Monday, March 9, 2009

13 years is not long enough

Some of you know how this handsome, fierce, loving fellow came into our lives. But I'll tell the story anyway. One day, two new homeowners went for a walk in their new neighborhood. A beautiful sleek grey cat meowed, we answered. He started to follow us. Not wanting to lead him too far from his home, we decided to head home, just two blocks away. He followed. He hung around. We fed him (do this and a cat will never leave). We fed him while thinking he must live nearby - he had obviously been loved as he was very social, although Athena and Calypso didn't think so. Being indoor cats who were rarely granted the pleasure of walking in the grass during our years of apartment living, they treasured the warm days of open windows and being able to chatter at the tasty looking birds who frequented our yard. As soon as we fed him, this grey cat immediately thought he was in charge, though we refused to let him in the house. He would jump up on the sill of any window Athena or Calypso were in, and hiss and swat at the screen. They hissed back and moved.

Our vet confirmed that he was healthy and that someone had cared enough to have him, ahem, fixed. We called vet clinics, the animal shelter, and placed an ad in the paper all while feeding this stray and making him a bed in the garage. He also started hunting - he loves to eat the (ahem) skulls of small animals, saving the rest for later. Unfortunately for him, we often found and disposed of the rest before he came back for it.
Eventually it became obvious no one was missing him and he was not leaving. We slowly let him spend time in the house, named him Ramses, and learned that he was going to train us instead of the other way around. He learned to come running for food when we whistled, he taught us that being an outdoor sort of cat he was not going to use a litterbox. Oh he would wait until we returned home, but if we were sleeping and he wanted out? He had no problem waking us up. And if he wanted in? Just stand under the bedroom window and yowl - we were trained fast and well. To this day he prefers the outside to a litterbox, unless there happens to be 2 feet of fresh snow at the door (and then he would run to the next door, just in case that one had no snow behind it).

We thought he was beautiful. Rich would stand in the yard and tap his chest and Ramses would jump right up. In the evenings Ramses insisted on sitting on my chest - no matter if I was cross-stitching or reading, he would sit on top of that too, insisting that his presence was all that we required to be happy.

Athena was besotted - she would follow him around the house while he ignored her. He fell asleep on the couch, she would carefully lay down next to him. He'd move, and so would she.

Calypso didn't much care for him. She would hiss and swat. If she was in his path, he would walk around her while she glared at him.

Then the girls came. He sniffed their carriers. He walked away. He slept in their crib - more than they did. They learned when to be careful - and sometimes went to far and were scratched anyway. He learned to love them, though sometimes a little too much. Summertimes in the yard he loved to play chase the ankles. Poor Natasha often had to be carried out of the yard to avoid being taken down as Ramses charged her feet. Even I had to walk slowly backwards to avoid the same fate. Mira he ignored for 6 months, then decided she was a lovely nap partner. Mira doesn't want him to go to Heaven, because then we'll only have two cats and she will miss him. We all will.
When Natasha was 4 or 5 he went on walkabout. I left on an early October business trip. Ramses went missing. I came back - he remained missing. Once again we called around. We started to prepare Natasha, thinking he had gone off to be by himself as cats do when they are ill. Or perhaps he had attacked another animal too big for him - in his time he has swatted the noses of large dogs and taken down a (sick) raccoon. We eliminated the possibility of someone taking him - with all his claws and as fierce as he could be they wouldn't have managed to get him across the yard much less into a car. Even if they had, we reasoned that any catnapper would soon despair of trying to keep him indoors with his refusal to use a litter box. After 6 weeks we assumed the worst. The weather was turning cold and blustery. Then one morning as we were getting ready for the day, there he was up on the kitchen windowsill, very thin, asking to be let in. Wish he could tell us of his adventures.

He was an only cat for a number of years until we brought the kittens home two years ago. After one angry summer spent outside (by choice), he learned once again to share us and even to accept Horatio and Silvara. Sometimes Silvara even sleeps next to him.

He has had other adventures, but these are the legends we'll keep telling. He is a hunter, a lover, and protector with a fierce will to live. It's been a difficult 3 months, but a wonderful 13 years. Calypso and Athena will be waiting to show you the way this afternoon, along with Jester, Alex, and Rumpleteazer. We love you.

1 comment:

Amanda said...

Oh, MJ...giant hugs! Thank you for sharing this whole's beautiful!