Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Remembering Autumn...

It’s the Day of the Dead, which has gotten me to thinking.  Last weekend, I booked my first commission for a deceased pet—a bouncy, playful Australian Shepherd who apparently met a premature end.

But, then again, I think that the short lifespans of most pets (barring those relatively noncuddly things like parrots and tortoises) ALWAYS seem premature.

Bonding with an animal that you’re almost guaranteed to outlive – well, that’s one of the crueler aspects of life on this planet, even with a cat that’s ALMOST TWENTY.

In case it is not TOTALLY obvious, I had to help send my little almost-20 cat, Autumn, on to the great beyond last May.

It seemed DAMNED premature.  Even at the last, I could still see her as a kitten, when we used to make “cat burritos” by rolling her up in my Mexican rug.  And then I would tease her and poke at her from outside the rug and she would grab at me from the inside, eyes glowing and whiskers twitching with excitement.

Autumn and I LOVED making cat burritos.

So, in May, we made one last cat burrito together.  I rolled her scrawny old body up in her kitty-cat printed quilt, and we took her to meet with a vet for the last time to help her away.

It was not as fun as it used to be, but it had to be done.

Because, even though it seemed premature, it was simultaneously WAY PAST TIME.  Her little body was past its expiration date, she was REALLY ready to go, and those things were crystal clear.  Her last breath was a sigh of relief.

But it didn’t really make it any easier for me to have to do it. For about two weeks, I was just SAD a lot.  And I don’t typically hold onto sadness about much of anything, although I’m crying like the guy from Pagliacci as I’m writing this.  I don’t regret anything about having Autumn in my life for the past nineteen years, including having to give her a good death.  But these silly short lifespans are just a pain to have to deal with.

Even though Autumn remained “my” cat for her whole life, about seven years ago, we sent her up to my parents’ house on an extended sabbatical.  Here's how it happened:

Smokey, a recent escapee from the former meth lab across the street (I am SPECULATING here, but those people really had some odd habits.  Maybe I have been watching too much "Breaking Bad" but Smokey does wheeze sometimes around chemicals like carpet cleaner, like maybe they'd been cooking a batch of meth and forgot to give her a respirator.), had come to live with us after the meth cooks moved elsewhere and apparently abandoned her to starve.  And we already had another cat, Windy.

And Autumn, with her genteel ways, went straight to the bottom of the household cat power structure.  The other two cats, much as we tried to intervene, banished her from our laps, and Miss Autumn was mainly relegated to hiding under the stairs and crying about the injustice of it all.  So off she went to Idaho Springs, where she could once again be the main cat in the household and get some attention.

But she would still visit every once in awhile, because my mother, despite her status as Queen Bee of Idaho Springs society, suddenly found herself incapable of asking ANYBODY ELSE besides me to take care of Autumn when she wanted to travel.  (Despite agreeing to take Autumn, she was not 100% on board with the whole sabbatical program, so that was her way of getting back at me.  That's my interpretation of it.)

Anyhow, several times a year, Autumn would get stuffed into the Pet Taxi and brought back down to our house, where she had a standing reservation in the Greta Garbo Suite for Cats Who Want to be Left Alone (by other cats). And when she visited, she LOVED laundry duty.  I would sort the laundry into a basket and then leave it out for her, so she could burrow into the socks and towels and hang out.  And I got a bunch of great photos of her several years ago.

So I painted a portrait of her, a month or two after she was gone.  That’s it, above.  My husband is not that thrilled that, in addition to Autumn, his dirty socks are memorialized for everybody to see.  But IT REALLY COULD HAVE BEEN WORSE.  I edited all the underwear out of the painting.

Anyhow, I’m very happy with this portrait.  I think that, on this day where we commemorate the dead, it helps to do that for me with Autumn! I feel like I have something of Autumn and her personality with me still and I’m very thankful for the times I had with her!

I hope I can do the same for the shepherd’s owner!

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