I pause, mop and bucket of soapy water in hand, to look one last time at the tiny clay paw prints that crisscross my wood floors.
I hesitate to wash them away and consider taking a photograph as a keepsake—the last evidence that he was here, but my logical, sensible side argues, "It was just a cat." I take a few breaths, attempting to keep the tears at bay. You see, I believe, a pet is a just pet... at least in theory, and until you throw a sweet, one-eye orange tabby kitten into the picture.
Scout was an abandoned kitten, rescued and taken care of by the wonderful local feral cat organization, PAWS of Sayville. He was sickly when he and his littermates were found, and as a result, lost his left eye. On adoption day, unlike the other mewing kittens who clung to us with their razor sharp claws, when the PAWS volunteer placed that slinky yellow kitten in my 14-year old daughter's arms, he was placid and content to be held, and even started to purr. We hadn't considered adopting a physically disadvantaged pet, and at home, getting used to his new surroundings, he ran into table and chair legs. We cringed and then laughed when we realized he was fine. The sweet nature of that kitten made him a good choice with my young children.
My kids agreed on the name Scout. As they didn't agree on much those days, that was a big deal. Scout was supposed to be my daughter's cat. Not mine. I was a young mother with more than enough responsibilities. I didn't want another charge to take care of, but when my children weren't home, our new kitten followed me around, room to room, making games out of my everyday tasks, like bed-making, where he'd run under the sheets and try to catch my hands as I tucked and smoothed bed corners. I found I didn't mind my new shadow companion. The packed out eye-socket caused some health issues in those first weeks home. When I took him to the veterinarian's office, I remember placing him on the examining table, so small and defenseless, but still so trusting, and my heart expanded with love and admiration for that brave yellow kitten.
|Scout and Jazmin|
And even the cat-haters who spent time at our house could be found petting our cool, one-eyed cat. Scout was always around, and such an easy presence, visitors could neither ignore nor resist liking him.
|Scout and Luna|
|Scout and Winston|
Illness came swiftly and without notice. The average housecat can live 15 years, some as long as 18, and at 12, Scout had grown into a fairly large, healthy male cat. We fully expected to have him around for several more years. We attributed his less active behavior to growing older, but when his fur became rumpled and dull, we took a trip to the veterinarian. We were shocked when blood and urine results revealed kidney issues. We thought we could manage the condition with a special diet and medications. The first week, everything went to the wayside as I catered to Scout's condition. I had to administer fluid under his skin via a needle. As usual, Scout was a champ, letting me stick him daily without much fuss. That first week he seemed fine, but two days later, the bottom fell out. He went into complete kidney failure, and Scout's health rapidly declined. The veterinarian suspected it was cancer, and his once strong body became like a twisted towel, wrung of moisture, weak and bony thin. His once insatiable hunger, the one that our family often joked about, was gone. Uremic ulcers in his mouth made it too painful to chew. He spent his days in a new hiding spot, under the entertainment center, and when he left it, it was only to drink, which he did almost every hour, a futile effort to make up for what his kidneys could no longer do. He swayed like a leaf in the wind on his way to the water bowl, putting his feet in the water as if trying to absorb the liquid through his skin and flush his body. The combination of constant wet feet and need to use the litter box created that crisscross pattern of clay paw prints across my floors.
It's a terrible choice to have to make to put a pet down; even when you know it's merciful to do so. The vet administered the sedative and put him in my arms. He tucked his little face into my chest and went to sleep. That gentle soul purred right up until the end.
It's my inclination to try and be logical about the loss of yet another family pet. I grieved the loss of the others, but I am truly brokenhearted over losing Scout. He was extraordinary and stands alone in my mind and heart. As I mop away the paw prints, the last visible traces of Scout's presence, I am flooded with memories of little moments of laughter and comfort he brought to my family and me on a daily basis. Those moments are as countless as they are precious. His little kitty shoes will be hard to fill and his absence will be felt a very long time.
Rest in peace little buddy...