It's the Not Knowing
January 3, 2000
Well, that's the first time this century that I've actually put a date on anything. Felt pretty weird.
I was going to unveil a new design for a new era, but as apathy and depression are the order of the day around here, you're stuck with the same old, same old.
Here's the thing. I'm an animal person. Growing up I've always had at least one dog.
I remember when I was in first grade, around 6, my parents brought my first dog home. They had left us at my grandparents house for a few hours. When they came back there was a bundle wrapped in a blanket. I can remember it like it was yesterday. My dad asked what I thought was in the blanket. My guess: new baby. I was wrong. Well, I was right in a way. It was an eight week old miniature schnauzer puppy.
The debate over a name for her raged long into the night. We ended up calling her Pixie Moogles. (Moogles was her middle name.) Pixie was a great dog.
For those of you with small children who might be contemplating a dog, a schnauzer is an excellent choice. She was long on patience to say the least. Pixie was dressed up, put in the doll carriage, and smothered with love by three very young girls. She never bit us or did other naughty doggie things like that.
My mom had Pixie until I was a senior in college. I hadn't lived with that dog for at least five years and I still cried, long and hard, when my mom told me she had to put her to sleep.
When my dad still lived in New York, his girlfriend (and future wife and ex-wife) got a dog. Spot. She lived in an apartment. She wanted a small dog. A terrier mix would be perfect. Well, Spot was no terrier mix, and turned out not to be so small after all but that ceased being an issue when she and my dad got married and moved to L.A. into a big house with a big yard.
Spot suffered similar indignities that Pixie did. What do you expect with three small girls? Spot was a great dog. He was smart.
My dad always said that he didn't care one way or another about the dog but Betty used to find dog cookies in the pockets of his jeans when she was doing the laundry. He loved Spot.
Spot brought home Ruby. Ruby was a shepherd/afghan mix. Cute as hell but stupid as the day is long. This was a bit of a sticky subject. You see, Ruby belonged to some people who lived down the canyon from us. The thing is, they never took care of her. They had another dog and they just put a can of food out and let the dogs fight over it. Nice, hunh?
Well, Spot loved Ruby and every morning he would go down the street and bring her back up to the house. She would spend every day, all day, at our house. We'd have to drive her back home every night. Betty took to feeding her. Finally, one day she confronted the owners and offered to take Ruby. They couldn't care less. Poof, voila, two dogs.
By the time Ruby arrived we'd grown out of the dress-the-dogs-up phase, so she was spared.
During my senior year of high school, in addition to Spot and Ruby, at least three other dogs passed through that house. We are not the type of people who think pets are disposable, and every time we'd see a stray (which was often as we lived in the hills and that's where people like to dump their unwanted pets), we'd take it home and find it a new home.
When my father and Betty split she took the Spot and Ruby.
I moved into an apartment with Sister #1 which didn't allow pets anyway. For the first time in my life, with the exception of college, I had no dog. It was weird.
Fast forward a couple of years. It's now approximately 1983. I'm going out with this guy, Bill.
Bill lived in a little cottage. There were six little cottages that share a common area. There was an old lady who lived in one of the cottages. There were also about two dozen feral cats. Mary, the old lady, fed the cats. She and Bill had often tried to catch the cats to have them neutered. Their success was mixed.
One day there was a litter of new kittens. I absolutely had to have the pair of twins. They were identical in size and markings, except one was browner the other grayer.
As I said earlier, the apartment I lived in didn't allow pets. I figured, though, that I could get away with a cat. I believe that 90% of the cat owners who are apartment dwellers in Los Angeles County live in buildings that don't allow pets.
Anyway, we were only successful in trapping one of the twins. I called her Natasha. I figured we'd go back in a few days and get the other one. Well, we never did manage to catch the other one.
Natasha was the perfect apartment cat. She spent 90% of her time sleeping in my bed, so the landlady, who didn't live on the premises anyway, was none the wiser.
Since Natasha was a wild cat for the first few months of her life she was always skittish. She loved me to pieces and was very devoted to me, but most of my friends didn't see her the first several years I had her. Anytime anyone would come over, Natasha was under my bed.
In 1985 I was visiting my now-ex stepmother. She still had Spot and Ruby, and along the way had acquired another dog, Szabeo, a very large one. I was standing at her front step ringing the door bell. Suddenly, this little fluffball rubs on my legs. I bend down to pet it and it leaps into my arms.
Just then, Betty comes to the door, accompanied by a lot of barking from her three dogs. This fluffball of a kitten is completely unfazed. We bring him in the house and feed him.
Betty said that she'd seen the kitten around for the last couple of days. She didn't know who it belonged to. I went door to door and none of her neighbors knew either.
Cat #2. I named him Boris.
Boris was a great cat. He weighed in at 30 pounds. He was one of the biggest cats anyone had ever seen. He was ornery as hell and everyone who met him loved him.
The thing with Boris was that he'd like to stand at the door of the apartment and meow. Very loudly. The landlady was on to me.
