Saturday, January 28, 2017

Farewell, Lovely Assistant

Gabe 2003-2017
We have three cats. Wait. We used to have three cats. Yesterday we had to let Gabe go. And my heart breaks as I type this.

I rarely, if ever, post photos of our cats on this blog. That's because the Texas Wildscapes program frowns on domestic cats in a Wildscape. Which I have always completely understood and accepted. We're not indoor-cat people so they live outside and in our garage. Thus, I sorta kept Gabe, Abe, and Mandy a secret.

But today, I must share. Because, I realize, that by sharing I can pay tribute to a creature that I loved. And perhaps the sharing will help ease the hurt. 

Because all I really want to do at the moment is cry for my loss.
Gabe and Abe, 2003
My daughter and I adopted Gabe and his brother Abe as kittens in 2003 (they started out as Abby and Gabby 'til a rear-end view straightened THAT out several months later). They were born across the street and replaced a sweet calico named Macie who came into our lives in 2002. But someone shot her with a pellet gun, which left her paralyzed. So we had to let her go. In the meantime, Macie had taken a feral gray kitten under her wing. I named her Mandy (Lindsey wanted to call her Bundy...I'm sorry, Lindsey). Owl eyed and fluffy, Mandy wouldn't let us touch her for years. She'd sleep with Macie in her cardboard box in the garage. For only a short time, she was an only cat. Because then Gabe and Abe came along.

For all these years since, we had three cats. 
Gabe, Abe and Mandy
Until yesterday. Unbeknownst to me, Gabe had been losing weight for probably the past month. It was hard to tell because of all his fur! But Lindsey caught it as soon as she petted and held him last week. "Mom, you gotta take him to the vet!" she exclaimed. "I can feel his backbone!" And so she and I drove him over to the vet clinic. He'd lost nearly half his body weight! Surprisingly, his blood work came back clear. We were stumped. Maybe he'd just decided not to eat his dry food any more? So I decided we'd fed him wet food and turkey meat and plump him back up. 

For nearly a week, we tried. But every other day, he'd throw everything back up. While we were gone overnight on an magazine assignment, Gabe stayed in the hospital. Fighter that he is, he ate. But sooner or later, it'd come back up.

And so, yesterday after we returned home, James and I made the sad decision. 

We had to let Gabe go.
All that said, what I'd really like you to know about Gabe is that he was my Lovely Assistant in our gardens. Wherever I'd go, there he'd be, right by my side. Sometimes he'd just show up out of nowhere. "How did you know I was out here?" I'd ask him when I was out in the Meadow or in a corner of the yard. And, oh, how he loved for me to pick him up in my arms and carry him around the yard! After awhile, he'd get too heavy, and I'd have to set him back down.

The funny thing is, I'd get SO FRUSTRATED because he often wouldn't get out of my way when I was trying to take a photograph or prune a plant. He lay down right in the way! 

"Gabe, MOVE!" I'd say with exasperation. Because I couldn't work, I'd pick him up and plop him out of reach. But he'd come right back. He was stubborn that way. "MOVE, Gabe!" I'd tell him. "Yes, I know I'm going to miss you someday when you're gone, but right now, I need you to MOVE!" 

Yes, I said those very words. I know I did.

And I do. I miss him. 

He was right there just two weeks ago when I pruned the Mexican bush sage in the front yard and the sawtooth daisy stems in the back. He must have been feeling bad then, but still, he had to be my Lovely Assistant. How can I go back out in the yard now without him?

But I will. Soon. There's a lot of work to be done out there. For now, I grieve. Soon I'll heal. That's the cycle of life's seasons. 

Thank you for listening.

Gabe and his brother were also our "yard art."

James, Lindsey and me with Gabe
Abe and Gabe