Monday, July 25, 2005

The Life of Riley

I first met Riley in 1991. Specifically, he was my gift. At five weeks, he fit in my hand. Tiny and of dubious origin, Mr. Jet rescued him from a run down trailer park near our place and tucked him into my heart.

This was a serious gift. Mr. Jet did

Riley may have started out small, but he dreamed big. Loving and cuddling were sissy stuff, best left to lesser cats. Life was a battle worthy of strife, mayhem and gore. To the victorious came the plunder, namely treats and admiration.

A friend of ours insisted he was part mountain lion. I gave him a band-aid and agreed.

In 1999, my warrior was laid low in battle; the hated vet advised that, with only a single kidney, the prognosis was poor.

What the hell do vets know, anyway? Living to spite the vet was Riley's MO.

When my warrior stumbled again last week, it was at the end of a full life, one worthy of song around fires, praises of strength and virtue, feats of legend and immortality.

Still, seeing the once mighty grow feeble bruises your soul.

I spent last week caring for him, and willing the impossible. Thoughts of last times flooded me.

I never realized that bath last month was the last bath. It hurt that the last lick on my cheek passed without fanfare. The last special treat eaten, before the many he turned from resignedly, was nothing more than a bit of chicken. If I'd known, it would have been better, more spectacular somehow, served with flourish.

The last wink, the last smack of the paw, the last time with the string toy all slipped by unheralded. It is so hard, knowing the lost last times, all gone like whispers into the wind.

The last time I held him will never leave me. He meowed in protest at death; I'm whispering to him that it is OK to let go, that I am there and it is OK to just let it go, just go....

So he did.

Now my days are full of firsts. First morning without him sit beside me watching the sun rise. First time brushing my teeth without him nosing water droplets off my shins. No lap time after work, no treats during dinner preparation, no body beside me on our bed. I used to lay on my back next to Mr. Jet, and Riley lay by my side. My hand fit perfectly into the curve between his front leg and his side. I never realized that it put both of us to sleep. I'm not sleeping well.

As I type this, there is no cat on my hard drive, leaning his nose off the back so the fan blows on him. I can barely believe he is gone, but everywhere I look, he is not there.

I know this will ease. But right now, in this moment, I still look around the corners. I still whisper for him.

Perhaps, across the battlefields of heaven, my mountain lion hears, and winks back.


At July 25, 2005 8:18 PM, Blogger Brother Kenya said...

We're going through the same thing right now. Four days since good ol' Ned the Dog left us. Harder than you think it'd be, isn't it? Then again, it's hard whenever a member of the family goes away...

At July 25, 2005 10:43 PM, Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

my sympathies. i lost my cat of 12 years last summer and still have occassional pangs. worst of all, it happenned while we were out of town, killed by a predator, so i never even got a chance to say goodbye.

it doesn't go away, only gets easier.

At July 26, 2005 6:22 AM, Blogger Nedhead said...

Sad isn't it? Sometimes they seem like the only ones who truly understand you (although cats are sometimes willing to pass negative judgements on you). I had to give up my two buddies (Lucas and Zak) when the wifey developed severe allergies. That was about 3 years ago, I still miss them, those little morons (weren't the brightest cats, but Lucas played fetch with me). Anyway, I feel your pain, and just remember there are lots of mice in kitty heaven.

At July 26, 2005 9:27 AM, Blogger Gun-Toting Liberal said...

My cat and 3 dogs are family members, all the way. When it is time for them to pass on, a part of me will pass along with each and every one of them, too. I know many people do not agree, but I believe Riley will be waiting for you in Heaven when your time to cross over comes. May he rest in peace, and may you move on. Love trancends lines of species; you, Riley, just two mammals who loved one another.

Hang in; you'll meet again :-)

At July 26, 2005 9:52 AM, Blogger Tracey said...

Oh Jet...I'm so very sorry to hear of your loss. Your beautiful post about your kitty brought me to tears. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

I don't know if you've ever heard of the poem entitled "Rainbow Bridge"...but it speaks of something like GTL mentioned...the idea that our beloved pets will be there waiting for us on the other side. I found a beautiful link here if you're interested in seeing it for yourself.

Again, my thoughts are with you and yours.

At July 26, 2005 10:14 AM, Blogger Pia Talks said...

Jet I'm so sorry. Your eulogy for Riley is both incredibly eloquent and incredibly beautiful.

the old cliche is true. Time is the best healer.

At July 26, 2005 11:43 AM, Blogger Jet said...

Thanks to each of you for sharing. Animals enrich our lives in so many ways. It's amazing how deep a bond is formed.

