While at stretch class this morning, the conversation turned to the importance of breathing, the ability to shut out everything else and focus. One attendee remarked that a former yoga instructor recommended coming up with a word to concentrate on and repeat in order to put oneself into a relaxed, focused and positive frame of mind. In spite of an agonizing and painful job I had to do directly after class, I decided my word for the day would be grateful.
Early in the day, John and I decided to put our cat to sleep. In her 19th year, she was still sweet, cheerful, purring and patient with Harvey, but she was terribly thin and while appetite stimulants and B-12 shots and electrolytes had helped to keep her going for these last two weeks, she had finally stopped eating. And so we knew, that was that, the final telltale sign that her time was up. Rather than have her experience the confusion of decline, we decided to send her on her way while she was still a happy, comfortable and loving cat.
So why did I choose to be “grateful” and openly embrace the pain and heartbreak that was headed our way?
She was a sweetheart of a cat and for 16 of her eighteen and a half years, she was ours here at Thirsty Boots Farm. Like animals do, she touched and made better the lives of the humans around her.
Jay Blue was my mother’s cat, a Blue Point Himalayan born in November of 1997. She was purchased in New York City and for her two years lived in a high-rise apartment as my mother’s companion and bedmate. We never understood how she got her name. Perhaps it was because of her lovely blue eyes and the fact my mother never liked to do anything the way it was supposed to be done…Blue Jay became Jay Blue? Who knows?
My three children and their cousin Marina loved to play with the adorable little kitten when visiting Grandmother and Marina said Jay Blue was the only cat she ever knew who would play fetch.
Jay Blue and my mother moved here to Thirsty Boots Farm in 2000 and so Jay’s country education began. It was slow and cautious and yet not without curiosity. Upon arrival, when carrying her into the house from the car, she heard birds singing for the first time and instinctively her head perked up, swiveled here and there as if to say, “What is that? I’m supposed to know that. What do I do about it?”
As she became acclimated to her new surroundings (inside), she ventured to staring out the storm door. No more grey buildings and sky to look at but green grass, trees, birds, dogs, and people walking about. Wanting to satisfy her curiosity, we opened the door. “Want to go out, Jay Blue?” “No, thank you. I am perfectly fine where I am on this side of the door.”
And so we took to leaving the door ajar five inches. After one week, she lay with her body was half way out the door.
“Want to come out Jay Blue?”
“No, thank you. I am perfectly fine where I am,” and sometimes she would even turn and retreat unhurriedly into the house, feigning complete disinterest. Another week or two with the open-door policy, and she was out on the deck, sitting, mind you, six to eight inches in front of the door (it’s always good to plan an escape route in case of danger).
And so her cautious education continued until Jay Blue became an indoor/outdoor cat. And she had lots to learn. Her owner and bed mate left here. There were animals to put up with. The dogs – she tolerated them all. The horses – no interest – too large and smelly.
The barn cat who tried to make friends – Jay Blue became territorial and would have none of it. “You live there and I live here and never the twain shall meet.“ The birds on the feeder – Watching from inside, Jay’s lower jaw would chatter and her butt would wiggle. Watching from outside, she would situate herself directly under the bird feeder for a good view and then after a time wander away wondering, I’m sure, why there were no birds. Birds on the lawn - all safe. Jay wasn’t very fast and she wouldn’t have known what to do with one if she caught it so why not just leave them alone. The mouse that got into the house – she watched and supervised from my bed while I chased it around the room and finally caught it in a plastic deli container.
Then there were the chipmunks. That was another story. Jay Blue always seemed surprised and startled by a scampering chipmunk. “Did you see that? What was it? Should I do something?”
Jay Blue, the Mighty Hunter, had two ways of dealing with chipmunks: 1. Sit beside their hole and stare at it for hours on end. (It worked. They didn’t come out… at least at that "door") and 2. When she saw a chipmunk scamper into the pachysandra, she would focus on the spot where it disappeared and after a five second pause, pounce. And oh, what a pounce! It would be at least a foot off the ground and the arc in her flight would rival a high jumper in the Olympics. Both the chipmunk (who had by this time run partially up a tree) and I would laugh when she came up out of the undergrowth with a puzzled expression and empty handed.
Yes, Jay Blue was happy here at Thirsty Boots and we will miss her. We are grateful for all the laughs she gave us, for her regal and calm demeanor, for her warm understanding blue eyes, for her friendliness toward all visitors.
We will miss her playing with tin foil balls, going crazy over the cat brush, gracefully lying in pools of sunshine, sitting in John’s lap with her motor going while he watched the evening news, sitting on guests’ laps without invitation, playing hide-and-go-seek in the cupboards – Thomas and James delighted in looking for her. Is she in the laundry cupboard, the upstairs or downstairs bathroom, or my cupboard where I keep my handbags and weekend bags? How many times did I find myself in airports horrified to find myself covered in cat hair.
We will miss Jay Blue’s routines - lying at the foot of my bed and keeping my feet warm, then coming up to snuggle under the covers (I with one arm around her and the other holding my book), then deciding we were both warm enough and retreating to the foot of the bed until the middle of the night when she would curl up behind my knees.
Jay Blue has now joined her Thirsty Boots friends who went before her and quietly rest beneath the paddock garden waiting for the spring sunshine and flowers – dogs Miles, Lady, Lucky, Toot, and Puddle and our cats Cotton and Tippy. She became a true Thirsty Boots Farm cat and will remain so forever.
She went to sleep in John’s arms today. He was always her favorite after Grandmother. It was peaceful. The vet said, “This is the part that sucks about loving animals.” Yes, we are grieving but so grateful for all that this wonderful and beautiful animal has given us in our lives. The memories and the gratitude got us through today. And will continue to do so.