Thursday, April 05, 2012

In Memory El Gato, a VERY special cat

In Memory

El Gato, a VERY special cat

????-April 5, 2012 approximately 15 years old

I was so very fortunate to have this fine kitty come into my life when I was managing the trailer park in Shoreline, about 7 or so years ago.

Gato was the “court cat”, without a home and quite feral. You would see him out and about, looked quite healthy for not having a home. A retired Navy Chief who taught at Diver’s Training Institute in Ballard and his wife were the only ones that I saw feed him, yummy salmon, which he still really likes to this day. But he must have found enough other food around.

In the summer, I got concerned about his access to water, so filled a container and kept it clean under the big fir tree out front.

Just would not come near folks, though. One day I was sitting on the edge of the raised flower bed, and he came by, and finally got close enough to present his butt for me to scratch, would not get close enough to pet his head, or pick him up. After a while, he let me pet his head and scratch his ears. Good enough. I don’t even much care for cats, I thought to myself, but this little guy was very likeable.

After a few months and one of our petting/scratching sessions, he followed me up the stairs! Interesting, I thought, so let him in the house. Obviously he had been inside before. Just hung around with me. At bedtime it was out the door.

When I got up in the morning, I was going out to the car, and who was sitting at the top of the stairs on the landing, but Gato! Came right in the house and made himself at home. What a sweet cat.

Since he seemed to like to hang around we kept this up, with him disappearing for a day or two, but not that often. I got to be concerned when he did so and started feeding and watering him inside.

My habit after work was to lie on the bed on my back, and he jumped up, and lay between my legs, all cuddled up. So, I bought him a fleece throw, and put it at the bottom of my bed. That was one of his favorite places, along with on my desk, next to my monitor, where he diligently held court, let me pet him while looking out the window at the trailer park, surveying his domain, while he watched me work.

When I had to leave for vacation, I didn’t know what to do, since he was used to eating at my house, so I put multiple bowls of food and water on the landing outside the front door, moved his kitty-blanny out there. He didn’t eat and drink as much when I was gone, but he sure was happy to see me return.

In fact, when I was at work and arrived at home, he would always be on the sidewalk at the head of my parking spot at 3 PM. Every single day, without fail. Even if I didn’t get home until after dark, the cat was there, every day, waiting to greet me. That is one faithful cat and very un-catlike.

So, he was still an outdoor cat at night, and they were closing the trailer park, and I had to move. Found a delightful place in rural Lynnwood, but what to do with my El Gato?

Since there are lots more critters up there than the ‘coon that came by the trailer park three times a year, I decided he would be an indoor cat, with many trips on the leash out to the backyard, for some yummy grass, and those kewel outdoor smells. The trip up in the kitty carrier was the first time in my time that he was in a car, and he didn’t particularly care for it. I let him out in the house upstairs in his new bedroom, where his carrier would be and his litter box, and he went nuts, of course.

Jumped up to the very high window sill and I feared he would try to go out the closed window. I cuddled him, showed him his litter box, which he took right to, never having an accident in the house. Well, a new foam kitty bed with two new fleece throws and one for his kitty night-night did the trick.

Still jumping up on the desk, watching me work. Basking in the window sill in front of my desk to take a sunshine treatment, seasonally, became some of his new favorite things. Sitting in front of the sliding door became a part of his life too. One happy cat, he!

Still greeting me at the door each time I came home, being on guard-kitty duty when I left the house and just catting around were part of his routine.

Now, when it was time to go on vacation or otherwise be gone overnight, I filled his multiple foods, and waters, set up another litter box, and he would be good for three days. But my, what a kitty-attitude he had when I got home. My oh my! And did he know when I was leaving? You bet, still does, even called me out the other day when I had to go to Olytown for a meeting. He did enjoy, though, my daily phone calls. See, his kitty bed was on my bed, next to the answering machine. I would call home each day, wait for the old-school recorder to pick up, and would talk to him through the speaker.

Lived here in Lynnwood peacefully for 4 plus years, but I noticed last fall he was not bulking up for winter, as was his habit. Ok, animals know more than we do about these things, so I figured we would be in for a mild winter. He became more morose, but I am unsure how you tell that in a cat, whose favorite winter haunt is in front of the wall heater. He appeared to get very skinny, so a trip to the vet confirmed that he was near the end of his very generous life. I kept him comfy, gave him his pills for fluid retention and blood pressure, but two weeks before the end, he quit eating and drinking, save for the syringes of water I gave him every few hours. He picked his own time, just as I would.

I found a very nice spot out back, in the wild area, just off the lawn, with a territorial view of the pastoral back yard. He got a last kitty brush, so he would look good in the afterlife, got wrapped in his favorite kitty-blanny, and I laid him to rest. Overlooking his resting place I put a foot high hand carving of St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals to watch over him that my Dad made in 1975, 37 years ago. I made a trip to the store for some primroses and pansies, and planted them on top of his grave.

El Gato was an exemplary cat, and exemplary companion who gave me so much joy and comfort, and I will miss him dearly. No more “kitty, I will be right back” when I leave, and no more eager greeting when I would shout, “Gato, Daddy is home” when I returned. It sure is quiet in the house now, even though he never made much of a ruckus. Clear proof that the best things in life and the most precious gifts you get—aren’t “things”.

Hope you can read this ok, through the tear stains.

Rest in peace, my dear friend and companion. See you at the end of the road..

Mark / Yo kitty daddy