Monday, November 3, 2008

Watching Nemo mourn

Our daughters grew up with an orange cat named Puck. Puck was very territorial, and so when our older daughter asked (as she often did) to get a kitten, the response was always "Not while Puck is alive."

So when he died, knowing my daughter had her heart set on a black and white cat, I went to the animal shelter and brought home a very sweet black and white kitten with an AMAZINGLY loud purr. I would have taken my daughter with me, but she was still grieving for Puck, and was resisting, so I took matters into my own hands.

But Katherine took one look at Pippa and said, "That's not the one," and so, three days later, we found ourselves back at the animal shelter looking for a cat for Katherine. I was totally in favor of having two kittens -- I'd always felt Puck would have been happier with a playmate -- and I looked forward to watching them play together.

Well Katherine found her black and white -- a darling tuxedo cat who seemed incredibly affectionate -- but then she found another little gray-striped kitten whose perfect little face enchanted her, and she just couldn't seem to choose between the two. So eventually we gave in and took them both, which is why, for the last four years, we have had three cats.

By this time we also had a dog, an adorable but extremely possessive Polish Sheepdog named Captain Mnemonic (Nemo for short). And the exercise of protecting the new kittens from the dog became all-consuming. So we turned our rec room into the kittens' home, thinking we would gradually introduce the dog to each of them in turn.

But for whatever reason -- perhaps because Pippa came first, or because she was "mine", or because the two girls were always busy with the other two kittens -- for a while it was only Pippa who would be brought out into the hall to meet Nemo. I would sit on the window seat with Pippa on my lap, and Nemo would jump up next to me and snuffle and nudge her, trying to get her off my lap, and she would purr that incredibly loud purr of hers.

And though Nemo is still very possessive, and barely tolerates the other cats, he fell in love with Pippa, and she decided he was her mother. They would seek each other out, and she would weave her tail back and forth in front of his face, and he would do this odd little nibbling thing up and down her back until they would both settle down, paw to paw, face to face, and nap.

Which means, of course, that Nemo is now bereft. It's not that he keeps looking for Pippa (though last night I caught him in the pantry, sniffing the pillow she used to sleep on); he seems to have accepted, for the most part, that she is gone. But he is very sad, and I suspect he thinks I am somehow responsible for the loss of his friend. And the fact that my husband (his other chief playmate) has been gone for the last three days has only exacerbated his sadness.

As I watch Nemo mourn, I am reminded again, as I was while nursing Pippa, of how important these lives are that touch ours. And if I've learned anything from this experience, I hope that it is not just to take, but to MAKE the time to nurture those connections that are important to us.


Unknown said...

Amen, sister.

Loved the photo of "Capt. Jack," btw. Thank you for sharing it.

May God hold all of you close as you grieve sweet Pippa.

Anonymous said...

Haha, I remember this story slightly differently. Not the second part, but the part where we picked up Pippa- 'cause we went together. She was in a big cage with a bunch of her siblings, and we saw her and she was so nice and purry compared with the rest (and of course, black and white) that you fell in love with her and I thought she was pretty sweet too, so we took her home. But when she spent the night in my room, she was so sad and missing her siblings that we were like, why don't we get more kittens? Since it was kitten season anyway, and more cats is more fun. And then we found Alex and Sophie who I fell in love with, and everyone came home and started living and playing together and it was good. =)

Diane Walker said...

Jeez. You'd think, since it was only 4 years ago, our memories of this event would be at least CLOSE! Oh, well -- the point is we ended up with three kittens... and now what we have is too cats and a sad puppy.

Really? We went together? Why don't I remember that?