Friday, November 21, 2003

Sad news about Tiger

It is with a very heavy heart that I inform you that our wonderful cat Tiger, whom I've had in my life for 12 years, passed away earlier today. She had been ill for quite some time, and just recently had degenerated quickly. Even though it caused us great pain, we couldn't bear to see her suffer. She died peacefully in the vet's office, with Scott holding her and me nearby.

Tiger came into our family quite by chance. We had another cat at the time, Max, who had run away. Vicky picked out Tiger from the SPCA because she was the friendliest one there. That very night, Max came back. So we had two female cats.

Right from the beginning, we knew Tiger was both cunning and mischevious. She would hide behind a plant or the stairs, and jump out at Max when she walked by. She never failed to tell us when she wanted attention or out. She was very opinionated and territorial.

At my parents' house in Richmond Hill [Canada], there were some large, lush walnut trees. Tiger was able to very effectively keep the squirrel population at bay. When Scott and I got married and moved to our new house, my mom complained that all the squirrels were cracking the walnuts on the interlocking brick and staining it. She wanted to hire Tiger back as a security guard !

She could have been a surveyor in another life with the way she knew our property lines. Any time a foreign animal stepped on our property, Tiger would take off like a rocket after it. She would chase the tresspasser away, and would always stop right at the property lines. That was HER territory. No cat, dog, squirrel, chipmunk or raccoon dared cross her. One of our friends was hissed at for merely putting his foot on HER footstool. How dare he invade her space like that. He wisely found somewhere else to put his foot after that.

One time at our new house on Gray Cres., she demonstrated her well-developed fighting and territory-guarding abilities. There were three cats fighting across the street. Scott let Tiger out, and she took off full-force to join in. Within seconds, two of the fighting cats were hurtling down the street in the opposite direction.

Tiger 1, other cats 0.

Nobody dared cross her !

The neighbors initially were cold towards Tiger because they hated cats doing business in their yard. But once they realized that Tiger was chasing all the riffraff cats away, they loved her. Their lawn had never been so clean and pristine as when Tiger was on guard.

She always liked heights. One of her favorite hanging spots was the huge loft in the garage. Twice, we found her stuck on the ROOF of the house, I'm guessing because she was chasing squirrels. Both times, one of the male members of our family/friend group had to go up there and bring her down. She always had to be the dominant one. Which was just fine with us.

She had two cute little quirks that we absolutely loved. One was her half-meow. It was more like a "Prrt !" She would do this whenever she was frisky and wanted out or to play, or she was woken up by someone petting her. When she was in a particularly sucky-baby mood, she would turn around and flop full-force on the floor with a big huge PLUNK ! Hence, the nickname Plunkie. Any time she wanted some attention, PLUNK she would go - and she'd just be so cute that nobody could resist petting her.

Of all the toys we bought her, her favorite one was a piece of speaker wire. She'd go absolutely nuts for this thing. At our house on Gray Cres., I would run around and around with the wire behind me. She would hide behind furniture, then jump out at the wire when I passed. She had only a minor interest in all the other toys we got her. The wire was her favorite.

Tiger was the smartest cat I have ever interacted with. When she was lost for 2 weeks straight, she was able to sustain herself and find her way back. She knew the sound of the engine of my car, and was always there to greet me when I pulled into the driveway. She knew her own name, and responded to several sentences, including "Do you want a treat ?", "Do you want to play ?" and "Come here !"

Sometimes she was TOO smart for her own good. She knew darned well she wasn't supposed to sit on our pseudo-leather black couches. We trained her very consistently to stay away from them. However, she knew that if she slept on them when we were out, and was off by the time we got home, she could get away with it. The telltale fur on the couches gave her away. Once I was walking down the stairs and I heard a THUNK - it was Tiger, hiding the evidence by jumping off the couch as I walked down the stairs. The little brat.

When we first relocated to California, I was alone for two weeks while Scott took care of business in Toronto. I was lonely and afraid, and Tiger was there to keep me company and keep me sane.

She loved California and our new house. As with me, she liked spring/summer weather best. During the warmer months, she would spend most of her time outside. During winter, she usually spent the cool evenings inside, and the warmer days outside. We'd always see her basking in the sun, sleeping under the barbecue, or guarding the house. She had a very good life.

Since my commute is very long, I'd always get home late. Invariably, when I opened the door, Tiger was there waiting to greet me. So of course, I'd say hi to her and pet her first. Then I'd say hi to Scott. Well, Scott got his nose all out of joint that I was saying hi to the cat first. I told him that she was the one I saw first, and therefore, she gets greeted first. After that, it was always a race to the door - husband vs. cat - to be the one greeted first. If it was a tie, I'd greet Scott first. I guess he deserved that.

Two years ago, in 2001, we noticed that Tiger had started limping. It was subtle at first, but it quickly degenerated into an inability to walk more than 3 steps without stumbling. At 11 years old, she still had a lot of spunk in her, and we weren't about to admit defeat. I took her to a neurosurgeon, who performed spinal cord surgery. We cared not for the expense, and it turned out to be the best thing we ever did for her.

In the months after her surgery, her condition improved dramatically. She was able to walk and run around as if nothing had happened. She was friskier and more playful than she had been in years. She was so happy that she had recovered, and made the best of her new life. She still walked with a slight limp, but it was barely noticeable. Those two years were great years of her life. Even with her limp, she was able to continue to scale the 6-foot-high fence in our backyard and move freely between the back and front yards. Nothing was going to cage her in - not even a fence three times her height.

In the past year, she learned that if she banged on the vertical blinds, we would let her out. She also learned that if she scratched at the sliding glass door, we would let her in. Her desires were never ambiguous. We always knew what she wanted, and by golly, she was going to get it. We didn't dare ignore her needs - she was the boss and we knew it. Like most pet-lovers, we were fine with that.

She had a very fulfilling and happy life until about three weeks ago when her neurological problems returned. This time, it was different - she was no longer able to fully control her bowels or bladder, and was having balance issues. We knew that prolonging her life would only result in more suffering. I don't know that we would ever be ready to let her go, but keeping her alive in such discomfort would have been nothing short of selfish on our part. As difficult and painful as it was, we let her go peacefully. She knew we loved her with all our hearts. She brought us so many laughs, so much entertainment, and a loyal friendship for 12 long years. Yes, we will hurt for a while. We loved her very much and will miss her terribly. We comfort ourselves in remembering those wonderful years with her.

We will be getting another cat, but when, I don't know. It will be a while. We can only hope that our next pet will be as smart, loving, loyal, affectionate and entertaining as our Tiger.

The famous wire. :)


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