Wednesday, June 23, 2010


The day that Sable died, the peonies were in bloom. Pink and sweet, the pleasant scent mixed with the warm summer air.

Sable was my kitty. He was a silver-tip Himalayan with green eyes. Despite being petite he was filled to the tips of his beautiful white ears with love.

In the rare event that he became angry, such as, for combing him too long or pulling at a fur mat, he expressed his anger with a short growly meow, and immediately began purring again.

He had a particular way to place his front feet while he sat. It was as if they had to be just so in order to optimize his handsomeness.

He did not mouse, bird, or guard the house, but he provided an important function. His death is hitting me harder than I thought it would because I realized that he gave something that is more rare than his purebred bloodlines: unconditional love.

I was 20 when I realized I wanted a cat of my own. Dakota came home with me in early May of 1994, but it seemed lonely to have only one. He needed a buddy. He is a cream-colored Persian and such a cute kitten, settling in with me the moment I held him. I still wanted a silver-tip. My family had had one when I was a kid - Toby - and he was such a great, funny cat. I located a litter of silver tip kitties, and drove to pick one out. I thought I wanted the biggest and the whitest kitten, but when I looked at them, I chose Sable. He was medium-sized, with a lovely bit of grey on his back. His skin was dark, especially around the paws, eyes, and mouth. So adorable! He was exactly eight weeks old when I brought him home that day in late May, sixteen years ago.

He was a normal kitten, especially enjoying smelling fresh outside air and chasing cotton balls. All was fine and dandy for six years, until I brought home the baby. Dakota didn't seem to concern himself, but Sable did NOT like her! That unpredictable screaming thing was not his cup of tea, but he wasn't hostile in the least. He simply avoided her. He practiced the notion of live and let live.

When he was ten, he began to throw up blood. I found out he likely had Irritable Bowel Syndrome caused from a food allergy. I changed his food and all was well for a few years. He began to throw up blood again, or have bloody stool, so I experimented with various wet and dry foods that he would tolerate, while he tolerated the numerous car trips to the vet with their accompanying temperature taking and stomach-probing.

Keeping weight on him was a challenge. Dakota didn't have the type of sensitivity that Sable did, and because they shared the same food area, they had to eat the same kind of food. Believe me, I tried to feed them separately, but Sable and his amazing sniffer always found the dish I tried to sequester away for Dakota. When he knew I was feeding Dakota some tasty food, he looked hurt. It was awful, so I stopped doing it. Dakota was going to have to get with Sable's diet plan.

He couldn't eat any kind of grain, so I had to read every label. Vet-office cat food had corn. Grocery store cat food had corn or soy or rice. I cooked chicken thighs for him. I went through every possible combination of meat and vegetable I could think of. For a time, he ate baby food. This was the beginning of the newly-enlightened pet food industry that finally realized that pet food ought to contain only the kinds of food pets would eat naturally. The prices reflected this new revelation, and so the choices were more expensive than grocery store brands, but at least there were choices.

As the years passed, he became sensitive to foods much more quickly. The last few years have been particularly difficult. In the past six months, I had fed every type of grain-free wet cat food available and was currently serving the last option: turkey. If he grew intolerant of that, and every indication from past experience told me he would, there weren't any options left. I was worried, but I tried not to think about it. After all, just because a solution didn't present itself doesn't mean that it wouldn't at the right time.

Sable liked to eat. He was a relatively healthy, hungry cat who was interested in life and even a little bit of play. When I put the canned food out for them, he was there to shove his face in it and move it onto the floor before licking it into submission. He would end up with wet cat food on the sides of his face, and sometimes the top of his head. He had quite a bit of personality in old age, too. There were more than a few times when I went into the kitchen after hearing what I thought may have been a cat having a seizure, but it wasn't that at all. Sable would be playing with something on the floor. Paper, a bit of dust, or something. He would look up at me when I surprised him, immediately ready to abandon play for scratches and pets. He loved and loved and loved.

His last two days were obviously the end. He lay flat as a pancake on the floor, refusing food and drink. I even gave him a cheese puff to lick, to satisfy his craving for salt and processed cheese flavor, but he ignored it completely. That was when I knew it was the end.

I called the vet, but I was reluctant to take him in. I didn't want him to endure another trip to the vet's office, full of strange smells and scary noises. He was a nervous cat, and he was sick, so he didn't need anything else to worry about. As it turned out, the vet didn't call back until the afternoon and I missed the call. She left a message saying she had some ideas, but I knew it was not going to happen.

Yesterday, his last day, I was calm. I pet him, I combed him, and trimmed the fur mats I could see while he purred. I had given him a bath last week to wash the litter that stuck to his feet. He was having diarrhea, and throwing up bile, so I had to wash his face and his bottom again, too. I did that while disturbing him as little as possible. That last day, there was nothing left in his system. He was so thin.

After his bath, I wrapped him in a towel and held in over my shoulder, like a baby. He liked that. He rested his head on my shoulder and purred. He spent the day laying flat in the grass while I sat with him and alternately worked on nearby flower beds. It was a warm day, and the sun probably felt good. He would move a foot or so, then settle down again and sleep with his little face planted into the ground. He seemed okay. I felt okay, glad to be with him. I pet him, I talked to him. He purred.

Early this morning, he died in his sleep on the kitchen floor. He was still warm when I got up and found him. I pet him, told him I was so grateful that he was my kitty. I took a bit of fur to save. That fur was the most gorgeous fur in the whole world, attached to the body of the most loving being one can find in the animal world.

I wish I could have taken away all his pain, fed him until his stomach was as full as his heart. I wish I could hold him one more time, over my shoulder like a baby, rub my face against his head and hear his sweet purr.

I know he's out there somewhere, saying that it's okay; he's okay now. He is eating all that he wants and he feels no pain anymore. I want to tell him that I did the best I could, but that I know it wasn't good enough for him. I wish I had done more.

The bucket that I used for his last bath is still out in the yard, drying. I miss him more than words can say.

I gave him many nicknames, including Sableson plum, sugary little angel boy, pumpkinhead, bell-bells, bellie, Sabellie-bellie-bellie-bellie, ma cherie amour, and many more goofy things that I liked to say to him. He understood French. At least, it seemed like he did from the way he looked at me and blinked whenever I said French words to him. Perhaps he was humoring me. That would have been just like him to be so thoughtful.

3/19/1994 - 6/23/2010


Jen F said...

Hugs to you, friend. I'm thinking of you. Miss Boo will be sad.

L. Ottaviano said...

What a loving tribute to a love-filled kitty. Beautiful pictures. So sorry for your loss. So many good memories.

Wendy said...

I'm so sorry. Your beautiful Sable will be missed. You were so there for me, with understanding and love, when Inca died. I cherish your understanding of how much our companions mean to us. Much love...

La Viajera Insaciable said...

What a touching tribute. So sorry to hear of your loss.