Thursday, February 9, 2017

Chaplin's Final Bit

His name was ‘Chaplin.’ Well, that was his given name, anyway. No one called him that. He was, to any and all who knew him, ‘Bitty Kitty,’ or just ‘Bitty.’ While I understand the nickname was given unironically when he was very small, by the time I met him, it was more like calling a fat man ‘slim.’ Bitty was big. When I came into his life, a decade ago, he shared the house with another cat, Jolson, and a German Shepard mix, Rowan. Jolson and Bitty, being cats, tolerated each other, and the dog. It helped that Jolson and Bitty had what I would call ‘complementary’ personalities at that time. Jolson was a prowler; an adventurer. It was not rare, when coming home late at night, to see Jolson dash from several houses away, or across the street, to meet the car. Bitty, on the other hand, while he would go outside, tended to stick close to the house; perhaps climbing the big oak tree and lying in the sun on the roof. More often he chose a spot inside, curling up on a soft surface, or a lap when it suited him.

Bitty also had another interesting feature; his fur. While short-haired, his fur was incredibly soft, and petting him was more like stroking a young rabbit than a cat. Also, while Jolson was around, Bitty was ‘the quiet one.’ He had the softest meow I had ever heard, in contrast to Jolson’s little lion’s roar. Bitty's purr, however, could be heard across a room.

We lost Jolson several years ago, his adventurousness being his undoing. A fortnight later, it seemed Bitty had grown into his voice. His meows became louder, more insistent. He outlived Rowan, and shared the house with another cat, Mo, for a short time, and outlived him. He lived to see the introduction of two puppies, Aurum and Lucy, and while I won’t say he was particularly thrilled to be sharing the space with them, he handled himself with equanimity. In fact, that’s how I will remember him; as a calm, constant presence, who could curl up with you for an hour, or greet you from his nest in the shrub bed under one of the windows. If Mo was irascible, and Jolson was swashbuckling, Bitty was solid, steady, and dependable.

Like Jolson’s, Bitty’s life ended in, perhaps, an appropriate way. After a number of long months seeing his human mother through her battle with cancer, comforting her, it was determined he had been fighting his own battle, with a large tumor on his liver. It finally started affecting his appetite, and causing him pain and illness. He left us today at the vet’s office, with his mother at his side. I understand he went quietly, as any good silent film star should. 

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