Sunday, December 13, 2009
it started out under a lawn mower south of miami.
my herald colleague bill van smith was about to mow his lawn. before starting the mower, he heard something from underneath. so he looked. there was a stray cat nursing three new-born kittens.
it was the summer of 1995. well, it was miami, so it was always summer. it was june. pam and i had just bought a house, and one of the reasons i was looking forward to owning instead of renting was that there would be no extra charges on the mortgage for having pets. it was a big deal for us at the time to pay the extra fees and deposits for razzle, the cat that we already had, so as long as we were renting, we couldn't take on a second.
so when bvs said he couldn't keep the kittens because he already had too many cats, we said we'd take one. sight unseen. bvs decided to give us the black and white one with the white-tipped tail and the peace sign on his forehead. so when the kitten was old enough, bvs brought him in and gave me the kitten and $40 to get him snipped when he was old enough. i told him we'd take care of that, but he insisted.
so that night i took home a cat that would become a huge part of our lives for the next decade and a half. and $40. best deal i ever made.
when it came to naming him, we waited to see what would fit his personality. and he had so much of that. we were struck by the mask-like markings on his face. disney's pocahontas was in theaters at the time, and while we weren't crazy about the movie, her scampish raccoon was named meeko. he sort of looked like a raccoon. it sounded good. it stuck. (years later, our niece was at the house. she was young enough that i really didn't understand anything she said. but when we told her the cat's name was meeko, her face lit up and as clear as anything, she said, "MEEKO!" )
a big reason we wanted a second cat was because we thought that our cat razzle, who was 6 or 7 at the time, would like having another cat around. her pet. we were wrong. there was a lot of growling and hissing for the first couple of weeks. meeko wanted to play. razzle didn't. ultimately, they came to a truce. i don't know if they ever really liked each other, but they tolerated each other.
meeko was amazing. when we brought him home, we weren't sure if he was a long hair or a short hair. all his white hair seems long and fluffed, while his black hair was short and shiny. and he was round as a tennis ball with a tail.
he did not stay tiny.
he quickly graduated to juvenile-sized. he was long, tall, strong and lean. and as big as he was, his legs and ears seemed disproportionately huge, which we were told meant he wasn't done growing.
it was true.
eventually, he hit 19 pounds. and for a long time, it seemed like he was 19 pounds of solid muscle. his black hair eventually caught up with the white hair, giving him a beautiful coat, a muscular build, an expressive face and a lot of attitude. he knew how good looking he was. it wasn't unusual to catch him sitting there, looking in the mirror. well, ok, it was unusual. but it wasn't something that surprised us when we saw it anymore after the first few times.
at our house in deerfield, we had to be careful what room we put him in if we needed him to be locked up. the house had lever-style door knobs, and if the door opened out, we couldn't leave him there. because as soon as he was tall enough, he figured out how to reach up, pull the lever down and push.
we lost razzle shortly after moving to clearwater, and when we decided to bring in a new cat, we picked up najah. she was about 6 months old, fluffy and full of energy. she wanted to play. meeko didn't. and so we learned about a whole different kind of circle of life. when we brought home jazmine a couple of years ago, meeko all but rolled his eyes and said "here we go again."
but with a houseful of cats, he became an elder statesman. at times when we was obviously not feeling well, the girls would defer to him, leave him alone, wait in line behind him. and when he was feeling better, all bets were off. he was fair game to be chased and jumped on. it got to the point that one way to tell how meeko was feeling was to see how the girls were treating him.
while our other cats seem to gravitate to either me or pam, meeko was truly "our" cat. he didn't have a favorite. he loved us both. if the two of us were sitting, watching tv, he would sit on one of our laps, then after a while, get up and go to the other. and it wasn't always a matter of who had food.
i had a million nicknames for meeko. bubba. buddy, chico. meeko-chico, panda cat. meek-meek. he ignored them all equally. i always figured that since he was from miami, he just spoke spanish. but i talked to him all the time. i think he understood.
we lost meeko friday night. there a several scenarios that could have played out that would have had us not be home at the time. but we were. and as awful as it was, it would be immeasurably worse right now had we not been. i can make arguments that i didn't see it coming or that we've seen it coming for two years. he had been sick, but he seemed to be doing well lately. he climbed to the top of his tree on friday morning to take his pills. he jumped up to sit in my lap on friday afternoon. and then a little after 11 p.m., he was gone.
as far as i'm concerned, razzle is showing him around the new digs, and telling him what territory she has staked out, and where she'll let him go. and deep down, they like each other, and that all those times where she tried to eat him when he was little, she was just kidding.
(pam put together a short video tribute click here to go to her blog to watch it.)