By DANIELLE LATTUGA
Three weeks ago, we said goodbye to our cat.
Minx was 19 ½. She was older than old and now the space in my heart is bigger than big. But I don’t want to write this about me.
Two of our three dogs have never known life without Minx, until now.
Timber, at 13, exhibited her practiced indifference to the cat even throughout the last hours of Minxie’s life. She didn’t question me when I chose to sleep in the office with Minx instead of in our bedroom, where all the dog beds are. In fact, she didn’t even acknowledge it.
Timber, who is usually very sensitive to my emotional state, and will often come to sit by me if I am sad, remained quite removed, even though I was deeply distraught. She did, however, stay very quiet and refrained from meeping like she does when things are too intense for her.
Minxie stopped eating on Tuesday. By Wednesday night, it was very clear that the time had come. When my vet came to our house on Thursday and prepared to give Minxie the shot that would end her life, Timber excused herself from the room.
Charlie, on the other hand, was quite the opposite. Minx was nearly twice his age, but still, she was his cat.
He never failed to put himself between her and any other dogs who came to our house. When she was out in the yard, he was the one to alarm me if she crawled under the fence and strayed too far from the house. He sang to her every morning, before attempting to raid her food dish. He shoved his large proboscis against her little pink nose, at least 20 times a day—giving her gentle kisses with the tip of his tongue. She would head butt him and flop over next to him on the carpet.
That last night with her, Charlie paced nervously between bedroom and office; occasionally wedging himself between the Futon we were trying to sleep on and my desk. He’d rest his chin on the bed and watch her. If she moved, he moved.
When the vet arrived, Charlie didn’t do his customary song and dance. He didn’t jump up. He didn’t carry on. He and Ibn followed us into the office and stayed there, lying quietly at our feet.
The moment Minxie died, Charlie stood and deeply sniffed her head and face. He cried a little. He didn’t try to lick my tears away. When I finally got the gumption to wrap her sweet little body up in the blanket she was lying on, Charlie and Ibn both crowded around and sniffed her again.
Ibn never knew quite what to do with Minxie, even though he liked her. He knew her for almost four years, and all he ever did was stare at her and wag his tail. He hasn’t looked for her much—but a little.
I look for her everyday. My office was her apartment. She slept, ate and played in there. She harassed me when I was trying to work—always wanting to be in my lap. Sometimes, near the end, I would put her in a sling against my torso, so she could be warm and I could move freely.
Every morning, I’d get up and go straight to her apartment. I’d scoop her up and kiss her head before grabbing her food dish to re-fill it.
Now, I walk in there and stand in the center of the room, like there is something that I’ve forgotten. My hand finds it’s way to my heart and I bite my lip. The stillness is stifling and in some way, universal.
Timber ambles down the hallway, her little hips swinging, her nose low, and her head turned like they always were whenever she was around Minx. She steps into the office, her ears go up and she sniffs the air. She stands quietly for a second, then turns and leaves.
Charlie lightly pads from room to room, making his rounds with his signature Aussie bounce. He pushes the office door open with his nose. He stops short in his tracks and cocks his head. Listening. A little whine emanates from him. He drops his head and walks slowly out of the room.
There is a palpable vacancy in our lives. No, we are not so different.
Wordsmith Danielle Lattuga’s other blog posts are poetic, too: Snowy Dog Days in Missoula, The Dog Days of Missoula’s Pet Ordinance, and Missoula Dogs About Town. Check out Danielle’s other posts at the Horse Around, Missoula blog page.
Click here to see all of the Dogtown Missoula archives.
Danielle Lattuga lives happily in Missoula, Montana with two unemployed herding dogs and a lab who makes everyone smile. Whenever her work takes her away from home, she must explain that someone has to put food in the dish, before she shuts the door and ponders the benefits of purchasing a small flock of sheep and a kitty pool.