|Death: ||Aug. 1, 2007|
Between 6 and 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 1, 2007, Christian's spirit began his journey forward. Actually, that started the day he was born, for he was a cat whose life reflected the love of his Creator. He was an alpha cat, a feral stray from Elkridge. Mom's neighbor fed him, and then he'd meander over to Mom for her leftovers. She enjoyed his company. Numerous times he would jump up on her outdoor table to sleep – sometimes forgetting where he was – roll over and fall off (unhurt but embarrassed). What a comedian!
He had a penchant for adventure. I worked around her home on weekend visits. One chore was to take away raked leaves in a wheelbarrow, and he would jump in the wheelbarrow for the ride. It got to be where he would just jump in it when it was empty and I could cart him around the yard for fun (try doing THAT with a human boy friend). I couldn't bear the prospect of his homelessness or the neighbor taking him away to be euthanized, so at his age of 8 or 9 months, I took him from his visits with her and brought him to my home in the inner city. I kept my promises to Christian that he would return on weekends to play in her yard.
Christian was every inch an alpha male -- smart, brave, intrepid, playful, jealous, domineering and a "talker." He had a vast vocabulary for a cat, and held up his end of "our conversations," most often with him getting in the Last Word. The only word besides "NO" that peeved him the most were two = "kitty" + "cat." I was surprised the first time I said it that he growled. To provoke a response, I would carry him up to a mirror and ask him "Whoooo's the kitty cat?" If a cat could cuss, he DID. I let him "sniff" at his image to see if he thought it another cat and what he'd do, but he'd have none of it. Christian also knew the "B" word (bite). I had to be careful not to say it because he knew it was a verb. But being human, I'd forget, so I got verbed a lot. If I believed in reincarnation (which I don't), I'd think he acted like a royally disgruntled English professor.
So how does a cat teach the "alpha"bet to his human? By updating me on the rules of the pecking order, lest I should forget. But lest you think I'm just being bullied, I'd periodically remind him to consider "who was bigger than whom." Like a typical alpha male, my reasoning with him on that score went in one ear and out his other.
If he wanted something that I didn't understand, I would say to him, "show me what you want" and he would lead me to it. Inevitably, it would have to do with food or going for walkies. But not always. When he wanted to go out on the porch, he would strike the screen door with his paw, but the door wouldn't easily swing open. I told him to "use his head," which meant to me to "think of some other way." But of course being a literalist, he used his head to butt the door open. He took some direction well.
As far as food goes, any time I offered, he ate. Maybe he went without some meals in his homeless days and decided that if his tummy was full or not, if offered food, he'd take it. That seems most logical. Like most people who lived through the Depression will save stuff for the bad times, he kept his larder stocked. So to keep his weight down, I'd limit his portions -- except when extra nuggets spilled out beyond his bowl, and then he'd quickly survey his good fortune. At that point, it'd become a race between how fast he gulped down the extras and how fast I could pick them up. Since I liked the British use of the word "Hoover," I nicknamed him that once because of his ability to suck up. He growled his disapproval, either for the comparison to a vacuum cleaner or to Herbert Hoover. I couldn't decide which was meant, as he probably had knowledge of the FBI and their crusade against rebellious cats.
After awhile, I thought I got smart. After I was asleep, he'd get hungry. He'd wake me to go through his army training exercise -- of waking me up and getting out of bed for an easier quick feed. It was easier than to endure his insistent nagging, preventing my slumber. So I learned that if I kept a plastic jar of nuggets nearby, I wouldn't have to literally get up. Now "nearby" meant on top of a bureau, which its back also served as a headboard. On it I placed the nugget jar within easy reach. Problem solved.
Eagles, I believe, drop nuts from high altitudes to break them open on the rocks below. Furry flying Rambo here cracked open the container by calculated pushes, aiming the jar from the bureau top to my head below. By arduous trials I learned it was safer for me to keep the container under my pillow. But even there, the lid didn't always lock and the nuggets would fly throughout the bed linens, to his absolute DELIGHT. If he didn't find them all, it was only because I was too tired to roll off the ones I slept on.
