Treasures

Our cat Templeton giving our cat Scout a bath

We weren’t sure how Templeton would react to having another cat in the house when we brought Scout home in May of 2001, but thankfully he accepted her quickly. She idolized him and snuggled with him every chance she got, and he’d often lick her head and sometimes give her an entire bath. The two friends have been reunited again. As we did with Templeton, we had Scout cremated and my wife picked up her remains on Saturday. Scout’s ashes now join Templeton’s up on the mantle.

I took this picture of Templeton and Scout snuggling in the window seat of our old house in November of 2001. Nearly everything in the picture has changed since then. Both Templeton and Scout have since passed away. We moved half a year after the picture was taken and I no longer have that wonderful window seat where the cats and I so often snuggled. The pad that lined the seat, just visible in the lower left corner, was made by my mother-in-law who passed away a few years ago.

The blanket though, made by my wife for me years ago, remains. Time has taken its toll and there are tears in the fabric, but it remains the blanket I use every day in my office. It links all the pets together, as all past and present spent many hours sleeping and snuggling on it. I took it into the bedroom when Scout and I stayed there at the end of her life, she spent her last day on it as she slept on my chest.

There are more valuable blankets, but none more treasured.

Reaching for the Light

Our cat Sam relaxing in a heated cat bed with one arm sticking out towards a lamp

A picture of Sam from the fall of 2009 that I just got around to editing. My office received a makeover last year and a requirement of the new layout was that I still have a place for the three heated cat beds, as the pets frequently hang out in my office. I ended up putting a couch where his bed was in this picture and a low table beside the couch for the heated beds. He is sleeping in one of the beds now, but it is the one that Scout considered to be her own rather than this one. He and Emma both preferred Scout’s over the other two, and if they were in it when she wanted it, she’d come to me and ask me to evict them.

All three beds are from the same company but were bought at different times and are each slightly different. Scout’s bed is an older design that we bought when Templeton was still alive, I think its the best design of the three and the cats apparently agree. We’ve searched in vain to find a couple more but have only been able to find the newer models. Now that Scout has passed away, as long as Sam and Emma each seem happy in the other two beds, I’ll remove this little one even though it made for more interesting pictures, as because of its smaller size they were more likely to have their legs and feet sticking out of it.

Ending As It Began

Our cat Scout as a kitten

This picture is from the first batch I took of Scout after we brought her home as a kitten in May of 2001. I don’t think I’ve put it online before, I suppose because she looks upset, but as I was looking at it I was struck by how her life with us began and ended in a similar fashion. We kept her isolated from Templeton when we first brought her home but she hated being on her own and was only comforted if one of us went in with her. I’d lie at times on the hard linoleum floor and let her sleep under my chin.

Not unlike her last day when she was isolated from the others to avoid any stress as her life ebbed away, and she was only comforted when I went in with her and let her sleep on my chest. I learned from those early days with her and this time isolated her in our bedroom where I could lie down in comfort.

I can’t look at the picture without thinking of the day we brought her home, so full of hope, and of how far this little one exceeded those hopes. What a blessing she was!

Respect for the Queen

A close-up view of our dog Ellie resting on a pillow

Part of my morning ritual after I made my breakfast was to give the pets a little something to eat. Sam and Emma got a bit of wet food, Scout got some freeze-dried salmon or chicken, and Ellie got a bone-shaped treat. They got fed in that order so that peace would prevail, Sam and Emma first so that Scout could eat without Sam stealing her food, with Ellie waiting patiently on the far side of the room for her treat after the cats had been fed.

Occasionally Scout wouldn’t eat a few small morsels of her food, perhaps there was something in the taste or texture she didn’t care for, so I’d motion for Ellie to come over and clean up. Ellie is zealous about food and normally would have bounded over at full speed, but to avoid spooking Scout she would slink in slowly and quietly and then lick up the remaining tidbits.

Sometimes I’d hope Scout would leave a little bit just so I could see Ellie sneak over, it always made me smile to see her approach so respectfully, she’s never done it with any of the other pets (or us). I don’t know why Ellie decided that Scout was worthy of such respect, but it was always touching to see.

Before the Warm Beds, There Was a Pillow

Our cat Scout at 5 months old sleeping on a pillow

Another picture of Scout at five months old in 2001. Even as a kitten Scout often wanted to nap near me, which in general I found adorable, but when I was working at the computer she would sit directly on my right hand and try to sleep, meaning I couldn’t so much as move my hand without waking her. We hadn’t yet discovered the wonder of heated cat beds, but I came up with a compromise that she accepted: I kept a pillow beside my keyboard that she could sleep on.

Templeton started using it as well, but once the cats got hooked on the heated beds, there was no more need for the pillow. I did keep the beds right beside me though, right up through today, and part of remodeling my office meant making sure there was space for three heated beds near my desk and couch.

The Last Picture

My last picture with Scout

This is the last picture I took of Scout, about five or six hours before she died. I realized I didn’t have a picture of the two of us, so I took a quick series of pictures. I didn’t set the camera up all that well, I was too upset to focus on photography, but nevertheless I’m thankful for the pictures. I need to learn how to fix a few things in post-processing, like the excessive yellow in parts of my face that came from the room lighting instead of the flash.

I didn’t take many pictures since as you can see from her expression she was already on the decline and I didn’t want to stress her, so I soon put the camera away and snuggled with her instead. Although even when healthy I would see this face when she thought I had taken enough pictures, she wasn’t that fond of the camera. But in this case she was more ill than annoyed.

It’s easy after her death to feel guilty that I didn’t photograph her more in the last years of her life. And especially that I didn’t photograph the two of us together. To regret all the shots I didn’t take but should have. Or that over the years I didn’t upgrade cameras often enough so that many of my early pictures are at a low resolution, even on today’s monitors, and many from her middle years will be low in the era of retina displays. Or that I never learned to shoot video and don’t have good video — and especially audio — of her purring while curled up in her warm bed.

Some of that self-criticism is fair, and something I need to learn from. But some of it springs from the grief of losing her, when the sorrow subsides it will be easier to remember she benefitted more from me spending time with her than always trying for the perfect picture.

I certainly took a lot of pictures of her. It just hurts that I can’t take any more.