Wednesday, September 3, 2014

There Will Never Be Another... (edited for clarity)

(Reclaimed from Bubblews.)

Topic credit: BeyondRoses wrote . After all these years, reading about this other family's loss still brings a sympathetic tear.

I remember the year my once-in-a-lifetime cat, Black Magic, died. Even while she was alive, the fact that my Best Pal and Working Partner couldn't have kittens made me observe regretfully that there'd never be another cat like her. She adopted kittens, and left heirs. None of whom could take her place. They were hardly even pets. "Little Cheaper-than-Mousetraps" was how I described them, remembering a children's story. My mother was the one who reminded me that cats are better than mousetraps--more humane, unless you have time to sit around watching your mousetraps and personally killing every mouse who may otherwise struggle in the trap for days.

True confession: I may have emotions of "caring" for all animals, including dogs, and cute little mice, and don't-let-it-get-close-to-me little spiders, as well as cats...but I don't really like all cats; nor do all cats like me. Minnie, the Second Queen of the Cat Sanctuary, and I never really liked each other. One of the things I liked about Graybelle, the Third Queen, was that she was someone else's pet, not mine, and only seemed to put up with me because Her Human had told her to. However, Black Magic, the Founding Queen, had been an adopter of kittens and other animals, and my memorial to her has been to continue adopting kittens and other animals.

Around the time Magic would have to have died of old age if she hadn't died earlier, some "humane rescuers of alley cats" sent me a bold and friendly kitten they had found in an alley in Kingsport. Though he never forgot that he'd been born feral and could live without humans, this young mackerel-tabby had started training a child to offer him food, which he dutifully took home and shared with his family in the inevitably he and I bonded. Most of his family were captured and brought to the Cat Sanctuary later. They feared and loathed humans, as feral cats typically do. Mackerel coaxed them to stay at the Cat Sanctuary, accept food, play with him and me in the yard, and eventually let themselves be held and stroked and taken to the vet. In my mind a little of the glow faded from my sense of Magic as an utterly unique animal. There was another cat on Earth who could be a friend and working partner to a human, after all. I didn't mind.

Mackerel's sister Polly became our Fourth Queen; her daughters Mogwai and Bisquit became the Fifth and Sixth Queens, and the Cat Sanctuary is now in the third year of the reign of Heather, the Seventh Queen. I bonded with Mogwai; although she was as reckless and as much a "crazy clown cat" as Magic had been sensible, there was a day when Mogwai's intelligent cooperative efforts prompted me to call her "Magic" by mistake. I missed Mogwai, too, even though I couldn't keep her.

Between Heather, Irene, and Ivy there is a clear division of labor, though not a clear hierarchy--whichever one most wants her own way can assert herself, and the others will respect her claims. However, Heather is the biggest and strongest sister, the best hunter, the one who brings in food treats for the others. All three sisters both "talk" and "listen" to humans, but Ivy (a reasonably competent hunter) is the most efficient communicator, the one who translates messages between cats, humans, and other residents of the Cat Sanctuary. Irene, a poor hunter and generally the least energetic sister, is the "sweet" sister who spends most time with the kittens.

These social cat sisters keep the house mouse-free and raise kittens as a team, and thus all three of them are my Friends and Working Partners. Because they have each other, none of them is as close to me as Magic was. (Living with other social cats has made me realize that, although Magic was too kind and too loyal to complain, she probably was desperately lonely, not knowing any other social cats.) I've never had another pet like Magic. I never will. I'm no longer sure I even want to. But I think Magic would be pleased to have these worthy heirs. I still remember Magic as a unique animal, remember living with her as a unique experience...but I feel less of an ache of loss, knowing that there are other cats who are capable of being real friends to humans, and having been blessed with a family of them.

I think anyone who's lost a pet can relate to Carol Ryrie Brink's fictional character who sneered at even a favorite uncle's kind offer of another pet: "A puppy--any old puppy--to take the place of Nero!" I didn't say anything unkind to the first generation of Magic's heirs because they weren't Listening Pets and I didn't talk to them much...but once, I have to admit, I did upbraid Mogwai's sister Grayzel with the dreaded "You're not Mogwai and you never will be," and she understood those words, too. It is possible to become an unworthy human companion to a good animal because some part of you is still blaming the animal for not being the other animal you still miss. That can be a valid reason for not adopting another pet right away.

I also think anyone who cares about animals enough to have loved a pet that much has a duty to...oh, at least "foster" or "rescue" other animals. Animals, plural, not the same type or even necessarily the same species as the one we miss. At first the idea that we're doing our duty by our lost friend's species, merely "rescuing" other animals, may help us. The animals certainly need human friends. We don't have to talk to them, or love them, or bond with them. Maybe we're only sheltering them, temporarily, and actively looking for someone else to adopt them. We don't have to give them names. "The stray cat" and "the shelter dog" and "that possum" need care, too, whether they ever win our love or not.