I’m writing this post in the hope that I don’t have to post it. But if you are reading this, it’s a sad day in our home today. Last night, we said goodbye to our cat, Dash, after a sudden, fierce illness that we can’t completely explain. If you are reading this, Ben and I decided as a couple that the kindest thing was to let her go. I am writing this with tears running down my face, but I’m writing this now, days before the end, when I can still remember Dasher’s meow and her purr and the way she demanded attention until she decided seemingly arbitrarily that it wasn’t needed anymore. By the time this post is published – if it is published at all – it’s been nearly 24 hours since we held Dash in our arms, buried our faces into her soft fur coat, and said our farewells. It’s been nearly 24 hours since we cried at the kindness shown by the vet clinic, lighting a candle with a sign that said someone was mourning their beloved pet. While I still remember her for the gentle fighter and protective cat she is, not how she was during the last week of her life, I want everyone to know her for the quirky ball of CAT that was Dash.
I don’t know if I ever told you these stories while you were curled up with me at night, while your purr rumbled me to sleep, while I laughed at your high-pitched, attention-seeking “Meeeeeeeeeeow!” But you’ve been part of this family almost as long as our little family existed, and my heart aches that you’re no longer making memories with us.
Ben and I talked about you, Dash… in the way of many conversations like this. The “We should get another cat… someday” conversation we had not long after we got married. We had Annie, of course, but another cat seemed like a good idea… in a someday-we-will sort of way. That summer day in 2008, we visited friends on a farm and were told one of their barn cats had just had kittens. I sat on their back porch and a little gray ball of fluff came up and demanded my attention. I lifted it up in my arms and it purred contentedly and I asked it if I could take it home. Ben was playing football with the guys, but when he came back to the porch, this same ball of fluff – you – curled up on his chest and fell fast asleep. He looked and me and asked if we could take you home. How could I say no? We drove to a friend’s house and grabbed a diaper box to drive you home in. Somehow, on that trip home, we named you Dash, and your little kitty paws and your big-kitty purr stole our hearts.
You became your name, Dash, sneaking out of the house at every opportunity, destroying Ben’s glasses your first night home, trying so hard to charm Annie who was singularly disinterested. You grew into a cat who was so particular about the “right” way to come up for cuddles (pacing back and forth three times, then hopping up), insisting there was only one way to climb up on the bed (always using my nightstand and boombox), creating the nightly ritual of sticking your paw between bed and headboard and batting at our heads, even straightening a painting you knocked askew during one of your “kitty crazies.” Trees held a fascination for you, until you tried to climb one and nearly choked yourself when you suddenly realized how high you were… and then you ran home in a huff. You broke yourself out of the habit of jumping onto the dining room table by falling through it when we took the tabletop off for refinishing. All these years later, we still laugh at your kittenness, and we never stopped calling you “Kitten”.
You grew older and wiser, your body filling out and matching the size of your big long tail, your formerly loud purr (once nicknamed the buzz saw) turning into a deep rumble. I used to ask you where you got your gorgeous gray fur coat, and for some reason you would never divulge that secret to me.
You hated us moving to our big scary house. There were all these places to go and explore, but it was too much for you. You climbed up on the kitchen counter and tried to melt into the particle board. Annie tried to comfort you but jumped down when she saw that we noticed her. But you owned this house, you made it your own, finding all the cool hiding spaces in the ceiling tiles and jumping into the windows anytime you could.
Not long after we moved in, we brought home… a new cat. he was a boy cat who wanted to be everybody’s friend. Annie grew annoyed with him quickly, and I think the two of you conspired to barricade him in the litter box. But somewhere along the way, though, you and Wayne (the Boy) became friends. You would run and play and wrestle all the time, even slowing down once to let me feel how you played.
Over the years, you’ve been the negotiator in the kitty kingdom. You’ve quietly put Annie in her place, befriended the Boy so much that when he ran away you moped around the house for a week until he came home. You befriended Jenny, this enthusiastic spitfire of a dog, showing her with patience and gentleness how to interact with kitties. Your farm-cat skills came in handy whenever a mouse crossed the threshold of our home. You loved being outside in the back yard, rolling around in the dirt. And if you snuck outside between my feet, after a few minutes you would hang around on the neighbor’s fence, meowing your head off because being outside wasn’t fun anymore. You love boxes so much that we leave empty Amazon boxes around the house just so you could have somewhere to nest… so much that when we said goodbye to you, we chose a box rather than an urn for your ashes – you would’ve turned your nose up at the urn, anyway.
I would give anything for one more cuddle with you, Dasher. One more snuggle with that deep purr rumbling against my chest. One more time laughing at your back-and-forth back-and-forth back-and-forth JUMP! onto my lap on the couch. One more time that you and Jenny negotiate the best way to share the sunbeam streaming through the window, or the best configuration to share her doggie bed. One more time wondering what you’re “meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeowing” about. One more time getting my attention by stepping on my foot. One more time that you’re so happy to be with me – and I am NOT done petting you, thank you very much! – that you’re biting my wedding ring and purring at the same time.
I want to remember you for all these things, Dash, because that’s who you were. You were funny and quirky and standoffish and SUCH a wonderful cat.
I’ll never forget you.
Rest in peace, Kitten. May you find all the boxes to sleep in and all the dirt to roll in and all of the cuddles you want ONLY when you want them.
Goodbye, my sweet girl… You’re not hurting anymore.