.

 

Fred, a Cat

A nice cat, gone.

Fred belonged to my close friend and ex-girlfriend Gianine. Gianine came home to her 2-room apartment at around 2 AM to find the door between the rooms propped open. The door has a weak latch, and the cats (three: Ted, Solomon, and Fred) somehow knocked it open, probably playing. Fred went through the door into the bedroom, where a window was opened to air the room. She jumped on the ledge and fell. It was an undeserving death for a 2 1/2 year old best friend.

Fred was a unique, quiet, sensitive animal, closely tuned to the larger creatures around her. When she sensed your sadness, she padded to your side and rested her 3-pound body beside your own. Her patience and amiability defied belief: she was willing to suffer being dressed in a sweater, harnessed to a leash, and carried to Javas, the coffeeshop across the street. There, dozens of people petted her and strange dogs sniffed her, but Fred remained calm and gentle as long as she was held by Gianine.

She had been an ugly, bedgraggled kitten, a runt found alone in a cage at the far edge of the SPCA. She had six toes on her paws (the word for such cats is polydactyl), and a splotch of light skin for a nose. She suffered from painful epileptic seizures, which made her freeze up, froth at the mouth, and urinate on herself. After the seizures, which could come frequently over a week and then not at all over months, Gianine would soothe her with blankets, petting, and comforting words. Fred usually slept on a green plaid pillow, which Gianine called a "bobby."

When we were dating, Gianine and I made up a limerick:

Fred constantly investigated Gianine, followed her, curled up with her. Fred's tiny frame would line up with her owner's under the white bedsheets, and when she settled she would commence to purr. She was playful, grabbing at a piece of cardboard on the end of a wire, nipping at passing bare ankles, knocking things over during 4AM rampages. Sometimes her soft nose pressed into Gianine's cheek in the morning, accompanied by more purring. When Fred became scared, she would bury her head into Gianine's arms.

Pets - dogs, cats, birds - are small, moving mirrors of ourselves, and we redeem ourselves in loving them. They force us to be human, to risk emotion, intimacy, kindness, and love. Fred was a support in Gianine's life, a straight line of affection and dependence in soft brown fur which ran through these last 2 1/2 years, yawning, scratching, curling up under the blankets on Rochester's winter mornings, racing after dust in the sun.

I liked Fred awfully much. To lose her is to lose something solid, clean, and sensual from my filtered world. Even when I stopped seeing Gianine and we only spoke by phone, many minutes of each call were spent discussing the cats, especially Fred, who had wide black pupils set into hazel eyes. I remember most the feeling of her coat, her skin, and her impossibly thin bones as I picked her up and swooped her over my head. She permitted this to happen, unprotesting, looking down at me with exasperation from her perch in my hand, as I spoke to her in baby talk and scratched her ears. She waited for me to be done playing so she could feel the floor again, and when I put her down she would walk away quickly, dignified (if a little clumsy), then slowly return, always curious.

Gianine asked me to tell the readers of Ftrain about Fred, and I am glad to do so, in this elegy for a grateful friend and vigilant companion, a 3-pound cat who was loved and will be painfully missed.

There once was a kitten named Fred
With a sweet ginger spot on her head
She had six little toes
And a nose like a rose
And an overfed sister named Ted.

Fred constantly investigated Gianine, followed her, curled up with her. Fred's tiny frame would line up with her owner's under the white bedsheets, and when she settled she would commence to purr. She was playful, grabbing at a piece of cardboard on the end of a wire, nipping at passing bare ankles, knocking things over during 4AM rampages. Sometimes her soft nose pressed into Gianine's cheek in the morning, accompanied by more purring. When Fred became scared, she would bury her head into Gianine's arms.

Pets - dogs, cats, birds - are small, moving mirrors of ourselves, and we redeem ourselves in loving them. They force us to be human, to risk emotion, intimacy, kindness, and love. Fred was a support in Gianine's life, a straight line of affection and dependence in soft brown fur which ran through these last 2 1/2 years, yawning, scratching, curling up under the blankets on Rochester's winter mornings, racing after dust in the sun.

I liked Fred awfully much. To lose her is to lose something solid, clean, and sensual from my filtered world. Even when I stopped seeing Gianine and we only spoke by phone, many minutes of each call were spent discussing the cats, especially Fred, who had wide black pupils set into hazel eyes. I remember most the feeling of her coat, her skin, and her impossibly thin bones as I picked her up and swooped her over my head. She permitted this to happen, unprotesting, looking down at me with exasperation from her perch in my hand, as I spoke to her in baby talk and scratched her ears. She waited for me to be done playing so she could feel the floor again, and when I put her down she would walk away quickly, dignified (if a little clumsy), then slowly return, always curious.

Gianine asked me to tell the readers of Ftrain about Fred, and I am glad to do so, in this elegy for a grateful friend and vigilant companion, a 3-pound cat who was loved and will be painfully missed.


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