Today’s post is of a personal nature – nothing to do with art, images or photography. Well, wait, I think it could be about the art and beauty of friendship though.
18 years ago, I accompanied my two younger brothers to our local SPCA – they had been promised a kitten each to adopt.
While there, I had been kneeling down on the floor and bottom level cage watching and helping them out while they made their decisions. As I stood up, I was greeted by a black paw that caressed my face from a cage on the way up. I looked into the cage and saw a short haired gold eyed cat doing the roll around and look cute dance inside begging me to pick him up.
I recall taking him out of the cage and carrying him around while the decisions and paperwork were being finalized for my brothers two new kittens…and the SPCA employee looked at me when we were ready to leave and said….”so, looks like you are adopting too?”… It didn’t even occur to me, as I was walking around with this cuddly black cat that I was taking him home. Me, ” Ummm, well, …” (looking blank and a bit confused) my Stepmom: “Oh, I think you are taking him home Ellie, he has chosen you – you can’t put him back in the cage now”… and so it was, I adopted this black 4 month old ball of cuteness who was the runt of the litter…the name on his cage said “Squirt”.
Squirt?? I don’t think so. I renamed him to Max the next day – little did I know what was in store for the two of us.
He quickly became a loyal and protective friend, always underfoot or by my side – like my shadow. We moved together downtown when I finished my schooling at BCIT in 1995 – lived in several places – made many friends. Max was a community cat once we settled in somewhere. In summer he would make his way around to all the neighbours and just walk in and make himself at home when it suited him – not shy in the least, and people loved his charm. He’d do anything for food. I was known as “Max’s Mom” in our neighbourhoods. He brought the most amazing people into my life through his endless wanderings. He used to sit in the middle of the road on the corner of 18th and Tupper and just chill out on hot summer nights….crazy guy – I swear he had double his share of nine lives when my brothers were going through I don’t know how many cats – and Max still hung out by my side. He would wait outside on the driveway or greet me at the top of the stairs every night I came home – without fail.
We adopted Mitzi – a younger female cat from the SPCA when I noticed that Max was slowing down and could do with some company. She and he became really close. I renamed them to M&M.
About four years ago his doctor advised me he was in the beginning stages of kidney disease – a condition that is both very common in older male cats and completely manageable if you adhere to proper diet and liquid guidelines for a cat aged 14. I watched his diet like a hawk, did regular check ups and blood tests to make sure he wasn’t slipping faster than he needed to. Last week, I started to notice signs that alarmed me – got him in on Sunday to see the vet for a check up thinking his kidney condition was worsening. His blood test came back with very good results – the kidney issues weren’t the problem. The mass in his intestine was. Adenocarcinoma.
For four years I had tried to prepare myself for the fact that he wasn’t going to live forever, that whatever happened, he’s had an amazing life – we’ve had a great time together. But nothing prepared me for Adenocarcinoma. You might as well have hit me over the head with a 2 x 4. Now, I was given a matter of days to make a decision in being proactive on Max’s behalf. These tumours are aggressive in their growth and the agony they bring.
We rehydrated my little man, and I brought him home to spend our last bit of time together. He ate salmon sashimi till he was ready to burst (the only thing he would eat at this stage), sat on the rooftop and soaked up the sun on Wednesday afternoon, had visits from his good friends, cuddled on the couch while we watched endless DVD’s. Funny things that run through your mind…but it occurred to me the other day while I was wracked with grief, talking to a dear friend, that I was going to be missing an “M” in the M&M duo…Julie quickly reminded me, no, it’s now still M&M but Me ‘n Mitzi rather than Mitzi ‘n Max. You still have the M&M going on…it’s OK.
Yesterday, here at home in his favorite chair, my sister, Mitzi and I let him go peacefully to sleep with his dignity and no pain. He left me and this world the same way he came to me – in my arms.
Today, there is an indescribable emptiness in my heart and in this house – no Max. No Max on the pillow beside me this morning when I woke up, no Max underfoot in the kitchen following my every move, no Max sitting on his favorite perch on the big livingroom chair watching over his household, no Max to greet me at the top of the stairs when I come home, no Max to just keep me company and talk my ear off. No sound of his purr and the wonderful kisses he gave everyday. 18 years. Never had I thought that a pet would be such a wonderful friend and then leave such a large gap on his departure.
While I was in Kenya I learned a few phrases and basic vocabulary in Swahili. My friend David duChemin also taught us that to wish someone a peaceful journey you say Safiri Salama.
Now, I want to wish Max Safiri Salama – may you have a peaceful journey my dearest and faithful friend. I am filled with gratitude for the gift of loyal friendship you brought to my life – all 18 years of it. You rocked my world little buddy.
A heartfelt thank you to the staff of the Granville Island Veterinary Hospital – Robyn, Kristie Karikios, Dr. Janet Adam, and last but certainly not least Dr. Bill Ignacio – Max’s primary doctor – for caring for Max all these years.
A very huge thank you to all my friends and family who called, texted, facebooked, and visited around the clock over the last week – your love, words of support and encouragement, and checking in with me meant more than you could ever know. You know who you are.
M&M (Me ‘n Mitzi)