I will never understand this dying stuff. First my
girl died and then my best girl-dog-friend. And now The Cat. Skittles.
My maestra hugged me hard last night when she finally came home without
him. Wailing. Like my cat wailed before maestra scooped him up into
his carrier and off in the car.
And I don’t know where he is or when I’ll see him again.
When she couldn’t sleep that night, maestra went around the house
upstairs and down gathering his beds, blankets, and toys, even his litter
pans (darn, I liked those kitty cookies).
I miss him.
Okay, he was a bully. He swatted at me, dive-bombed and darted over
me. But only when my maestra was around.
When she left the house he would sit on the opposite end of the bed,
watching with me for her to return.
He was my cat too.
Rest in peace, Skittles.
"We've lost a friend, Suki," my Mem says, looking
at me. I wag my tail and wonder if it's dinnertime yet.
But there's something about that word "Lost." I know that word.
"You lost your green ball," she had said to me a long time ago. "Where's
your green ball, Suki? I think we lost it."
"Lost" is what the green ball is. It's somewhere around here. I haven't
been able to chew on it or play with it in a long time but one day I
will. It isn't far. Sometimes I still look in the places where it used
to hide. Someday I may have it again.
"It's Hobbes," my Mem says. "We lost her."
I wag my tail. Because it's not what you do or did with the ball or
the friend - the chewing, the playing, the sitting together in the back
of the car ...
It's how all these things shine in your head when you hear your friend's
"Girlfriend, whatsup with the dissected shoe?" my
friend Hobbes asks.
"Do you like it? It's my Cat Battle Armor," I say.
"You cross-dressing now?"
"I found it on Etsy. Cat Battle Armor, handmade from leather with nickel
hardware. By Schnabuble.
Only $500. What do you think, Hobbes?"
"Good on you, girl. You look like a stuffed lobster tail."
I just want to play Tugs with my squeak toy. But my
Maestra is fretting over the cat. He lost his tail. Don’t ask
me how a cat can lose its tail. One day the white tip was gone. The
tail got shorter and shorter for two more days while he chased what
was left of it and ignored me. Then Maestra finally took the cat, bleeding,
out of the house. Hours later she brought him home with only one inch
of tail left and a big plastic thing around his neck. She stashed him
in the guest room. Closed the door. All the carpeted places in the house
are already closed off. Because my friend Hobbes is here for the holidays.
She’s old and she doesn’t respect carpets anymore. She doesn’t
have much respect for the cat either.
“Dude. Seriously. You look like a toilet plunger,” Hobbes
says to the cat. We stare at him through the glass door. He looks smaller,
and confused. He looks drunk.
“Yeah. You look like – whatever Hobbes said,” I boldly
echo my small friend. I usually avoid the cat. He’s a bully. He
bats me whenever Maestra isn’t looking. I squeal to catch Maestra’s
attention, and she yells, “Bad Cat,” and he trots off saying,
“You’re bigger and you weigh just as much as he does,”
Maestra always tells me. “Why are you so terrified of that cat?”
How much did his tail weigh I wonder? I venture a sniff at his shaved
hinder as he passes by.
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m
sorry,” I squealed as I rolled over to offer up my belly to my
Maestra immediately upon her return home from the opera. “I’m
very sorry,” I tried to tell her and I wagged my tail the whole
time I was on my back hoping it would help her find her sense of humor.
There would be no bel canto coming from her tonight, of that I was sure.
She’d gone to those high definition opera movies two Wednesday
nights in a row. And this last one was five hours long. I got bored
and lonely. When the cat pried open the cabinet below the kitchen sink
and invited me … I couldn’t resist, I lost control.
Oh those wrappings from the racks of ribs, the pomegranate peels, the
still sticky crunch of cracked eggshells … I always wondered what
was in those fragrant little plastic Keurig cups. Last week was my first
raid on the garbage. Three years old and I’d never imagined such
a feast could be found behind one puny cabinet door. It was stunning;
it seemed endless. The cat and I emptied it all. You couldn’t
see the kitchen or dining room floors under all the glory. And I was
so drunk and hung over I didn’t hear her come in that first time.
“Oh no. NOOOOOOOOOOOO! No! Nooooooooooooooooooooooooh
– Oh. OH. This is BAD. This is REEEEally Bad.”
It was a loud ugly aria. It got worse as she followed the feast into
the dining area.
“BAH! Yyyyyyck! Bad Dog. Bad Cat. BAAAAAAAAD!
YYYYYYCK! YUCK! Ppppppppppp,” she spit. The cat disappeared like
a silent shot. But I stuck it out cowering at the edge of the mess,
ready to pee, looking as pathetic and remorseful as I could. She flung
each scoop of the leftover feast with a low bellyaching “UGH”
into a new bag and marched it all out into the mudroom with an elaborate
final cadenza. It was awesome.
The second week her tune changed. Again I stood there with my shoulders
holding my head off the floor as she sputtered a new patter song, “What
on earth is wrong with you, that’s a really doggie thing to do
I can’t believe you did this twice now TWICE why on opera night
when it’s so late and I have to be up in the morning YYYYYCH -
dogs don’t even like sauerkraut BAH do I have to tie you up now
when I go - You STINK!”
