Sunday, March 20, 2005

Good-Bye Little Friend

Yesterday I lost a true friend. She was tiny, she was furry, and she was feisty. She was ten years old but looked like a kitten and still acted like one until about a month ago.

When Ebony started turning down eggs at breakfast and chicken at dinner time, we were certain that she wasn't feeling well.

Ebony was a high-energy constantly-eating small black cat; when she almost suddenly got quiet and lost her appetite we got concerned. After a couple trips to the vet, the X-rays and bloodwork indicated that her time was limited. Despite the vets' counsel, we had no idea she would go so fast. I guess cancer in animals is more insidious even than in humans. She was a fighter - right to the end.

I met Ebony almost 5 years ago. For the first 6 months, she was untrusting, jealous, and quite openly hostile whenever I got near her or spent time in her home. She knew I was her rival for the primary affections of the man of the house (now my husband). When Doug and I were first dating, Ebony was openly suspicious. She would growl if I walked or sat near her; she glared at me whenever we happened to come face to face. She would not let me touch her without growling. And forget about holding this cat - that was something NOBODY could do without a good scratch. But then she learned that I was different - I love cats, even cranky cats - and I was having severe cat-withdrawal at the time, so her aloofness just made me more determined to win her respect and affection.

By the time Doug and I were married in 2002, Ebony and I had become good friends. I fed her and brushed her and talked to her. I knew where and when she would accept affection (while eating ONLY) and how to talk to her (like a person of course) and call her for supper. I knew she loved to climb trees, and called her "Ripper" because she loved to sharpen her claws on my oriental carpet every morning. Ebony was in reality a tiny black cat, but she was a big dog in spirit and behavior. She would follow me around the yard and sit patiently watching over me as I worked in the gardens. When we shoveled snow or raked the leaves, Ebony would sit quietly nearby or climb upon a high perch, just to keep a watchful eye on her family. She loved to perch above the ground, and would climb ladders, trees, staging and rock walls to find the right spot from which to survey her domain and take a nap.

Whenever our cars drove into the yard, she would come running to greet us and walk us up to the back door. When I went to the mailbox, she would follow me up the lane and back to the house, "talking" to me all the way. (I'm convinced she had some Siamese in her background from the way she vocalized and from her facial features. She also had the temperment of a high-strung purebred - and the intelligence.)

Ebony had 1 litter of 5 kittens, then was spayed. Two of Ebony's youngsters still live with us: a son, Sparky, and a daughter, Misty. The two offspring were very aware Ebony was ill this past week. Misty kept bringing tiny leather mouse toys and leaving them near Ebony's bed at night. If Ebony moved to another spot, so moved the mouse. Sparky was taken aback by the change; he was confused that his hunting and guardian teacher was suddenly sleeping and unresponsive to his attempts to play. She smelled different to him ... not that we could notice, but he noticed a change in her scent, and kept investigating her bed when she was away from it, trying to confirm it was still her although the scent was different. He knew; Misty knew; and they were respectful to her to the end.

Ebony died at 3:30pm March 19. She was buried March 21 under the magnolia tree in our yard - a tree whose trunk she loved to race up and down. She lies next to Smokey, the female queen cat who lived here before her. We will miss her terribly and we will never forget her. She's waiting for us and playing in the sunshine at the other side of the Rainbow Bridge with Smokey, Snuffy, Pita, Beauregard and Pretty, keeping our family members company.

RIP Ripper. More about Ebony, the Little Black Cat.

National Pet Memorial Day

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