nonsense on FaceBook (yes, even in the beautiful Caribbean). ‘Lawrence died last night’.
We sat in a diminutive cabin, on a ginormous ship, and, cried. This time, I knew what to do. I didn’t stare. Twenty fours years of marriage, helped me to show empathy to humans. I learned how to touch, and feel through my fingers, and embrace heartache instead of running away. I learned about commitment and respect, and concern, and, not to stare, but participate. I learned to love humans through the patience and unconditional love of my husband. He thought I was pretty, and funny, and, he saw life in me, that I couldn’t see.
Nearly twelve years ago, a young tabby discovered I had birds. Lots of bird. I loved them. Apparently, so did Dexter, the neighbor’s cat on the street behind us. It didn’t take long for us to declare him, ‘Dexter, The Serial Bird Killer’. At the time (now gone), I had ten or so, birdfeeders. Each morning, I would be welcomed by dozens of finches, doves, and, sparrows. I faithfully, cleaned their water bowls, and birdbath, and made sure there was plenty of birdseed. They were happy, and so was I.
I shooed him away numerous times, never hurting him, but waving whatever pole or broom I could get my hands on. Dexter would run, maybe ten feet, then turn around, and stare. ‘Hah, that stupid human thinks she can get rid of me, the Dexter?’
One day, I stood in the backyard, as he defied me, and ambled up to sit at my feet. My elderly mother yelled at me from the slider, ‘don’t touch him, don’t touch him’. We knew. We shared four indoor cats, and knew that once you touch a cat, they own you. It took a while of breaking us down into little particles of Dexter love, but eventually, he moved in.
One unusually warm day in January of 2007, we decided to have a bbq with friends. I pulled open the zipper on the swing cover and noticed fur. As I looked closer I saw Dexter burrowed deep down amongst the cushions. He looked suspiciously at me, with the inquiring mind of a cat, ‘why are you here, I need my sleep’.’ Huh! I asked him a similar question, ‘why are you here, you have a home.’ I had found out where he lived when talking to a neighbor, who we affectionately called Gramma Rita (Dexter’s other mother/grandmother). The cat was obviously unhappy, and unwilling to move, when I began to remove each cushion. ‘Thanks, buddy, guess I’ll need the sticky roller to get your fur off the cushions.’ I worked around him.
Months later, Dexter came to visit on a Saturday night around ten pm. By now, we were pretty chummy. He sauntered up to the slider, meowing up a storm. I opened it, and as he walked in, we quickly discovered he had been skunked. It would be the first of seven times. We didn’t know what to do, so we called his owners. Within a few minutes, Cathy, in her robe, brought peroxide and baking soda. Per her instructions, we had the dish liquid soap and bowl. Dexter’s first of many kitchen sink baths. Cathy showed us how to mix the combination of cleaners, and we pasted Dexter all over with the goods, then, rinsed.
The next time this happened we were on our own. Dexter had moved in lock, stock, and barrel. Once again, he came in skunked. We went into action, and quickly got everything together and put him in the sink. This time, as I washed him down, my sweet, gentle voice, tried to comfort him. That is, until I dictated to Terry, ‘get the claw out of my head! “What?” ‘Get the claw out of my head’!
Yep, I put my scalp a little too close.
From then on, Dexter got more and more used to baths, and, eventually, he got bathed just for being a cat who climbed trees and meandered through the greasy streets of our neighborhood (I know, we tried to keep him inside, but it was too late. Our old kitties had passed away, so we didn’t worry about them getting out). He duked it out with other cats, and god knows what. He hung out in the backyard with his buddy, Stinky the Squirrel. He wasn’t afraid of the raccoons, and seldom batted an eye when they used our pool as a bath. He was smart enough to stay inside when their babies climbed his trees and played with his plastic flamingos. But, not smart enough to stay away from the skunks. ‘Oh, Dexter’, I said on many occasions.
Over the years, my mother’s osteoporosis became a physical challenge, and, she’d spend time in the hospital, then, rehab. Every time she came home, we’d find Dexter sleeping on her bed. Even, before he moved in. He always sensed when she needed a little extra warmth of body, and kitty love. He talked with her, she talked with him. He stretched out along side of her, pressing his body close, to remind her he was there. She’d place her hand on his side, and together, they were one unit. They slept until one or the other woke up. This became the daily routine, especially, when she became bedridden.
I sometimes, wonder, if, for the last eleven or so years, Dexter’s main existence in life was to show love and warmth to my mother. Once she passed away, Dexter’s job was done. WE will always miss him. WE knew he loved us, and, we were his special humans. WE knew he was no ordinary cat. He carried on conversations, assuming we’d understand. Sometimes, we did, but mostly, we laughed at each other, when carrying on a conversation with The Cat.
Good-bye old friend, Dexter Buddy, you will be so missed. And, yes, Terry cried!