At July 26, 2005 2:57 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

I've never owned an animal, but I've been privledged to have been charged with the company of friends like your dear Riley.
Just 2 years ago 2 of the women in our home became ill at the same time.
Mrs. Paul and Miss Gadget.
Mrs. Paul I could help, a bit of risky back surgery and a dificult recovery.
Miss Gadget however at age 13 was a brave spaniel mix in the late stages of cushings.
The day before Mrs. Paul's surgery, Miss Gadget made her last trip to the doctor.
The day before Mrs. Paul came home from the hospital, Miss Gadget came home via U.S.P.S.
Recovery from surgery went slow but well.
Recovery from the loss of Miss Gadget is and will always be incomplete.

Our 4 legged family members are if nothing else our most honest and most giving companions.

At July 26, 2005 2:57 PM, Blogger 1138 said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At July 26, 2005 5:34 PM, Blogger Unadulterated Underdog said...

I'm so sorry Jet. My cats are like my kids. I worry about them all the time. They are more than friends, they are family of kind only two small fat cats can be.

I know it is awful to talk about my joy when you are sad so I'll stop there. I know that Riley was a friend of friends and that he is sorely missed and dearly loved. I happen to believe that in Heaven we are all reunited with our friends so have no worries. One day, you will be reunited with your faithful mountain lion. In the mean time, he's probably chasing a ball of golden yarn and being scolded by charubs. My heart goes out to you my friend. Smiles :)

At July 27, 2005 12:03 AM, Blogger Tom Harper said...

God, what a post. I'm really sorry for your loss.

One of our cats died 6 months ago. It really is heartbreaking.

At July 27, 2005 3:48 AM, Blogger Jet said...

It's amazing how much a part of the minituae of the day they are, and how at odds I am with my morning routine now that he's gone.

It has really helped to read your comments, everyone. Thanks!

At July 27, 2005 6:15 AM, Blogger frstlymil said...

I'm so sorry Jet. Your words regarding Riley's life were beautiful - I hope the pain decreases with each day.

At July 27, 2005 4:12 PM, Blogger windspike said...

We have a cat. Maybe someday I'll post a snap of her over at my location. She's mean but not to us. I always say to new visitors, watch out for the Cat. She's a real bitch, but she's our kind of bitch.

No doubt, I don't look forward to the one day she won't come tumbling across my keyboard to ruin yet another post, but as do all good things, she will pass. That truth does nothing to settle the feelings, however and our thoughts are with you.

I am reminded of the old joke: What's the difference between dogs and cats? With dogs, you are family. With cats, you're staff.

At July 27, 2005 10:36 PM, Blogger Moonbat Lookout said...

At July 28, 2005 9:13 AM, Blogger Sally said...

Pesky aren't they?

Sorry Jet...

At July 28, 2005 1:45 PM, Blogger mulligan said...


I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. We had 3 cats and 2 dogs at one time a couple of years ago. Of the 5 only two are still with us. All of our pets have held a special place in our family. Just like Riley held a special place in yours. He'll always be there whenever you think of all the good times you had with him.

At July 28, 2005 3:09 PM, Blogger Jet said...

Time heals. I'm feeling less like I've been run through and more like a person. Nothing like a good dose of righteous fury to cleanse the old soul.

Thanks for the kind encouragement. You guys are the best.

At July 28, 2005 3:53 PM, Blogger ~Betsy said...

I'm softly feeling your pain, Jet, as I remember your feisty Riley. You were right, he did bite! Everyone but you...

After my favorite black lab Makade died, I began a ritual of release, to remember my pets and let them go at the same time.

Because we live in "da woods", we bury our pets here. I begin the ritual by writing a poem, letter or just feelings about the pet, letting it all out onto tear-stained paper. Then I set it aside (usually making a copy for my memory box).

When the time feels right, I go to the place where the pet is interred, and I read the poem or letter, whatever I had written in my grief. I read it out loud, feeling the grief again but not as intensely, and with some happiness too, remembering the smiles the pet brought to me.

Then I burn what I wrote, watching the crisp flakes of burned paper float heavenward, to where I know the pet waits for me. This is, for me, a very spiritual way to remember and let go...

I also plant something in memory of the pet, sometimes a blooming perennial, sometimes a tree. For my beloved Mr. B who lived to be 17, I planted catnip! He loved it so much, and our two cats continue to enjoy it now.

I'm squeezing your hand in my heart, Jet.

At July 29, 2005 6:56 AM, Blogger Jet said...

What a beautiful memorial, Betsy! That sounds like a wonderful way to remember and let go, good for the spirit and the body.

At July 29, 2005 11:38 AM, Blogger Tor said...

My condolences on the passing of your family member. My wife and I have three cats, and two of them are getting up there in years. They've been with my wife since they were kittens, so I know the inevitable parting will come hard.

There is a cat in NYC who could use some TLC. Go to and give a donation to the vet bills. He's a beautiful Maine coon cat who was thrown from six stories onto the pavement.




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