My mom and dad had to put their kitty to sleep over the weekend. His name was Zumba, though he allowed family members and close friends to spell it “Zoomba,” which it’s pronounced as anyway.
He was about six years old and an all-around good cat. He was friendly and playful and had a good, thick tail. He was starting to get used to my niece and nephew, or at least learning how to deal with them. He walked a little like a bulldog – his front legs kind of bowed in a bit.
The last couple of times I’ve been home he’s been extra sweet to me, even sleeping on the bed with me, which he never used to do. He purred at the slightest touch, which was unusual for him. Looking back it’s easy to wonder if he was saying goodbye, though that’s giving a lot of credit to a creature with a brain the size of a walnut. Sometimes, though, it seems like animals just know, you know?
A few weeks ago he started having seizure-like episodes where he would get really agitated and bite his tail, often making it bloody. They got worse and more frequent and the vet ran every test she could but was unable to find anything. After a particularly bad couple of days, my parents made the tough decision.
Zumba’s buried out back near the trees, next to Shadow and Charlie, two other particularly-loved pets in the family history. Shadow was the cat we had the longest – 9 years – until he gave in to diabetes. Mom gave him insulin shots every morning for two years. I had to do it a couple of times, and it was hard. He got used to it and didn’t fight it, but it was still hard. Charlie was the one dog we ever had. He was friendly and nice, but his friendliness was a little scary to us boys when we were young and small. In later years, Mom took walks with him until his hips got so bad he couldn’t walk anymore.
Dad wouldn’t ever admit it to you, I’m sure, but he liked Zumba. Every so often you’d catch Dad petting him. Zumba was Mom’s cat, though, and I’m sure this is hitting her the hardest. Heck, I’m sitting here tearing up and I only saw him a couple of times a year.
I’m going to include the text of a Garrison Keillor poem entitled “In Memory of Our Cat, Ralph.” If you’re not a “cat person” or a “pet person” it’ll seem silly to you, but to those of you who are, well, you’ll understand.
In Memory of Our Cat, Ralph
by Garrison Keillor
When we got home, it was almost dark
Our neighbor waited on the walk.
“I’m sorry, I have bad news,” he said.
“Your cat, the grey-black one, is dead.
I found him by the garage an hour ago.”
“Thank you, ” I said, “for letting us know.”
We dug a hole in the flower bed,
The lilac bushes overhead,
Where this cat loved to lie in the spring
And roll in the dirt and eat the green
Delicious first spring buds,
And laid him down and covered him up,
Wrapped in a piece of tablecloth,
Our good old cat laid in the earth.
We quickly turned and went inside
The empty house and sat and cried
Softly in the dark some tears
For that familiar voice, that fur,
That soft weight missing from our laps,
That we had loved too well perhaps
And mourned from weakness of the heart,
A childish weakness, to regard
An animal whose life is brief
With such affection and such grief.
If this is foolish, so it be.
He was good company,
And we miss his gift
Of cat affection while he lived,
The sweet nature
Of that shy creature
Who gave the pleasure of himself;
The memory of our cat, Ralph.
Rest in peace, Zumba. You were a good cat.