Now if it happened that he was also tired at bedtime, sometimes he slept stretched out next to me under the covers with his little head sharing my pillow. Most times he threw himself down sideways facing away from me, wrapping his front paws around my outstretched arm, holding on. And yes, my devoted little soul snored.
When it came to cleaning his box, Mr. Fastidious liked it raked up often. If I happened to be watching for this very private cat to finish his business, he would look at me as if to say, "WHOO are YOU looking at?" and suspend all actions midstream until I turned away. Cat's do like privacy.
My lap was his. I dared not move a muscle when he cared to jump up and make himself comfortable. This particularly true when he visited my lap while I did my business. My privacy didn't count. I'd pet him until he purred, but when he had enough of that nonsense, his back foot would push my hand away and he'd jump down. Then sometimes it was an habitual race as to who could move their feet fast enough before he decided I needed to terminate my sit-down. Sometimes I could distract him with the game of flushing. His sweet little eyes would circulate in loops as he watched the water spin in circles and suddenly disappear. Movements inside the porcelain bowl were always a source of wonderment. Like watching a mouse escape.
His play toys varied but usually involved me. Christian would love to hide while I "seeked." His hiding spot was in the tub behind the shower curtain, with his body and head crouched as low below the rim as he could get them. He figured that if he couldn't see me, I couldn't see him (well, that's the notion I played along with). I'd keep looking around, calling his name until I came into the bathroom. Then crouching low on the floor outside the tub, I'd pop my head up over the rim and squawk, "THERE HE IS" in a high-pitched voice! Always startled at my sudden face, he'd leap up over me and run. Of course, if I saw myself from his perspective, that would unnerve me TOO.
Other amusements in the tub included putting a very low level of tepid water in it, enough to keep a tiny wound-up toy frog swimming. It didn't bother him in the least to wade in it to follow the frog.
Since I didn't have a wheelbarrow in the city, his little red wagon was a cardboard box, which I pulled around the apartment floor. I have a video of him boxing against a Rambo hand puppet (on my hand), and his retrieving thrown objects. A laser light pen was always good fun and also batting at bubbles from a wand.
With excellent hearing and smell, he could detect an ant on the carpet in the next room and run to it, licking any and all up with gusto. He was rather picky about (ugh) spiders though and just as well, as he licked my face frequently. The thought of spider guts on my face occurred often in my mind. At night, moths and other bugs flew around the porch light. I would hold him up in my arms near the light, and being fascinated at their movements, he would attempt to knock them out with his paws.
Smart as a whip, Christian would reach into his basket of toys and with his mouth, take out what he wanted to play with, one at the time. I've heard of German Shepherds doing that. But unlike dogs, he didn't see the need to return them after he was through playing and didn't like it when I tidied up after him. A compulsive tidier doesn't mix with a territorial cat.
Although he liked cleanliness, it didn't mean I had the right to periodically change the bed linens. If he wasn't already on the bed, he would jump up and place himself square in the middle, defiantly steadfast so I couldn't remove the sheets. That didn't stop me. He would cuss like a sailor when I gathered up the corners, enveloping his body and pretending to drag him off to the wash.
One of Christian's favorite joys was the long car ride to my mom's yard. He sat on my lab with his nose out the window, or at times up on the dash with his face against the front window watching everything speeding towards him. I got the sense he loved speed and objects flying towards him in distorted perspective. I can't imagine what his brain was thinking at the time, nor mine for letting him be there. At a red light around some distilleries, a man standing on a median strip with his camera, took a photo of Christian on the dashboard and remarked to me that he was a most unusual cat in that behavior. Yup. Christian was also fascinated with passing trucks since his face was level with their turning wheels when he sat on my lap. Truck size or noise never scared him. I wonder whatever happened with that man's photo of Christian?
When Christian did something to catch my attention, he'd be a show off. He climbed huge trees in mom's yard and once went out on a branch and jumped down on top of the porch roof of the house. Though he tried, he couldn't get back to the branch and I had the good fortune to find someone with a very tall ladder to climb up and get him. All in a day's play!