Fast forward a couple of years. I meet Chuck and we move out of the apartment and into a home. Our own home. In the Valley. We have a yard. Chuck wants a dog. I'm ambivalent.
While I'd been a dog person my whole life, suddenly I was a cat person.
Chuck was obsessed with getting a dog and used to go to the pound regularly. He went one day and found the dog he wanted. He came home and told me about him. I was tepid. A couple of days later I came home. Chuck was already there. With our new dog. Chuck named him Bill. (Now this has nothing to do with ex-boyfriend Bill as Chuck didn't even know the ex's name.)
Natasha was the Queen, she and Boris loved each other. Boris and Bill played together. All was friendly and we were acquiring pets at a rapid rate.
After the earthquake in January of 1994, Natasha went missing for a few days. After the initial quake, we'd managed to corral Boris and Bill into the car. Natasha vanished but we had too much on our minds at the time to deal with it. When daylight finally rolled around I went searching for her. For two days.
Finally, the morning of day number three, when I'd finally given up home, she strolled into the living room. She was covered in dirt. She'd gone under the house to hide. She came out when the earth stopped moving. She once again took up residence in my bed. All was right with her world.
In 1994, one weekend, Chuck was feeding a friend's dogs while she was out of town. She had two huge Golden Retrievers, and she had this cat. A totally cool cat. The cat, Gable, thought he was a dog. I loved this cat. Chuck said that the friend was trying to find a home for him because she was allergic. I said I wanted him.
A week later we had three cats and one dog.
In October of 1996 Boris succumbed to some unknown lung ailment that had cost us several thousand dollars to (we thought) cure, the fall before. It was devastating. I met Chuck at the vet. Boris had no lung capacity left. We had no choice. He was suffering.
Zoe was only a few months old. I left her in the stroller with Chuck in the waiting room and went in with Boris. I held Boris for a long time. I kissed him. I soothed him. I said my good-byes.
Then Chuck went in and held him while the vet injected the green juice. It was over quickly.
Well, last June we moved into a new house. The same day the housekeeper tells me abut this Akita puppy that needed a home. Suki arrives and is part of our family.
Natasha hated Suki. Natasha hated all the other pets in the house. The only one she ever cared about was Boris. She was mean to all the other pets and they gave her a wide berth...well, most of the time. Suki would try to engage her in play periodically, but Natasha would have none of it.
I remember when I brought Zoe home from the hospital. Natasha sniffed her and flicked her with her tail. While Boris was interested in all things baby and slept in her cradle for a while before we brought the baby home, Natasha had no interest.
When Zoe got a little older she would drive Natasha crazy. She'd poke at her, pull her tail, and otherwise torture her. The cat wasn't crazy about this but eventually they developed their own relationship. It even got to the point where Natasha stopped hiding every time Zoe would toddle into the room.
Here's the thing. About eight months ago, Natasha moved out of my bed. Now Natasha had been the queen of my bed, lounging there, for roughly 16 years. She'd get up to go eat and use the box, but that was about it. She just lounged about and waited for me to come in and pet her. She'd cuddle up to my back when I slept, and keep a spot warm for me during the day.
So when she moved out of my bed I started mentally preparing myself for the end. I know that when cats are ready to die they usually leave. They go off somewhere and that's the end.
Well I was wrong.
She moved into the guest bedroom for a while but then moved into Zoe's bedroom. Every night I'd go in there and the two of them would be curled up together. And when Natasha needed to hide (from Suki usually) she went under Zoe's bed.
They were best friends. They loved each other.
Well, ever since Natasha moved out my bed I've been expecting the worst. She's about 16, maybe 17. That's old for a cat.
The thing is, I always kind of figured that one day I'd go into the guest bedroom and there would be Natasha. In bed. Looking like she was asleep. But she'd be gone. Peacefully. In her sleep. In her bed (in fact my old bed from my apartment when I first got her). That would be it. I would call Chuck in. We'd take her to the vet and have her cremated. Then I'd mix some of she ashes in the Boris' and they could be together for eternity.
But you see, that's not what happened. You see, the last time I saw Natasha was Thursday night. She was in Zoe's bathroom being tormented by Suki. I shooed the dogs away and finished putting Zoe to bed. Then I went on with my evening.
I haven't seen her since.
I've searched this entire house. I've searched the front and back yards. Chuck checked under the house and the garage. I've scoured all the little nooks and crannies that were her favorite places to hide. I swear I've looked in the guest bedroom and under the bed 25 times a day since Friday morning, expecting her to miraculously reappear.
I don't know where she is.
She wasn't the type to go out and I know she didn't go out the front door. If she went out the dog door it wasn't the first time. She's a mean old bat and could take care of herself if faced with any other dog.
But there are no piles of fluff that indicate something untoward.
She's just gone.
In my heart I know she went off some place to die. Peacefully.
But I don't know. Not for sure. Not for sure to see her with my own eyes. Not to know that it was peaceful and that she wasn't in pain. Not to hold her. To comfort her. To say good-bye. To give me some closure.
It's the not knowing that's killing me.
Until next time...
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