My wife Kay and I have been blessed over the years and there have been two, now 4, special reasons why...
My best friend growing up in Jacksonville, FL, was named Larry Smith. Simple, unassuming name, but a wonderful person to know. Long after we'd both grown up, he'd moved to Washington, D.C. to run the photo shop at the U.S. Capitol and I'd moved to San Antonio, TX and retired from the Air Force and was doing a variety of things. He called one day and asked me if I'd be interested in taking on a pet, a small unnamed pure-bred grey cat that was about 6 mos. old. Frankly with my single lifestyle, I really wasn't interested, but reluctantly agreed with the caveat that he take the animal back if I couldn't tolerate it. He agreed, but he knew...he knew. That gift, in the Korat tradition I learned about later, became the single most special thing I've ever come to own(written in the pejorative sense), or the most special thing that has ever come to own me. She arrived that fall by air carrier and I was fully unprepared for the life to come from this little creature. Born on 6 May 1979, litter no. 207700, to a cat with a name I couldn't pronounce, I knew little to nothing about cats and their care. The learning curve was quick.
Of course, the cat came to play
but wasn't too enamored with the plane ride. She was upset, testy & a
little noisy. I've since learned the horror stories of pets on airplanes. I
called Larry to let him know she'd arrived, & settled in for the ride
myself. She took over the house & I soon discovered what estrus & torn
furniture was, scratching posts, cat food, litter & the lot. It was
frustrating early on with they meowing as she came into heat or took a car
ride. I'm ashamed to say but will for the record, I once took a trip home to
Florida to visit folks and Larry & actually put this cat in the trunk for
20 miles to shut her up. Oh, it was painful at times. But she was cute. By this
time, living & working at Lackland AFB where they have military students
from around the world at the Defense Language Institute, I got her a name.
She'd gotten to where she didn't meow much unless she was caterwauling, but she
uttered intermittent squeaks at me for one thing or another. So, I chose what I
thought was a rather unique name, Squeak, which I found translated in Thai to
Song-Seang. That was proper for a pure bred, but she was & always be
Squeak(y) to me. Then over the years, she was also known as: furball, noisy,
vulture, rat, & more. Nothing fit & everything fit. At one point to be
explained later, she was also known as "savior."
She flourished, grew, played
and flew. When she was about a year & a half old, we went on a trip to CA
& I left her at a cattery in Monterey to have her mated & she flew back
home about 2 weeks later. I had a vet that apparently didn't know purebreds
very well, something I didn't know he didn't know, & when she had her only
litter of 6 several weeks prematurely, she lost all but 2 right away. She had
the 2 long enough to move them around & pathetically search the house
constantly for several weeks after they'd died. Turned out the vets
prescriptions for her while pregnant, weren't good medicines for her condition
at all. I was pissed & the vet finally paid me the value of 2 kittens which
for her breed were supposedly worth about $200. each at the time. It wasn't a
good experience. I got a new vet. And by this time, I'd met Kay who'd moved in
with us. I love Kay, & she gave up her weiner dog for me. She never looked
back either, except for the occasional want for a sheltie. I lived in a
townhouse then, so a dog wasn't doable. Squeak got fixed after our "experience"
and we went to the Grand Canyon, Arches National Park & elsewhere, camping
together when the Rangers didn't deny us the wilderness with a small animal,
& eventually realizing Squeak needed a playmate. Almost a yr. & a half
after getting her, we went to Austin, TX for a cat show & bought a small
"Red? Abyssinian" from a nearby breeder. While they didn't take to each other
immediately, it was good chemistry for all of us. And the colors: Linus' orange
coloration and Squeak's grey with silver tipping, they were a bit photogenic.
Well, I'd hoped to keep one of the kittens Squeak had lost for a playmate for
her & probably sell the others, but the Aby that came to be Linus, or
Lioness from the Egyptian "Labwah," was a blessing much like Squeak had already
become. They flew together through the small townhome. The high strung &
the somewhat mellower, complimenting the lives of their two adults companions.
