Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Ode to Clifford
I buried my cat, Clifford, today under a sycamore tree in the pouring rain. I will explain more about his death in a minute, but first, I want to focus on his nine lives . . .
We bought him as a fuzzy yellow furball from the Meadow Vista pet store in the Sierra foothills. It took some doing to get everyone to agree on a name, but we finally settled on Clifford. Most people assumed the name came from the story about the big red dog. Nope. Cliffie was named after the most obnoxious character in one of the more idiotic movies ever made: Clifford, which starred Martin short as a deranged young man.
My kids (and husband) were so enamored by the movie that a whole slew of pets were named after various characters. Those critters, like the movie itself, have disappeared and faded from our family consciousness.
But Clifford lived on . . .
As I added it up yesterday, he moved seven times with our family. We always managed to part with other pets before loading up the moving truck, but Clifford always wound up in the crate in the back of our car. The thought of leaving him behind was never even considered. I think all the relocating scarred Cliffie a bit, however. Anytime anyone in the family got out a suitcase to pack for a trip, Cliff would try to hide himself away in the luggage. There's not a suitcase in our home that doesn't have a bit of Clifford fur clinging to it somewhere . . .
Clifford had lots of big adventures in his relatively long cat-life. He survived maurading bands of coyotes (and owls) when we lived in the Sierra foothills. He once fell from the balcony rail of our 3rd-story apartment. He'd evidently jumped up on the precarious perch to watch Greg go to work. Obese animal that he was (Greg always called him the Oaf), Clifford's girth gave into gravity and he plunged to the parking lot below.
Greg didn't notice the falling feline, and the rest of us were puzzled by Cliffies' sudden disappearance. We searched the small apartment, then the surrounding grounds to no avail. We prayed for Clifford to come home, but it wasn't until about 5:00 that evening that we heard a frantic scratching on the front door. Clifford bolted in the apartment, wild-eyed and covered with burrs. He'd been awol since about 6 that morning, but we never got a word out of him about his big outing!
I've known cats with personality, but Clifford thought he was a person. He'd saunter into a room and start "talking" to anyone within earshot. You could actually carry on a conversation with that cat. (I swear Clifford could say "hello"). If he didn't get a response, he'd plop his gi-normous fur-ball of a body on the nearest lap and start kneading, purring loudly with claws fully extended and a silly grin on his face.
Scout was the bane of Clifford's existence. Every morning when I let Cliffie in from the garage, Scout would greet his furry pal with a vigorous face-licking, which elicited a violent vocal protest and a few half-hearted swats from Cliff. Undeterred, Scout would then begin to herd Clifford, nosing and nudging him in a direction that somehow made sense to Scout but totally annoyed the cat. Scout usually gave up after a few minutes and Clifford trotted unmolested up the stairs to my bedroom window, where he spent many happy hours surveying his domain.
This might sound macabre, but Clifford died with a smile on his furry little face. After I got home from work yesterday, I popped into Danielle's room to chat with the girls. Clifford followed me in, with Scout right behind him. Clifford made the rounds of the small room, marching across the keyboard of Candyce's computer, rubbing up against me, announcing his regal presence. Then he jumped up on Danielle's bed, curled up next to her pillow and started snoring.
At least that's what we thought he was doing. He was making such a racket that I nudged him, trying to get him to change positions and stop snoring so loudly (like I often do with my husband . . .) But as soon as I touched Cliffie, I realized something was wrong, that he was having a hard time breathing. I ran into my bathroom to grab a towel, thinking I'd wrap him up and take him to the vet.
But when I returned, before I could even wrap the towel around him, Clifford gave one last shudder and was gone. Just like that!
Greg thinks he had a kitty heart attack. There was no indication that Cliffie was sick, in fact, he'd spent the morning romping like a kitten with Scout in the leaves Greg was trying to rake. And animals usually wander off to be alone when they know they are about to die--but Cliff came and plopped down in the middle of those he loved and drew his last breath. How amazing is that?
I will miss Cliffie. 12 years is the longest I've ever had a pet--he was such a part of our family. And poor Scout is still wondering what happened to her best friend . . .