Most likely, by the time you read this, one of my dearest family members has either died of natural causes or been euthanized.
Roxanne, my all-time favorite cat, seems fated to use up her ninth life just days short of her 18th birthday, the victim of kidney disease and inoperable hyperthyroidism.
She preferred one-on-one attention, so she probably wouldn’t have gotten much out of knowing her obituary would be distributed nationwide. But she might’ve liked imagining the print edition being used to wrap fish.
Roxanne is the last of a long family line of cats. In 1995, the neighbor’s Amazonian half-feral female got impregnated by our tomcat Wee Angus (son of Pretty and grandson of Jasmine) and decided to move in with us. We named her Momma Kittie after she gave us five beautiful white-pawed kittens, including Roxanne.
Momma and Angus are long gone. Pocahontas died of tick-borne Cytauxzoonosis 17 years ago. The boys —Niles, Jasper and Brisco — wandered off one by one. But Roxanne hung around to be my confidante when I lost my job, when I lost my father and during eight long years of infertility problems.
True, the ill-fated “Pokey” was my original pick of the litter, but I grew to appreciate tuxedo kittie Roxanne more as the years went by. She was the bottom of the pecking order and I like underdogs. For the last 15 years of her life, she carried on gamely with a metal rod in one leg because of a major fracture. She couldn’t hide her robust purring. She played “devil kittie,” baring her fangs when I riled her up. She had a forgiving nature, even when she startled our dog at his food dish and he tried shaking her to death. Her quest for solitude made us kindred spirits.
The grave is dug and I’ve had my obligatory weepy moments, singing “Where We’ll Never Grow Old” in church and hearing Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” on the radio.
Some readers will empathize and sigh, “We sure do get attached to them, don’t we?” Others will take umbrage at my sentimentality. I am not comparing my own end-of-life dilemma to those who wrestle with “pulling the plug” on a parent, spouse or child. But to dismiss Roxanne as “just a cat” is to follow in the footsteps of those who’ve dismissed someone as “just a woman,” “just a Negro” or “just poor white trash.” Granting her dignity, respect and love does not diminish me in the least.
With the species and circumstances that Life assigned her, Roxanne did an outstanding job. She always made me feel needed, appreciated and special. Even by four-legged companion standards, she asked for so little.
I can take comfort in the fact that I “gave her a good life.” I hope I can do the same for the three remaining cats – and the humans I encounter.
Yes, we should all ask ourselves, “Am I giving anyone a good life — or even a good five minutes?” If you squander your family’s money on addictions, steal a handicapped parking space or casually keep rumors circulating, the honest answer must be “No.”
Don’t be “just a human.” Strive to earn the distinction of being someone’s all-time favorite human.
Danny Tyree welcomes reader e-mail responses at [email protected] and visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”