For the next 18 yrs., all went quite well except for the one cat show in
Houston that we took Squeak too. Seeing her in that cage that day wasn't to our
liking. She won Best of Breed that day, but in all fairness, she was the only
Korat there. We got a blue ribbon, but we've seldom looked at it. Maybe some
cats are meant for the ring, or maybe it's just their owners, but it wasn't for
us & we never showed her again, or Linus ever. It is fun to go & see
all the animals that get brought to the shows though, but it's a mindset that
we can't get in to.
|Just couldn't do this again. - Linus at 6 mos. in San Antonio.|
In 1983, we moved from the townhome
to a regular house in San Antonio, & the exploring began. We had a patio at
the townhome and a bigger one at the house & eventually built a Japanese
type tranquility garden that looked like a big sandbox, next to the patio. We
let the girls out on the patio & easily were able to teach them not to go
off the patio, no matter how bad their bird hunting urges were. For the most
part, they NEVER left the patios, but, we never let our eyes leave them very
long. San Antonio has snakes, dogs, other cats roaming, & we were
determined to protect our wild ones. A decision that has paid off handsomely.
When most cats only live to about 3 due to cars, disease, predators, both of
ours lived a little longer.
However, not long after moving into this new house, I was talking with my wife & holding Squeak in the hallway. Something spooked Squeak & she decided she wanted to get down, right now. In the process, she scratched my bare arm enroute. I didn't think anything of it until a day later when I developed a huge hematoma on my left bicep. We went to the doctor the next day & a day later I was in a coma. Due to chemicals in the new home & probably a reaction to the chemicals in the Chemlawn application of the new house, I'd developed a rare blood disorder called Thrombotic Thrombocytopenic Purpura(TTP) & my blood platelets had gone from the normal 225,000 to about 3,000. I subsequently had two bouts of this disease, was in coma once for a total of almost 2 wks., & had to undergo several mos. of extremely difficult treatments called plasma pheresis. Had I not been scratched when I was by that damned little cat, I wouldn't have gotten to the doctor in time or survived. Savior.
Eventually I recovered & our
merry band thrived. More trips, with & without the cats. The first time
without them was a trip to Europe for 6 wks. in 1986. Ron, a good friend in San
Antonio, blindly volunteered to keep them while we were away. The only incident
involved his removing a sink to replace it while we were away & the noise
Linus made when she jumped up on the counter & into the hole where the sink
had been moments earlier. She landed on the pots & pans below & we
heard the expression she had if you'll pardon the description, was rather
It was a good place, but eventually the heat, humidity, allergies, traffic, etc. ad nauseam, of San Antonio, would wear thin. While Kay had family there, I had no attachments other than a lot of really good friends. We got married in 1984& had gone vacationing a lot of places, especially a favorite was Wyoming, and Jackson. In 1990 I asked Kay one day if she thought she'd like to move away from SA. She asked, "Where?", I said, "Jackson Hole," & she said "OK." Of course, I came to Jackson for a week one winter when the temps were about -45, to see if I could tolerate the weather, & I could. Again, we haven't looked back. We bought, we built, & we moved here in 1991. Of course, the furballs had to explore. Even though the house wasn't entirely finished, we moved out of the motel & into the house in Sept. Out here, it was already starting to get cold. The garage was packed with unpacked belongings, but we had a bed & the girls. But about dark one evening, we couldn't find Squeak. She talks when she wants to, but she wouldn't answer our calls & could not be found. We have coyotes here, ticks, dogs, cars too although our area is rural, and ravens the size of condors. We got worried. With 5 acres of sagebrush in the yard, this could get tricky, but we couldn't figure how she could have gotten out. We searched & searched with no luck & now it was dark. Kay rushed into town to get flashlights & luckily found one store open. That took about 40 min. round trip & I was out scouring the sagebrush. Just before she got back, I heard a whimper in the bedroom. Monster under the cutout at the bottom of the dresser drawers, hiding from all the new stuff in this new world we'd thrust her in to. Pretty pathetic, but at least we avoided any heart attacks for the time.
