Monday, March 19, 2007

Pets past, the history that (regretfully) never repeats

This is the third or fourth time I have sat down to write this post.

I have been having a recurring dream lately, something quite new to my sleeping habits. I have been dreaming about slowly waking up in the morning, with the sun lighting up my room, and seeing my cat Willow, who has been sleeping at the foot of my bed like she always used to. She uncurls and walks up the length of the bed and greets me hello. And it is exactly like it used to be.

Willow was my childhood cat, the pet of my soul. Dad climbed forty feet up in a tree to rescue her, after someone abandoned a box of kittens in the woods (taped shut, they had clawed their way out). She was supposed to go to the SPCA, but never made it there. She used to follow me on my paper route. She would come flying out of the woods when I called her at night. She was an albino, and she used to get sunburnt in the summer, so I would have to keep her in between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. She'd wander around the house meowing pitifully, begging me to let her out, while Dusty sunned himself on the deck. She sat on the ledge by the stairs and watched us watch TV for hours at a time.

I trimmed her paw fur, and cut away the many, many slugs she collected in her jaunts through the wood. She played subordinate to Dusty, but she was a scrapper. She took on some kind of raccoon or weasel once, and came home with a face oozing puss, and an eye swollen shut. She had a perpetual wink after that. She was a good mouser and birder (much to my distress), and while she never ate the birds, I was always finding the plump bottom halves of mice lying on the walkway.

I realized even while she was still alive that there would never be another cat like Willow. I think there are very few people who get to have more than one of those special pets in their lifetime. You love your pets, and think they are clever, or becomingly weird, or beautiful, but there is always that one that topped them all. Some people will collect pets throughout their life, trying to recapture that lost connection (I'm thinking of all those Fluffies II through VIII). I guess that is why it is such a. . . blessing, to be able to wake up once again to Willow's soft fur and curled ears and ferociously affectionate nose-bites. It is like a good omen, and maybe even a sign of forgiveness, to dream of Willow after these years without her. But it makes me feel my loss, too, because there has never been a quirkier, more beautiful, more loyal cat than Willow, and I will never know another one like her again.

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