My sweet boy, it’s been just over two months since you died. I still call for you, did you know that? Can you hear me? I keep forgetting you’re not here. I keep forgetting you’re deep in the earth surrounded by trees, that your little body will slowly melt away, no trace to be found. No trace that Kanga was here.
Except in my heart and mind. You are forever loved, forever treasured. That day when you turned up on my doorstep, no bigger than a packet of cigarettes? I remember your stubbornness as I turned you away, but you would have none of it. You claimed me. “If you love me, I will love you back”. And I did. And you did.
We’ve gone through so much together, you and I. Moved house a billion times, okay don’t get your whiskers in a twist, that was an exaggeration. About five times. Went hungry together, yes we did that and it sucked. But you always got the meat and me the bone. And what about that time we travelled to Athens on the ferry and the crew fell in love with you? You may not remember, you were just a nipper. Oh yeah, and that stupid dog in Athens that kept nicking your food. What did I do? Well I stuck you in a cupboard with the food, and stood guard till you finished.
They talk about dogs having stories, about being separated from their humans, about finding their way home. Dogs have nothing on you my friend. You are the Story Master.
Remember the time you were stolen for the whole summer? I looked everywhere for you. Those “do-gooders” locked you inside a house and force fed you with “kindness” till you dropped. Remember when you escaped and ran back home? I found you outside, on the mat, wailing like a banshee at the front door. You’d mutated into Garfield’s fatter cousin. For a moment I didn’t recognise you.
Actual conversation. Furry response was an ear popping scream:
Human: “Kanga, is that you?”
Kanga: “Yes you fool, let me innnn!”
Then there was the time we moved and you were just four. On the first evening you went out and probably panicked, perhaps looked for a familiar door, smell or sound but found none. So you trekked eight kilometres to the old house, sat outside and waited – for four weeks. You lived on lizards and drank from dripping taps. You waited for the penny to drop, my penny, waited for me to understand that I must search at night, not by day, because daytime is scary and humans are cruel.
One night the penny did drop. And as I turned the corner into the old familiar road, I heard a cry. A sound I can still hear today.
“The car, the car has come, she came to get me. Where have you been? I was all alone”.
You were sitting in the dark in the middle of the road, waiting for me. I scooped you up, placed you in my arms and drove. We both cried all the way home.
Why did you lose all your teeth? Well, that’s another story my sweet Kanga. A story of you trapped in a basement for twenty three days without food or water. I told it a while ago, remember? Did I search for you? Of course I did, every day. Put up posters and everything. You want me to add the link so everyone can read? Alright, here it is
I remember when you saw snow for the first time. I remember when we got our washing machine and you watched for hours as it whirled. I remember you biting my toes under the covers, torturing me as I slept. I remember the way you used to sleep like a seal, on your tummy with your legs facing backwards. I remember you mumbling and ‘yum’bling as you ate your favourite dinner. I remember your patience each time I added a new member to our family, and the way you put up with a stray until we found it home. You shrugging it off with a good natured “there she goes again”, stoically putting up with my madness. In true Kanga fashion.
Speaking of strays, I guess we’re all strays in this world. Searching for a place to be loved and accepted.
The Final Days.
Kanga collapsed overnight, from one day to the next. On Tuesday he was fine, bouncy, full of life. By Wednesday everything had changed. His legs wouldn’t support his body, his head and torso hung to one side like a puppet on broken strings, his eyes followed me everywhere. It was sudden and shocking. We became one body that week, my arms always full of Kanga. When I put him down for a moment, he’d cry until I held him again. And he’d purr.
He needed feeding with a teaspoon, one morsel at a time. And bathing with warm water and cotton wool because he couldn’t clean himself. His nose, his eyes, his ears, his whiskers, his head, his chest, his legs. And he’d purr. Because he couldn’t stand, I held his bottom up so he could go to the loo. And wiped him down when he finished. As time went on even that was hard for him.
As I held him all day long we would talk. And he’d listen. I told tales of when he was young and he’d listen. Of our life together. And he’d purr. I put a special sheet on the bed because of body fluids he had no control over. We slept together each night under the covers. And he’d purr. He gave himself up to me with absolute trust.
That final week was so hard and he was so brave. If you could best describe me, then “Cry me a river” is apt. Taking him to the vet and putting him to sleep was on the table. I’ve done this before, had to do it before. But I couldn’t with Kanga. He wasn’t sick, there were no broken bones, no deadly disease, he was just old. And he deserved to die with dignity, cherished and loved at home.
Late Saturday afternoon I took him outside for one last sunset, one last cool breeze. He stared over the horizon, then closed his eyes, sniffed the air, and leaned his head on my chest. By Sunday evening I prayed he would die in the night. But if he survived ’till morn I had no choice and would do that which I was dreading.
And so, after his sponge bath, I wrapped him up and lay him beside me on the sofa. Towards midnight he moved and gulped. I knew it was time. I know I was watching a film on TV but can’t for the life of me remember what it was. But I remember what I said as I held him in my arms.
“It’s alright my boy. I’m here. You aren’t alone. If you need to go, then go. I’ll be here till the end. I’m with you. I love you Kanga”.
I have read that perhaps once in your life you experience a special bonding with a particular animal. Some people describe it as your soul mate of the animal kingdom. I don’t know if this is true, but if it is, then Kanga is the one. Not just a cat to love, but something deeper, intuitive, special. I would say to friends “If I went to the North Pole, I would take Kanga with me. He and I are bound. I adore the others, but with Kanga it’s different, profound. Where I go, he goes too. And that’s that”.
Kanga – Born: First week of May 2002 – Died: 03 March 2017