Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie – Rest in Peace

By Ashley Lister

Jean Cocteau wrote, “I love cats because I love my home and after a while they become its visible soul.”

I truly wish I’d written that.

This weekend I lost one of my most trusted and constant companions of the past fifteen years. Cookie passed away after a brief but cruel illness. She is sorely missed. In truth, I’ve got tears in my eyes whilst I’m typing these words and I doubt they’ll be the last I shed in honour of her memory.

Some people tell me that pets can become like members of the family. I disagree. Pets are not like members of the family: they are members of the family. Cookie was a more important member of the family than many of those human relatives with whom I begrudgingly exchange Christmas cards and token pleasantries.

Visitors to the home rarely saw Cookie. She was a tiny tabby – never growing much beyond her kitten size – and secretive around new people. That’s a trait I always understood. She was blessed with the most elegant markings: butterfly stains in olive and black, set off with dainty white socks and a white shirt front. An indoor cat, who owned the indoors, Cookie had that feline ability to demand affection on her own terms and deserve it wholeheartedly.

Tay Hohoff wrote, “There are few things more welcoming in life than to be welcomed by a cat.”

I also wish I’d written that. It’s incredibly true.

Cookie wrote novels with me. This is not the usual mawkish writer nonsense here, where I pretend the cat was my muse. I sincerely mean that Cookie wrote novels with me: inputting words. She had a habit of walking across the keyboard whenever I was busying striking keys instead of stroking behind her ears. Some of the keys she stood on produced better words than the gibberish I churned out. I’m not going to suggest she’s the only cat that’s ever been published but I sincerely believe she was one of few felines to regularly co-author first drafts.

Leonardo da Vinci said, “The smallest feline is a masterpiece.”

I wish I’d written that.

I’m not writing this to make Cookie sound like a saint. She was far from being perfect. When she needed medication, most times it was a battle to get tablets inside her: and a battle she would invariably win. Blood was invariably spilt, and it was never hers.

Cookie was blessed with an innate ability to lie in the exact spot where I needed to put my foot on midnight, lightless treks to the lavatory. Perhaps it wasn’t the most useful gift a cat could ever own but it made her distinctive and special.

She considered the bathroom her haven and would sit on a sink near the lavatory. Usually she fixed me with a derisive sneer whenever I used the loo. It’s bizarre, but I don’t think a man truly knows the humiliation of being sneered at until he’s been frowned on by a cat watching him take a pee.

When she got an opportunity to dig her claws into faux-leather furnishings, silk curtains, or new clothes, she could go on a destructive spree that would have put the Vandals and the Visigoths to shame. The house, even though it’s now safe from the threat of her claws, is a quiet and subdued place.

Edgar Allan Poe said, “I wish I could write as mysterious as a cat.” Charles Dickens asked, “What greater gift than the love of a cat?” Hemmingway claimed, “A cat has absolute honesty.” Hippolyte Taine admitted, “I have studied many philosophers and many cats. The wisdom of cats is far superior.”

And I truly wish I’d written one of these pithy, thoughtful phrases to show how deeply I always treasured Cookie’s friendship, companionship and love.

Rest in peace little lady. I take comfort from the knowledge that you’re no longer suffering. And, wherever you are now, I hope you know that you will always be missed.

18 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear you have lost your feline family member and friend - the gap they leave in our hearts is far bigger than their physical size suggests.

    Good Thoughts to you, Ashley.

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  2. R.I.P Cookie. Sounds like you will be be sorely missed.

    What a great life she must have had, to elicit such a wonderful blog, Ash.

    Best wishes,

    Jenna

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  3. H,

    Thank you. You're perfectly right.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  4. Jenna,

    Thank you. She really was a special lady.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  5. Oh Ash. I'm sitting here looking at my bookshelf where I can see the 3 little white boxes that contain the remains of my own beloved cats, all of whom passed away in the last three years. My heart goes out to you. They are most certainly members of the family, and it pains me to not put up their stocking this Christmas. My condolences to you and your family.

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  6. Helen,

    Thanks for the kind thoughts. I'm truly sorry to hear about your losses over the past three years.

    Christmas, with trees indoors and all those dangling garlands and ornaments, always seems like an occasion that has been specifically decorated for the entertainment of cats.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  7. They are members of your family and the grief when they go is no less. For me it was a succession of Labs. Hugs. Thanks for sharing your Cookie, Ash.

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  8. Devon,

    Thanks for the kind words. Labs are adorable beasts. I can understand your affection.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  9. Ash,

    I really am so sorry for your loss of such a sweet family member. I've had dogs and cats over the years and each time one dies it's as if my heart is broken. It's the old saying, pets love you unconditionally. It's so very true. Cats have always been my animal of choice, but I love em all. Here's one more saying for your list:

    "Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea." -- Robert A. Heinlein

    Hugs

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  10. Jude,

    Thank you. Pets do love unconditionally - although I guess we have to earn it at some level.

    Heinlein was a wise man.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  11. I am so sorry for your loss. I completely understand how you feel. I'll be devastated when my two kitties eventually pass on.

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  12. Hi Ash!

    I'm sorry to hear about Cookie. May flights of small low flying birds sing her to her rest. As I write this, my own 18 pound orange tabby is sitting next to me watching me with that permanent smile cats always seem to have.

    Garce

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  13. Ashley dear,

    Wherever she is, I think that Cookie would be pleased by your digital eulogy.

    Fifteen years is a fine round age for a feline, but it's always wrenching to have to let go of them. I've been fortunate that almost all the cats I've had over the years have led long and productive lives (productive of fur balls, mouse carcasses, and of course novels - Cookie is not the only cat to wander creatively over the keyboard...), but nevertheless, my heart aches when I remember saying goodbye to each one.

    My sincere sympathy,
    Lisabet

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  14. Garce,

    Thank you. The way a cat's face is designed - with knowing eyes and a permanent enigmatic grin - is one of the many features that make them such wonderful companions.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  15. Lisabet,

    It's good to hear Cookie wasn't the only cat to write novels.

    Your condolences - the condolences from everyone on this wonderful blog - are very much appreciated.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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  16. Ashley, I found this just unspeakably beautiful. Deepest reverence and sympathy to you on the loss of Cookie in her physical form.

    I loved your use of this theme in presenting beautiful phrases relating to the feline form as things you wish you had written. I found them striking as well.

    Thank you so much for sharing this, and I close with silent reverence (to all in the comments who expressed loss as well).

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  17. Emerald,

    Thank you for your words, and for reminding me it's only her physical form that I've lost.

    Sincerely,

    Ash

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