But that was nothing compared to what he did in the city. His backyard were 3rd floor city rooftops adjoining my apartment. One Sunday he didn't come when called and I had to crawl and jump across the rooftops, only to find him down on the ground hemmed in by the abutting backyards of stores. The stores were closed, so I couldn't gain access. And he had fallen about 3 stories from the roof and was sitting down there chattering up at me to come get him. What a pickle. In my most pleading voice I begged the firemen in the firehouse across the street to rescue my poor cat. Those men were an unhappy lot. It took a ladder more than 50 feet in length to reach Christian, which they didn't have. One fireman had to hold onto the roof and let himself down body length just to reach the top rung of a ladder. At the bottom, he picked up Christian, who thankfully wasn't hurt, and brought him up to me.
Of course I was appreciative, but it was also the last time I donated to the fireman's fund. I think they'd have rather shot the cat than save him. I told Christian that if he ever pulled that trick again, he could just stay down there. He took my admonishment to heart.
But, what he considered a dirty trick on my part was his being taken to the vets. He hated doctors. Of course I wouldn't tell him when or where he was taking a trip specifically, but at the first time to the vets he memorized the route and every turn of the car. I could have been taking him to the country, which he loved, but he knew the different direction and the smells. And sitting on my lap, wouldn't I get an earful along the way? "You're going the wrong direction mother!" O man!
Of course returning home from ANY direction was a happy prospect for him. At the last block to the front door, I'd have to hold onto him, particularly if I had the window rolled down those last few yards. I had tried using a cat carrier, but it was a battle to get him in one and I could not win it.
I cannot begin to describe what it feels like when the one you love gets hit by a car. God's grace and mercy followed Christian all his days and this was no exception. I had moved from the inner city to a suburban ground level apartment. His backyard was now the rental property. One day he did not come when I called and I set off to find him. There he was two blocks away in the entrance drive with a neighborly crowd peering down at him, muttering what to do for him after they had laid him in a box. Even a policeman was there to cordon off incoming cars. Needless to say I was desperate. One of the tenants drove me and Christian to the vets immediately.
Christian eventually regained the use of his four legs, except the right front leg, which remained permanently bent. But when he came out of his bandages, he didn't stop running on it, and used it like a broom to cover his toilette, and knocked it on my face to wake me up. What a trooper!
But after that incident, he was no longer allowed to be the free-roaming hunter. He could take his walkies, but on a leash, with me at the other end. He knew I meant business when I told him of this new development. I could almost see his little brain calculate any possible alternative. So the first time I harnessed his body, I didn't see that he had bloated his stomach outward. When I secured the harness tight, he let out his breath and became skinny enough to slip it off. He did that only twice before I caught on.
It was easy to think of him as human because he made interesting and complex choices. I wrote some poems about him and took film & photos.
Over the years of our outdoor walkies together, comments were made such as "I've never seen a cat being walked on a leash before – like a dog!" Christian understood what they said and it hurt his feelings. Then, if they had the audacity to reach out their hand to pat his head, they didn't try it again. He never did take kindly to the familiarity of strangers before he had an opportunity to make his own decisions for an introduction.
Later in his life, when his kidneys began to fail, he went blind. Maneuvering around the furniture and from room to room was simplified by my calling out directions for him – like "turn left, go straight, etc." He knew exactly what I meant and followed my instructions so he didn't bump into furniture.
At the last, with this precious life ending – washing him, petting him, telling him for the zillionth time how very much I loved him (while looking at me square in the face with his blind eyes) – O how terribly hard it was to make a final decision. I still miss his presence.
According to the Psalms, "all flesh will see the Lord." God is reconciling ALL creation to Himself. With His arms almost full with my other precious companions, God will be merciful again and welcome Christian because he was God's timely gift to me. Gifts from God go back to God. Christian was like heaven's library book. All precious life with marks of the divine here on earth, are only on temporary loan.
Specifically: Bahr Residence
Created by: msb
Record added: Aug 01, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 20739715