As a freelance writer working from home, I had a ritual from the moment I arose. Stretch my legs. Put on socks. Go to the bathroom. Let the dogs out. Feed the cats. Make breakfast. Turn on the computer.
This bitterly cold day was different. It would be the last time I would hold my sweet three-legged tuxedo cat, Mr. Trip.
I was meeting a friend for coffee at 11:30 a.m. at the local Starbucks. Shortly before I left, I let the dogs out to do their business. Mr. Trip tried to sneak out, but I knew the wind would chill him to the bone.
Around 11:15 a.m. I gently rubbed thyroid cream into Mr. Trip’s ear, and gave him a kiss on the nose, and a pat on the head, then headed out to the car.
The engine light came on when I tried to start the car.
I came back in the house, called my friend Peggy and informed her of my problem. She said she’d just come out to the house and pick me up. When Peggy showed up, our dogs and black cat greeted her. I looked around for Mr. Trip, and just figured he was hiding under the bed, as he sometimes does with visitors.
In the meantime, I phoned the auto place. They came out and recharged my battery, and suggested driving the car around town for least 15 minutes. Peggy and I were off to run errands.
I arrived home around 2:30 p.m. I felt an uneasy feeling come over me as I entered the house.
Our Bernese/Aussie mix jumped down from the bench in front of the bay window and greeted me.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Mr. Trip lying on his side on the wool rug in the dining room. I thought this was odd, as he never lays on the side with his back leg up. He’s usually sunning himself on the bench, or laying tummy up.
I quickly dropped the bags from Target on the counter, let our other Aussie out of her kennel, and ran straight to Mr. Trip.
Bending over him, I called his name several times. He didn’t answer. I stroked his soft black and white fur and called his name – again and again. His bright lemon yellow eyes stared straight ahead.
Somehow I knew he was gone, but his body was still warm to the touch. I cried uncontrollably, still stroking his fur, noticing his beautiful white whiskers. I phoned my husband and hysterically muttered words into the phone. He told me to calm down and speak slowly so he could understand. I then called my neighbor, and asked her to come over and sit with me until my husband came home. Then my best friend called and tried to console me.
I sobbed from the depths of my soul. Tears flowed like I’d lost a child. I kept mulling details over in my head, trying to figure out what happened in the two hours that I was gone.
I lost a good friend on January 14.
We’d raised Mr. Trip since he was a kitten. A beautiful Tuxedo, he was missing his right rear leg. Suckers for a cute face, we adopted the three-legged kitty from VCA All Creatures animal hospital in O’Fallon, Missouri.
Despite his handicap, he became adept at maneuvering throughout the house, and used his back leg like a tricycle.
Mr. Trip was my shadow. He’d sit on my computer desk, and follow the mouse pointer across the screen. One night I caught him watching television. I placed a chair in front of the TV so he could be closer. I observed as he ‘tap, tap, tapped’ his front paw on the screen in an attempt to swats all the insects in a popular movie.
He enjoyed dipping his toes in my bath water, loved ripping out my hair with his teeth, basking in the sunlight on his favorite bench in the dining room, sitting on my lap on the sofa recliner, watching the birds from his bench in the kitchen, talking constantly in his baby voice.
I nicknamed him “Puppy” and “Tripolipski” and “punk kitty cat” and “Tripopipoleee”.
Mr. Trip was famous – my essay about him titled, “Purrs, Paws, and Cat Scratch Kisses” was published twice – once in Whispering Angels Nurturing Paws Anthology and again in The Animal Anthology Project. This wonderful feline even won Third Place in the Humane Society Pet Pals contest with his canine sister Maggie (passed on). His picture was featured in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
For years, he slept on my head in bed in the exact same spot Rory, my first kitty slept. And although they’d never met, somehow I felt he sensed Rory’s presence.
He was my little love, and my spark of happiness. No matter how bad I was feeling, one look from his sweet face would cheer me up.
I remember the day my Mom passed away. Mr. Trip was there to console me. Hopping up in the recliner, he placed his paw in my hand and gazed into my eyes as if to say, “It’s okay Mom, I’m here for you.”
A couple of years ago, he wasn’t able to jump as high as he used to, so I positioned a stool in the kitchen that he could hop up, then on to the next counter stool, and finally to the counter to get his food.
When I’d exercise on the floor, he had to get in on the action. And if I’d roll to one side to do leg lifts, you could be sure he’d be right in front of me; even when I changed sides.
He gave me joy every day.
He made me smile.
He calmed me down.
He had the softest tongue, and the sweetest disposition.
I loved him so much. I hope to see him again one day, with all the other fur babies that have passed on.
My heart aches without him.
Recently, I read two stories about loving a pet unconditionally that touched my heart.
The first, was a story on Buzzfeed about Lauren Fern Watt who took her dying dog Gizelle on an Epic Adventure. To cope with losing her best friend, she took her 160 lb. English Mastiff on an adventure that changed both of them.
Lauren’s dog Gizelle, taught her that love is the most wonderful gift she could receive, and the best thing Lauren had to give.
The second story called, “The Dog Years” tells of David Dudley’s canine, Foggy, who was there for every life event, as well as all the fun vacations and good times. And finally, when Foggy, turned 18, David knew his life was over as they rode in the car to the vet for the last time — despite his best efforts to give him everything he needed.
The piece of advice I took away from Dudley’s feature story published in AARP was that “Everything you do for a dog (or cat) to help them age well, you should do with them.”
“So eat the best food you can afford.
Go for a walk, even if it’s raining.
Take a lot of naps.
Keep your teeth clean and your breath fresh, so that the people you lick will not flinch.
And when someone you love walks in through the door, even if it happens five times a day, go totally insane with joy.”