Thursday, July 10, 2008

Bagheera, you were cool

Today I had the unfortunate and sad task of having our cat euthanized. We adopted "Bagheera" into our home in 2006 from a animal rescue within the Rockwall PetSmart. At the time, he was named "Mickey." However, such a name for an obvious predator simply would not do. We therefore renamed him "Bagheera" from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book. The name was appropriate for the air of mystery that he constantly put out, seldomly allowing too much handling from pesky humans.

As Bagheera wandered the house (like he owned the place), we all gave him a wide berth. We was known to swipe at your foot as you passed by. He liked to be among people, following Naomi and me around the house to lie down near where we were. However, he still liked his personal space. He had a habit of striking a pose that we called "the sea otter." He would lie down on his back, legs in the air, seeming very comfortable, looking like sea otters when they float on their back cracking shells open with rocks. This made Bagheera look so cute, and you could not resist the temptation to walk over and rub his tummy. If you succumbed to that temptation though, and actually reached to pet his tummy, you likely would find his all his claws and teeth converge together on your hand like a sort of bear trap. Over time, we learned when to pet him and when NOT to pet him. He was no one's "house cat." He was too "cool" for that.

In addition, he was a predator. Initially he was an "inside kitty." Later on, after a year or so, we became comfortable allowing him to explore the front and back yards. It was fascinating watching him stalk animals and people through the bushes in our flower garden. He must also have been a hunter, for signs of mice dropped sharply not only in our back yard, but in the garages and yards of neighboring homes as well. The neighbors all thought he was "cool."

He would sit in our grass and watch the neighborhood, scan down the streets. He was territorial, remaining alert of all that entered his turf. I once watch as he observed a small dog wander down the sidewalk in front of our house. He stalked the intruder, crouching between bushes. At just the right moment, he darted out after the unsuspecting pooch, swiping it on the rear. I could not tell if he had drawn blood, but the poor errant beagle ran for his life, yelping in either fear or agony all the way down the street and around the corner.

It felt neat to be graced with the presence of such a predator. Kind of like have a tiger in one's home. Though Bagheera was not a large cat, he was authoritative. This seemed to give us all a sense of privilege for having him nearby. Bagheera has an uncanny way of making you feel graced by being allowed to remain in the same room when he entered. If he actually allowed you to pet him, it was the height of your day. Heaven had smiled on you. He wasn't cuddly. He was cool. That sense of "coolness" was nice to have around.

Alas, this last week he contracted something that resulted in dire symptoms. While at the Animal Hospital of Fate, it became clear that should even the expensive treatments proposed be pursued, a positive outcome was improbable. I made the decision to have him euthanized. Such a decision was not difficult, but it definitely sucked. I liked Bagheera. He was a blessing to our family in the full manner that God created such animals to bless humankind.

Some animals serve the human experience with how they provide food (cattle, fish, etc.). Some animals serve with how they provide clothes (sheep). Still some serve with how they provide work (horses and sled dogs). The broadest category is that group of animals that fit no other category than to simply keep the ecosystem in balance. Nevertheless, a category of animals most certainly exists wherein they apparently were created to serve the human experience by providing a ministry to the soul. Domestic animals such as cats, dogs and arguably a few others that show affection to their owners, all minister to the human soul with a sense of friendship and familial loyalty. Such is what people mean when they refer to an animal as a "family member." Such was Bagheera. Cool as he was, he was also ours...and we are sad to lose him.

No comments: