Sweet Stanley on January 3, 2007, enjoys the winter sun, warming him and perhaps reminding him of younger days. He was just about 25 years old, still eating breakfast with the gang, still finding his sunny spots, still sleeping with me.
Today, January 15, is the 10th anniversary of the day Stanley left us for a new existence. To think it’s ten years is interesting in two ways: on the one hand that it’s only ten years, since it seems only a few years ago, and on the other that ten years ago seems decades ago with all that has come during this decade.
When you live with a household of cats and regularly rescue and foster, they arrive, stay for their time and leave too soon whether it’s to a wonderful adoptive home or after they’ve spent a lifetime with us, and in that time they become vitally intertwined with our own lives and those of our other animal companions. All cats take a part of you with them when they go. A cat who’s been with you as long as Stanley takes a big part of your history from your present and puts it into your past, and marks the end of an era.
Stanley came to me early in my rescuing history when it was never presumed I’d find another home for the cats I took in. He was fully adult when his big green eyes first looked through the kitchen door one day in 1986. With all those tabby stripes, white whiskers and big white mittens and a white diamond between his eyes he asked to come in as if he’d been sent on an important errand, though it took him a couple of weeks of antics and an ice storm to get his point across. What took me so long?
And when I let him in, I just opened the door and in he walked, mingling with my cats with no quarantine, marking the end of the era of misunderstanding feline health and welfare in the way I’d grown up to learn it. Surely he was sent with all the lessons he had to deliver about feline diet and health, emotional needs, patience and understanding, and it took him all 21 years of his life with me to teach me, and to resolve the issues he carried until he was thoroughly done with this mortal existence and ready to move on.
Stanley was with me for 21 years, and that’s a lot of history to share. He was present for all the new rescues and additions up to and including Lucy, except for Kublai, Sally and Allegro, the three of my permanent household who came before him. He saw me change jobs and begin and end relationships, buy a house and start a business. He slept on or near my desk or easel through lots of late nights as I worked my day job and came home to work my freelance business as I prepared for my self-employed career. And he inspired one of my most enduring feline paintings, one that encouraged me to greater achievements, to use the techniques I’d used in his painting in my landscapes, to actually sell my paintings, join art organizations and pretty much consider myself an artist.
The veterinarian who examined him at his first urinary blockage guessed his age at between three and five, so I took the average and figured he was four. He was the most troubled cat I’ve ever known, suffering from constant urinary issues and acting out from the chronic pain, finding a reason to pee on just about everything I’ve ever owned and once biting me so badly and narrowly missing the artery in my left wrist that I spent hours in the emergency room being filled with antibiotics and pain killers. But he was sweet and silly and apologetic so I covered much of my house in sheets of plastic and learned to understand what he was telling me so that I could help him through whatever physical or emotional crisis caused him to act that way. He was diagnosed with chronic kidney failure at age 21 but survived four years with me treating him with fluid therapy, wrapping him in a towel and sitting on him to hold him long enough to give him a therapeutic dose, and supplements thanks to my veterinarian’s patient guidance.
He was the last of the four senior cats I lost in the space of one short year; losing the oldest last added a finality to it.
The same day I took this photo of Stanley in the morning sun, I took the photo of Lucy in her garden that I featured recently. Looking back on that now, I find it an interesting juxtaposition.
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