As we've lived here since, we've taken trips & always found someone to come to our home to take care of our girls. It helps to have friends that love cats as well. They never expect payment, but we always find some appropriate gift(s) to bring back to them. But, two weeks at a throw, can sometimes psychologically displace even stable loving animals. We don't know what the cause was, but Linus eventually developed what's called "Aby chin." It's a rather disgusting black crusty outgrowth that scrapes away to raw skin underneath. Believe me, we tried everything from changing plastic to ceramic food bowls to antibiotics etc., almost a thousand $ over the years, to cure something that wouldn't be cured. It wasn't 'til we went on a CA vacation trip in the fall of 1997, that we got home & Squeak, who hadn't been a squeaker any more since the early 90s, developed a loud guttural meow that became very irritating. Eventually at night, we had to seclude her in my wife's office, with food & litterbox of course, or we'd never get any sleep. Hell, I'm allergic to my cats and couldn't let them in the room at night anyway. It was difficult to confine her, but necessary. And, in the fall of 97 after we got back from the trip, I had a heart attack which required a triple bypass, literally overnight, in Idaho Falls, ID. Instead of the usual 1 to 1.5 wks. recovery for most people, I was in the ICU for almost 4 & then to rehab for another 2 before I could go home. Kay, moved out of Jackson to a motel in IF & got friends to juggle getting by to feed the girls. By the time I did get home at Thanksgiving, Squeak had learned that guttural meow quite well. We soon found out she'd also developed cancer. It took me about 6 mos. to recover & I remember how sad it felt to have lost about 45 lbs. since the surgery & I couldn't even pick her up when I got home. How bad is that?
Well, Squeak had surgery too, to remove two lumps from her belly & we hoped that would do it, but it didn't. She has several lumps now, one very scablike & the other two just lumps, but she gets around fine & it's been 3 years since her diagnosis & surgery. What we thought would really make things bad was her playmate Linus not being around anymore. Linus died in early 1998 at the age of 18, pretty good for an Aby. She's in the backyard on a berm with the Tetons in the distance & she's sorely missed.
But, Squeak seemed to handle it much better than expected. We decided right away that we wouldn't get another cat until Squeak passed & that we'd just have to love her all the more. She requires a little more attention, but that causes no complaints. She used to jump up my leg & I'd grab her & cart her off to Kay's room, but now she doesn't move so quick anymore & requires that ride without the jump. She snuggles more, still jumps now & then, but not much. Her eyes are as clear & green as ever, big & luminous & everyone comments about them, but she stares to the distance a lot more now, and her hearing seems to be gone except for recognizing the sound one makes when you purse your lips together with your teeth & make a squeaking noise, for her. And her coat, it's turned rather brown on her lower sides. I thought that a bit strange, but then how many people have a 21 yr. old Korat to observe? Teeth are good, no other diseases, still reasonably alert, but down from a height of 9 lbs. to about 5. Thin, a little bony, but eating well. Linus went because of her kidneys which seems to be the thing in older cats. Squeak seems OK for now in that area. I hope she lasts forever. I was 33 when I got her, 52 now. I had cancer twice in my 20s & never thought with all my medical problems that I'd live anywhere near this long, much less outlive Squeak. The way she keeps going, I still might not & that's OK too. What would I do without my wife, or without Squeak? We both miss Linus a lot, even though she was more my wife's cat. Squeak came to me, before I knew Kay, & what I'll do if she dies before me I just don't know. There will be, not unlike it would be for those who understand as they read this, an enormous sadness for someone or something that has spent so much of your life with you. The beauty this animal possesses in physical appearance & in her soul, is beyond measure.
Linus never talked, Squeak always
has. She seemed to answer questions a lot. She seemed to understand. She has a
nice vocabulary of understanding, or did until she lost her hearing. "No, get
down, jump, come here, stop, hush," her name of course & more. Linus'
understanding of words amounted to "screw you, I'm a cat & I don't listen
to humans." And that was just fine with us. She looked like a lion in the wild
& believed she was. As purely beautiful as a cat could be. Stare into their
eyes, they know. But, Squeak is our family now & we're just fine with that.
