One of the best of tabbies I’ve known passed away in the early morning of March 5th. God speed old friend, we will miss you, but we’re sure to meet again someday. At first, he was just named Tigger, because it was easy to name a ginger cat with stripes after the bouncy-pouncy lovable tiger from the world of Winnie-the-Pooh. We also called him Tiggy for short. At least, the record at the vet’s office said that was his name when we brought him there for his first shots and then to be neutered. It felt foreign to us when they insisted on calling him “Tigger” when we brought him by for the various things over the years, because his name evolved beyond the initial christening out of necessity...you see, when he was born, it was the year of the "Horrible Horde" - the litter of 1998. (Actually there were three litters, three feral mom cats, plus the remaining roamers from the litter of 1997, and our original three we brought with us when we moved from the city to the country, there were thirty cats out there - yes, 3-0, 30!) But I digress... we had noticed that he would "coo" a lot and it sounded like he said “Pooh!” So his name melded to Tiggy-Pooh, and then his full name became Crouching Tigger-Hidden Pooh, which we ripped off from an episode of Whose Line is it Anyway? Funny, isn’t it? Tiggy-Pooh, Tiggy-bug, Pooh-bug, Burbles, Pooh-wow, Meer-meer, little fellow wearing yellow, Mellow Yellow, Bumblebee…some of the many names he was called over the years. Mostly he was Pooh or Tiggy, whatever name came to the lips when talking to or about him, he responded to both.
His passing is an end of an era because he is the last of the litter of 1998. The remaining four former wandering paws are all drop offs that arrived after 2002, and one came from the city that my son brought home one day. (I really need to compile these cat tales into a book someday.)
Nineteen years ago Pooh was squirming around inside his mommy’s belly—she was Calico. (It’s what we ended up calling the little wild mamma cat. She was very sweet. She eventually came inside to live with us when the winter came and she decided she had had enough being wild.) His father, probably the ginger and white tomcat who never stuck around to be named, but his calling card lingered on our screen door letting us know he had passed through. The last time I saw him, he looked rough like he had been in a fight, he still had enough grit to look at me over his shoulder with a foul stink-eye that I knew to leave be. The classic old country Tom cat, big round head, scrawny and brawny, busy fighting and fucking, scratching fleas, and catching a fur-covered snack-pack for a meal.
Calico brought around her little brood of six kittens to our side of the road—they were born in Bill’s barn on the other side of the road, that deadly broad piece of asphalt—there were six of them, cluttered underneath the lilac bushes on Memorial Day weekend, wary of people, hissing and running away, skittish. A black and white tuxedo kitten, one solid gray, two gray with white mittens and tums, and two ginger tabbies with white mittens and tums, Tiggy-Pooh was one of them. It’s amazing that I can still remember each one. All boys. I watched Calico teach them to wait at the end of the driveway, look and listen before crossing the road. They’d tumble along after her when she knew it was safe. When we were giving away kittens that year, one of the neighbors came by to look at them, Tiggy-Pooh, his twin brother, and one of Charlotte’s little gray and white girls (Mittens) were left. The twin was chosen, Tiggy-Pooh was too shy. Mittens, although the lady thought she was very beautiful, felt she was too freaked out, and was not at all cuddly. It was a relief to find a home for one of the six. The others died by car, coyote, or just disappeared without a trace. One little gray kitten I gave to two people out for a walk, and he was a tiny guy, and was hanging around down by the mailbox, and since I heard them talking pretty to him, and I said “You want him, he’s free.” Who knows how his life turned out. I have to hope it was fine. (They didn’t try to return him.)
Pooh has had a good long life—I figured his birth happened in April for him to be toddling around by Memorial Day, his eyes were already changing to the gold/green, so considering that, he was a passenger 19 years ago in his pretty calico mamma’s fuzzy belly, he’s been with us a very long time... I remember seeing her trotting down the snowy driveway one day, her belly so round, I scooped her up, and felt the kittens in there. As I sat watching the light leave his eyes, I thought about his friends who have gone before him, and how he would mourn their passing, carrying his tail low behind him, almost as if it was broken. I even Googled it, wondering if it were a strange symptom for something I’ve never seen before. Having as many cats as I’ve had in the last twenty + years, I’ve seen a lot of things. No. He was grieving in his own way. His tail was always expressive, and it was his buddy. He loved his tail. He’d hug with it.
|Pooh and Max|
He always had to touch, if his paws didn’t reach, he’d use his tail to touch a buddy sleeping near him on the bed. If two cats were sleeping on the bed separately, he’d insert himself in between the two and would have to touch them both.
|This is Max's bed, always covered in cats, especially the Big Three.|
He loved begging to go outside, he’d rattle the doorknob, touch it with his front paws, sometimes even wrap his paws around it—he knew how it worked (if only he had thumbs!) If any cat deserved to have thumbs, he did. We’re certain that he had blue prints and volumes of notes regarding his theories about how the doorknob worked. He was a smart little fellow. He also recited his Pooh-ems, his most famous ones were Singing for My Supper, Nite-Nite Snack!, and the rollicking I Want to Go Outside.
He loved popcorn. (Pooh corn) Trust me, he didn't contemplate that for very long.
|September 2016, an outing on a sunny morning|
He passed away after I went to bed around 1AM almost a week ago, I had a feeling he was letting go soon and didn't know if he'd be still with us in the morning. I held his paws, and the little toes curled around my fingers, they were toasty warm, he was nestled in by the woodstove on Max's old bed, and was quietly dozing, making a soft rumbling purr. I had a feeling the light was keeping him awake, and thought maybe he wanted to be left alone. His friend, Charlie, was sleeping next to him, so he wasn't really alone, Charlie had been sticking by him all day, as if he knew that his old friend needed him. I kissed him goodnight, told him that I loved him, his paw curled around my finger. He left us with dignity and on his own terms.