As some of you already know, a few weeks ago John and I made the very difficult decision to say good-bye to one of our beloved kitties, Frankie. That decision is never an easy one for anyone to make, but for those of us who are “pet people,” the decision is nothing less than emotionally devastating.
We don’t have children so my kitties are my babies. I love them; I care for them and I nurture them. I try to teach them acceptable behavior. I comfort them when they’re frightened and I cuddle them when they’re cold. They bring so much joy in to my life, so much laughter. Next to my family, they are the beings I love most in this world.
Friday afternoon, I went to the vet’s office to pick up Frankie’s ashes. They’ve been ready for a few days, but I just didn’t have it in me to go pick them up. Don’t get me wrong — I knew the vet staff would be wonderful. They allowed us all the time we needed to spend with our beloved Frankie before we said good-bye, and all the time we needed afterward. They were kind and genuinely compassionate toward us. You could tell they were animal lovers too, and they were personally pained by what happened that afternoon. Even with their support, I just wasn’t ready for it to be final.
Frankie (named after Old Blue Eyes, himself — Frank Sinatra) came into our lives several years ago. When we first met him, he belonged to our next door neighbors. He used to sit in the living room window with another cat, Zale, and watch John and I go by. We’d talk to the cats as we walked to our apartment. Little did we know that both cats — and a bird — would eventually live with us!
Our neighbors got evicted. They didn’t have any where to go, so they asked us to take care of their animals until they could get settled somewhere. We brought all three into our home, committed to taking care of them until their people could return for them. For several weeks, they — the ex-neighbors — left food and litter on our doorsteps. That dwindled down and then finally stopped.
Frankie, Zale, and Tweeter Pete were ours.
Zale went outside one day and never came home; Tweeter died of natural causes a couple of years later. Frankie had a hard time adjusting to life in our family. We had several other cats around our house (we fed the neighborhood strays), and he was unsure of his position with them. One by one, Frankie made friends with the others — or ran them off! At any rate, we eventually settled into a comfortable little family with three kitties (Frankie, Nana, and B’Orange). We said good-bye to B’Orange a couple of years ago, and we adopted Gracie a few months later. The dynamics of the family changed, but Frankie stayed steady.
Despite his initial trouble adjusting, he became the sweetest, most lovable cat I’ve ever known. When he first came to live with us, Frankie and I used to dance. I’d hold him close, sing Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra songs and sway to the music. Frankie would snuggle into my neck and purr so loudly it tickled my ear. He eventually grew tired of that game, but I never did.
When he was a young adult cat, he loved high places. It was not unusual to see him sitting on top of the six-foot high bookshelf behind the sofa — or scheming on how to get up there! In later years, he couldn’t quite make the leap, so he was content to sit on the bed, curled up on the heating pad, or on the back of the couch, calmly surveying his kingdom.
He was picky about the cat food he ate, but not about the people food he ate! He loved French fries, guacamole, and he’d even nibble on the lettuce John pulled off his tacos. He thought he ought to have dinner with John and I. Some how, we developed the habit of feeding Frankie a plate of deli turkey or ham when we sat down to dinner. Sometimes, he even got a bite of what we were eating: fish, potatoes, lemon mustard chicken!
Frankie grew up to be quite a lover — and not just of fine people food! In his later years, he would crawl up in bed with us as we were trying to get to sleep. He would sit on my chest or in the space between our pillows and take turns “nosing us”. I’d say “Find Daddy” and that sweet ol’ kitty would climb all over John and rub his wet nose all over John’s and purr. If John tried to hide under a blanket, Frankie would try to find him. He would sit on my chest while I was getting ready to sleep, and he would do the same to me. He sure did love his people!
Frankie also loved being out-of-doors. When we lived in the desert, he absolutely couldn’t go outside unsupervised — there were just too many dangers. But sometimes, one of us would take him out into the fenced backyard and let him wander around. Our backyard was all gravel, with three small bushes and a couple of trees. The first thing Frankie would do when he got outside was roll around on the warm sidewalk. Then, he’d head straight for the bushes! He’d stick his nose in the bush and just sniff. There were sometimes birds landing in the bushes (not when the cat was outside, though!) and I’m sure Frankie was taking in the bird smells. When we moved to our current house, we would let him out in the backyard here. Again with the bushes! He’d walk straight over and stick his head in. Eventually, we let him out the front door, and he loved that. He’d go to the house next door and nose around at the food the neighbors left for the strays. He was picky about what he ate at our house — but not so picky about what the neighbors offered.
A couple of evenings before we said good-bye to Frankie, I gathered all the cats around me and read them a story about Cat Heaven. All of the cats listened with rapt attention. I’m sure it was just the sound of my voice, but they seemed to be paying attention. I explained what was about to happen and why it had to happen. Frankie curled up against me and purred. It was almost as though he was affirming our decision to let him go. It was still a hard thing to do, but easier somehow, because of his acceptance. The day it we took him to the vet, I got his carrier out of the closet and put it out in the living room. Frankie went right over to it and jumped in.
Our little family is different now. The two girl cats have adjusted quicker than I expected them to. It’s me who’s having trouble adjusting. I miss his wet nose sliming all over mine. I miss his almost creepy kind of intelligence and the intense looks I used to get from him. But mostly, I just miss his presence in our family.
RIP Frankie. I hope you’re enjoying Cat Heaven. I can just picture you sliming G-D or one of the angels on the nose!