This Korat, is as good as it gets. She has a little hip problem & walks a
little shaky, but that's old age. What does it say about her owners if the cat
lives to 21 & beyond? I have my opinion on that, & it says we love her
very very much. We took care of her, protected her, kept her healthy, fed her
well but not too well, kept her basically a house cat. No respect for the
person who lets their animals out in the street or outside to be taken by
coyotes or dogs or cars. They're domestic animals & need our care, &
we've always had a decent house for them to run in. If that's captivity to
them, I don't think they mind. Neither of them ever wandered off. Once when
Squeak really did wander off in the yard & we lost sight of her, we
frantically searched for about 10 minutes with no luck, but she showed up at
the garage door, waiting for us. Waiting. I don't put human emotions on
animals, wild or domestic, but somehow I think they know if we care. They don't
really express love. Licking my hand only means she likes how my skin tastes,
purring is something they really do all the time, sometimes barely audible, but
they're comfortable, not just content. They never ran to me for protection if
they thought they were in danger, like when another cat comes on the patio
& they got those fuzz tails. I never cared about that, but we care for them
as if they were our children. And that's not to say we value them over real
children, although sometimes...who knows. They're simple & complex &
pretty much everything everyone says cats are. But these two, were our cats.
And that they passed our way, that I had a friend like Larry, that we touched
each other's lives, is all that really matters. We loved Linus & we love
Squeaky, & I'm proud to say so. She was 21 yesterday, I can only hope for
8.8.00 Alas so they say, it was not to be. Kay was vacationing in Texas and Squeak started to hemorrhage from her tumor last Sat. night. I couldn't stop the bleeding & hurriedly got her to the vet's office. Katherine Luderer, and Dan & M.J. Forman at the Spring Creek Animal Hospital here in Jackson. They gave me the usual and expected caveats about age, kidney readings, etc., not to discourage me from a surgery, but to advise the downside, but her tumor was getting to massive & onerous & now with the bleeding, something needed to be done. Squeak & I spent some very personal time together in the office as the bleeding had stopped. After they increased her fluids and gave her a transfusion, they did surgery Mon. morning. She survived but was very weak when I last saw her early Mon. PM, but as she'd survived the surgery, the hope was good that she'd recover. Later, Kay returned from San Antonio & we went into town for dinner & to see her. Big gas leak near the Square, so a normal 15 minute drive to town turned into an hour & a half to town & a turning around to come back home. About an hour later, we got a call that the end had come. 21 yrs., 3 mos. & 1 day. I never really thought that I'd keep her more than a few weeks after Larry gave her to me, but she graced my life longer than most humans get to know anyone else or any other pet.
We buried her next to Linus a couple of hours ago, on the berm in the back yard, surrounded by all the wildflowers. Kay loved her so much, but I can't quantify how much I felt for this small little animal. How much pleasure, fun, joy and more she's given us. I just wish to you with your pet or whomever you cherish, that you know that kind of special love that comes from such a relationship. I sat at Kay's desk & she'd rub against my face; the times I remember she meowed at me & I didn't pick her up; all we did to protect her & keep her healthy; how I came home from heart surgery & all I wanted to do was see her & hold her, yet I couldn't even lift her; her leaps & boundless energy; how she instantly took to loving Linus; that Kay gave up her dachshund for me and a cat; the way she loved to roll around on concrete; how she wouldn't lie down beside me in bed, but had to always sit upright or turn around 180 degrees at least a dozen times before she'd settle in between my side & my arm to sleep with her chin on my forearm; how I couldn't get to sleep with her there most of the time & would lie there awake for hours trying to be still until she woke & got up; how if Kay was around while watching TV at night, she'd always sit on her because I would fidget so much; how she used to jump up on my leg before we went to bed so I could carry her to Kay's room for the night; how, how we'll miss her so much.....both of them.
Goodnight Squeak, tell Linus we miss her too.
Walt & Kay Farmer
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