Monday, January 5, 2009

Clarence the Angel Cat

I've spent some time thinking about a very special gift I received last year. It--or I should say he--was only mine for less than a year, but when it came time to give him up, I could feel glad to have had Clarence for even that short time. Clarence came to me as a foster kitten--which meant from the beginning that he would be temporary and would get a new home when he was ready, but when I learned he would never really get well from a particular cat disease (TIP--feline peritonitis), I decided to give him the best cat life I could as long as he was healthy and in no discernible pain.

He was the late bloomer of his litter. His beautiful sibs were all pure white, two with blue eyes, one with green, but they were all sickly so I asked their owner, a friend of mine, if I could care for them and find them homes and she agreed. But when I went to retrieve the kittens, one of them had disappeared, the one my friend had named Creamsicle, because he wasn't white like his siblings but had an orange tint to him. Over the new few months, the white kittens grew fat and sassy after some antibiotics and good food and were ready for their homes about the time Creamsicle came home. I had never forgotten about him and one day my friend called to say he had shown up, scrawny and skinny and weak. She was trying to care for him but didn't think he'd make it.

Who knows why I didn't just so, gee, that's too bad. I'm sorry to hear that. But the world has too many cats as it is so it's probably just as well. I don't think the thought even occurred to me. I took him home and it was almost painful to see him next to his siblings. He was less than half their size and beyond bedraggled in contrast to their glowing health. But they soon found homes so I could focus on Creamsicle--who decided his new life meant a new name. He looked like "Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion" (anyone remember the TV series of long ago?) so that was that.

Even on his best days Clarence walked with a wobble and at the worst times, he was so limp and his eyes had that distant glazed look, I didn't think he'd make it another few hours. My brother took one look and flat out said "He ain't going to make it," which of course made me determined to show him wrong. Over the next few months, Clarence grew stronger and his fur grew glossy (he really hated being bathed but he smelled so good afterwards). He loved to be held and would gaze tenderly into my eyes, then grab my face with his claws and try to bite my nose (dang, he was cute, although I tried to break him of that particular habit). As Clarence gained strength, he would tear through the house and play-attack my other cats to draw them into a wrestling match. He also loved to jump up and climb up my leg, back, chest, and nestle around my neck. He could jump into the house through an open window that was four feet up, which told me he had come a long way from his wobbly walk.

He did have a few bad spells. Once I took him to the vet thinking it was time to have him euthanized because he couldn't even stand, let alone walk or eat, and that was when I learned that he had seizures that left him without strength. After a day with the vet on IV fluids, he came home a new cat. Another time I canceled plans with friends and stayed him with him and gave him fluids with an eye dropper to keep him hydrated. I thought that would be the end as well, but he pulled through and wobbled his way back to health.

I confess he got more than his share of attention but the other cats didn't seem to mind too much. He had his favorites, like Longfellow and Oscar, and they tolerated him, the way an old dog tolerates a rambunctious puppy.

One day in November, he collapsed and he was gone, just like that. The vet had warned me it could happen--but then again, Clarence could live several years although having FIP meant he probably wouldn't live much longer than that. Owners of cats with FIP also see their cats go through a lot of suffering, so I could be grateful that Clarence didn't have to experience that.

So that's the story of Clarence my Christmas angel. I can't imagine, if I were a parent, I'd accept a child's death with the same gratitude for the life lived, however, short. But fortunately the Lord has spared me from that pain. Instead of children, I get to have all manner of cats who come and go through my house and my life, with all their funny personalities and peculiarities. It's funny than I grew up with the book "Cheaper by the Dozen" and always that a family of 12 could be fun. I didn't specify "12 children," though, and now that my family consists of 12 cats (I never quite counted Clarence, since he would have made 13 and that’s a number I just feel better avoiding). But he was definitely, and will remain, a part of my cat family, waiting up in Cat Heaven with all the rest of my feline friends of up there. I have no idea how animal heaven works, but if Joseph Smith and David O. McKay felt they'd have their horses in the hereafter, maybe they were onto something.


Anonymous said...

Such a touching story. I've heared many times that God has everything with him before he sends things to earth. I truly believe this and I truly believe that all living things are with God in the beginning and in the end. I don't think there is a seperate heaven for animals either. I believe everyone in heaven gets to enjoy everyone and everything. Thanks again for such a wonderful story!

Jeri Gilchrist said...

Valerie, I love your stories. I'm a dog lover but after hearing some of the things you write about your darling kitties, I think even I could become a cat lover.
I'm impressed with your heartfelt dedication to your sweet pets and as far as animals in the hereafter...well, isn't there some scripture that says something to the effect that not even a bird can fall without Heavenly Father noticing? I have a hunch he loves the animals every bit as much, more even, than we do. So yeah, I'm sure there is a special place reserved for them as well.
Great blog, Valerie!

Jennie said...

Valerie, I'm sorry your dear Clarence is gone, but thankful your kitty didn't enter and leave this world without being loved. When you see him again, he'll be strong and well, and oh so happy to see you again.

Kerry Blair said...

What a tender story -- and such a beautiful cat! I'd put a statue of you in my front yard if one were available. As it is, I have to settle for St. Francis of Assisi -- the second greatest friend to animals who ever lived. :)

You and Hilary are going to have the biggest houses in heaven to accomodate all those critters! I can't wait to visit. I absolutely adore cats, but mostly when they belong permantly to somebody else. (Except Vanilla and now Marco. World-class cats, those two.)

Lynn Gardner said...

Ooved you blg, Val, because I am an avid cat lover. We even got a Siamese as a wedding present! We named her Pepsi and she was as bubbly as her namesake. My last cat was Ashes - a black long hair that was so loving. We had her for 13 years before her liver gave out from drinking the swimming pool water. I had no idea it woudl hurt her - but of course, how do you stop a cat from doing what she wants to do! It was a good two years before I finally was able to go outside without looking for her. She was an indoor-outdoor cat - and the best mommy and the most incredible hunter you've ever seen. She could jump at low flying birds and catch them! Her kittens were in such demand that people would drive 50 miles to get them.
You're a saint on par with St. Francis so I'm sure your dear "children" are waiting to continue bestowing their love on your in heaven! Hugs, Lynn