Saturday, April 11, 2009

An ode to my fuzzy little companion

Tigger -

The wonderful thing about tiggers
Is tiggers are wonderful things!
Their tops are made out of rubber;
Their bottoms are made out of springs!
They're bouncy, trouncy, flouncy, pouncy,
Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun! Fun!
But the most wonderful thing about tiggers is
I'm the only one!

It’s approaching midnight, Good Friday of 2009. I can hear the music of a Mexican pop love song escaping a dimly lit cantina and wafting through the late night chill, the crooning voice eerily echoing down this normally busy but now deserted street. I am alone walking my dog underneath orange sodium lights, past empty storefronts that line Main Street of my small California town.

I am drunk with grief.

Exhausted, eyes stinging from hours of tears barely held back. I have gone for a long slow walk to try what I have heard others say helps in time like these, talking to my dog. It’s a new dog for me, and I’m not sure the dog even likes me, so I don’t know if it’s going to work.

Many years ago when I got out of the Navy, the timing coincided with the second annual running of the Hot Rod Magazine Power Tour, and I jumped at the chance to take part in it, driving my 383 powered ’67 Dodge Polara, an ugly $300 car carrying an $8,000 drive train.

With me in the back seat of the car was a large plastic box with a swinging door cut out from a plastic milk jug complete with a peep-hole, and above that was a tongue in cheek sticker above it that read “Caution: Live Animals”.

What’s in there? People asked. “Oh, it’s my cat” I replied on numerous occasions. “WHAT?? You brang a CAT on Power Tour?” yes, yes I did. And she wasn’t all that happy about it either.

It was funny though, seeing people’s faces as they watched the parade of hot-rods make it’s way across the great plains, and then suddenly spotting my cat’s head staring back at them.

We spent another 3 months on the road, camping and couch-crashing to visit old friends, and see as much as we could of this great nation. It was as if I was a beatnik – a throwback from another time.

Tigger and I hit all our major bodies of water. The night before the tour we camped out in the car just off the Santa Monica Pier. Hello Pacific. We drove with the group up towards Chicago to bookend old Route 66, then on to the Great Lakes, ending up in Norwalk Ohio. After the festivities we drove south, stopping off to see the Chattanooga Choo-choo and go camping in the Great Smokey Mountains and chase fireflies, Tigger doing so in a harness and on a leash. We continued on to Pensacola and New Orleans for the gulf of Mexico, and then on to Daytona beach for the Atlantic.

As I was staging the car for a photo on the beach, the tide suddenly came in, and as the waves came up to and under the car, the look on my cat’s face was priceless.

I rescued her and we drove back to New Orleans (of course), then on to Texas and up tornado alley. We stopped to pay our respects at the site of the still recent Oklahoma City tragedy, and cut back across to Salt Lake City, Wendover, and the Bonneville Salt Flats. Finally our travels brought us back home to the Sierras via Lake Tahoe.

Quite the well traveled cat.

She was also a feisty one, full of attitude, and always had something to say. She practically named herself with all her bouncy-springy craziness, just like the
animated character. It was unreal. My Hispanic friends called her “Gato-Demonica. My Japanese friends called her Paaco-chan - Little Crazy. People who don’t usually like cats found her hard to resist. And my late Grandfather, the only time I saw him laugh his ass off, was from her antics, some of which I happened to catch on tape.

Years later in the aftermath of the dot-com bust, I sold most of what I owned and put the rest into storage. Tigger and I moved into Brownie - the world’s best crappy RV – and hit the road for a whole year while on sabbatical, to travel and write music.

It is this period of time I realized she had a hidden talent. She became my music critic. When I play well and my songs flow nicely, she will sit with her back towards me, eyes closed, ears following the music.

If I mess up or she does not like the song vibe, she lets me know with flat ears, a sharp look, a meow, or by just walking away. I consider her my ultimate test, and it works.

Years ago when I adopted her from a San Diego shelter, I thought myself more of a dog guy but decided a cat better fit my living arrangements at the time. None the less, I’m an animal lover in general, and she soon stole my heart with her antics and feisty attitude.

I believe that adopting an animal is for life, and a serious commitment. Nothing is as cruel as to be abandoned. After a rocky start to our relationship I eventually realized Tigger secretly loved me, and I promised her I would take care of her to the very end, and never ever abandon her - for any reason.

Now I find myself 16 years later, having nearly fulfilled my promise. And wishing - somehow - that I never ever could.

Earlier today my big-eyed-concerned-spouse and I took Tigger into the vet. She had been getting sick, stopped eating and was losing weight fast. For years she has been on a strict diet because of her slightly “Garfield” figure. Recently her sudden slimming has been a major concern. The first doctor a few months ago took x-rays, said she had an inflamed tummy, gave us medicine, took our money and sent us on our way.

Shortly after that my lost-one-Mackie-dog-and-worried-about-her-other-dog-spouse, lost her Chow Cinnamon to a botched surgery by the same clinic. In a last ditch attempt to save Cinnamon, we transferred her to an ER clinic, who said she should have NEVER been operated on. My poor tearful-eyed-spouse ended up losing both her life-long friends in a span of a few months.

And now again, just a few months later, Tigger is also sick.

Our new vet, one of the best and kindest I have ever met, came back with bad news and showed me the X-ray. My little buddy has a massive growth in her intestines which has blocked everything off. Nothing in, nothing out. Worse, it has recently spread to her lungs. It was caught too late.

We can try to manage and shrink the growth temporarily to give her a more comfortable ending… We may delay it from days, to weeks, maybe even a few months. But there is no mistaking it… this will be the end, and it is almost time. It is now my job to watch for the signs, and decide.

I have been dreading this moment. When she hit 10 I realized she was an old lady. At 11 and 12 I tried to prepare myself. At 13 and 14 she was so healthy I thought maybe she could go all the way to 20. I even started to expect it.

This spring, my little girl will have reached her sweet 16th birthday, which is ancient for a cat. Yet it still seems to have gone by in a blink of an eye. How can the day I knew was coming “someday” have suddenly showed up so out of the blue? What will I do without her? And how am I going to know if my music is any good? She WAS my music.

Chelsea, our team mascot, listened to my ramblings as we walked aimlessly, occasionally stopping to smell the odd bush here and there, but uncharacteristically stayed well behaved for the whole walk, and gave me looks from her soulfull eyes. I appreciate her company and it did make me feel a little better. We are off to the same rocky start I had with Tigger, and there is some poetic justice in that.

In typical dog selflessness, she suggested we make Tigger our honorary team mascot for the race. From her I got the idea we can take one of kitty’s toys racing with us, and bring it back a trophy of success. We can even have Tigger choose which toy to bring…

Thank you for everything little buddy. You outlasted nearly everything else in my life. God I’m going to miss you…

Next: Progress being made, (on support vehicle!)

Previous: The Characters

From The Begining: The Hook...


  1. I'm sorry to hear about your Tigger... we lost our dear Lupa this last January to a similar malady, and it's still painful. Know that your Tigger knew she was much loved, and loved in return. She is still listening to your music, too...
    JK from Stick Figure Racing.