And then she washed my mouth and paws even though I’d just been
professionally groomed that afternoon. The rants and ravings were impressive.
I heard the Valkyries ride; I heard the thunder and rage of Otello.
The crescendo of expletives as she scooped up and cleared the debris
would’ve made Placido Domingo blush. The dramatics and operatics
would make Anna Netrebko envious. I wanted to join in, to cheer, “Brava!
Brava!” But I kept still for what seemed like hours, until she
planted a kiss on my nose.
The show was so remarkable and deserving of an encore; I raided the
garbage a third time the next day.
We don't see eye to eye about everything. Like the
morning I tried to get her to take care of the big wooly spider in the
kitchen. "You gotta be kidding," she tells me. "What's
it worth to ya? Huh?"
Some friends and family will insist that Suki, her
puppy, saved Marika’s life. And now that Suki is the first thing
I wake up to each morning, I am sure she has played a major role in
cat, Skittles, had adopted me, sleeping with me and following me around
the house, so Marika wanted a puppy. Adamantly against adding even a
houseplant to our already complex household, where we were in and out
of the hospital, where we were still expecting her to go off to college,
where I had enough to take care of, I wouldn’t even listen when
her request repeatedly came up. So finally, in September of 2009, a
depressed Marika enlisted my sister, Laurie, in her cause and before
long, we found Suki, the only female in a small litter of jolly Havanese
puppies. She was fat and fuzzy, tough and feisty, with an attitude to
rival Marika’s. When Marika’s friends went back to their
colleges after the holiday breaks, we went off to puppy training classes,
Petsmart, and anywhere we could carry Suki, either proudly or sneakily,
in her little travel bag, including the weekly blood draws at the local
hospital. Until the day we got busted. Suki was getting too big to fit
in her travel bag, and too heavy to hold by the time some hospital staff
reported her, and our ventures smuggling Suki into the hospital were
When Marika moved to her crazy apartment called Limbo, Suki moved in
too and became a regular resident, coming and going as much as anyone
else, in and out of Facebook photo pages, just another party girl. Suki
saw more than a few parties. If Suki could have written a book it would
have been filled with parties, roadtrips, leftover pizza crusts, carloads
of friends, couchloads of friends, and her times with me. Suki became
my Sunday morning hiking partner when I discovered that Sunday morning
didn’t exist for Marika. Sunday mornings at Limbo were like the
day after Doomsday. Decaying remains of Chinese takeouts and bodies
laying all over, devastation, no sign of life anywhere. It soon became
our regular arrangement, my rescuing Suki on Saturday afternoons, before
the festivities would begin.
People ask me if Suki had a hard time adjusting after Marika died. And
I always assure them that it was not much of a transition for her. They
had both lived with me before moving to Limbo and they would always
come home for laundry, home-cooked meals, dog-sitting, and when Marika
was feeling too sick or too tired to be anywhere else. Marika was Suki’s
shining person and warmest snuggle, but I was Suki’s routine and
regular meal ticket. You are wondering what we did with Suki when we
needed to be at the hospital. Everyone asks that. We were all leading
double lives then and Suki had hers as well. Whenever Marika and I slipped
into our hospital modes, Suki would be dropped off at her third home.
Two of my best friends, Celia and Dan, have a fuzzy little white dog,
Roscoe, who has become one of Suki’s closest dog friends. Suki
was half Roscoe’s size when she started coming with me to their
house. And she is twice as big as he is now. To this day, when we pull
into their yard, she pulls me into their doorway, smiling with wagging
tail. Yes, Suki smiles. She is the most joyful creature I’ve ever
known. Her face just lights up in smiles. Each morning, somehow sensing
her quietly watching and waiting for my eyes to open, I brace myself
for her joyful jumping announcing another day filled with all sorts
of possible adventures. Some mornings, Suki has me smiling before I
can remember that Marika is gone. She even gets me laughing at times.
Like recently, she and Skittles cornered a mouse, and when the mouse
darted toward her, Suki gave a surprised squeak, catching the mouse
and throwing it high into the air. The cat and I watched in awe as the
mouse fell down, just missing my bed, dropping down in the middle of
At Marika’s calling hours, people had wanted to see Suki. So for
the memorial, months later, I had her shampooed, brushed out, and dressed
up in a new leash with matching harness. Always such a docile quiet
dog, at the Pavilion, during our beautiful service, she squirmed and
squealed at times, uncharacteristically agitated. It took some time
for me to realize that on seeing and smelling so many of Marika’s
friends, friends that she’d partied with, shared the seat with
in Marika’s car, friends she’d lived with at Limbo, Suki
was searching frantically through the crowd at the memorial for her
shining girl. While we were celebrating Marika’s life, Suki was
grieving and reliving her loss.
I am Suki’s shining girl now. She lies in a nest by my feet as
I write. When I go from one room to another, she is my shadow. When
I leave the house without her, she waits for me in her nest by the door.
Having lost one of her girls, she does what she can to keep on top of