Yesterday my Mom adopted a kitten and seeing the pictures of her new cat reminded me about this post I wrote after Chloe, our first pet, made the journey to the great scratching post in the sky. Enjoy.
In Luke 9 Jesus told a prospective follower to “Let the dead bury their own dead…” That’s good advice if you choose to listen… I didn’t.
As you may (or may not) know we recently had to say good bye to Chloe the cat. When I took Chloe to the vet for the last time I had every intention of saying goodbye and leaving her there for the vet to dispose of the remains. But as I stood next to her on the examination table I began to think back over the last 15 years.
Chloe was the first pet Lesley and I had together. We bought her from a mall pet store a year after we got married. The pet store clerk told us that the kitten was a female. So we named her Chloe, took her home, and loved her from the start. It was only a few weeks later during a visit to the vet that we learned “she” was actually a “he”. But by that time we were so used to calling the cat Chloe and referring to it as “she” that we decided the best course of action was to make the whole question of gender irrelevant. Snip.
The only cat I had ever really known was a fat, black stray that my family had adopted when I was in junior high. “Fatboy” as we called him was your stereotypical cat. Haughty and distant, with a mean streak that caused you to tread carefully when you walked barefoot through the house.
But Chloe was different. (I know…that’s what they all say. But it was true.) She was actually loving and sweet. Not everyone is a big fan of cats, but I think Chloe could sense a “cat hater” and instead of avoiding them she seemed to make it her mission to change their mind about her species. And, over time, she actually won a few people over.
She was big and she was loud. I can’t tell you how many times the voice on the other end of the line would ask “Oh, is that your baby crying?” “No, it’s just my cat.” Standing there stroking her fur I thought back to all the times she had annoyed us and entertained us, and all the times we pretended to be annoyed but were really entertained.
In the end I couldn’t leave her there. I had to take her home one last time and bury her in the back yard like my dad did when we put our dog to sleep when I was a boy. So I carried Chloe home in her cardboard coffin.
That evening after dinner I surveyed the back yard, carefully trying hard to avoid the areas with cables, pipes, and dense networks of roots. After settling on a spot I drove the shovel deep and turned over load of dirt. This continued for some time until I heard the distinct “CLICK” of metal colliding with plastic. Carefully I moved the dirt aside and nestled there in dark brown dirt was the unmistakable white of pvc pipe. Heavy sigh.
With much of the hole already dug I decided to take advantage of the sweat that was falling from my nose and the blisters forming on my palms, and move the hole just a little to the left away from the pipe. The digging began again. With every shovel full of dirt the hole was getting deeper and the pile of dirt was getting higher. Not much longer now.
Then, after removing a scoop of dirt, the glint of copper caught my eye as a dozen colored wires sprang from the earth. Oh no. “Lesley! Check the phone!”
I abandoned that hole and decided to try another location.
The digging began again and progress came quickly as I sliced through the dirt. Be then, for some reason, the dirt refuse to yield as easily as it had done. The blade didn’t dive as deep has it had before and I saw why. I had struck clay. Dense, thick, impenetrable clay. The digging slowed to a crawl as I began to chip out the hole a half inch at a time. Looking over at the white box on the ground I was beginning to have second thoughts about my decision. As regret began to form I again heard the familiar “CLICK” of metal and plastic greeting each other. You have got to be kidding me.
Nope, like a star in the nighttime sky there was another white pipe laying in the dirt.
I looked over at the white box…Doesn’t the trash run tomorrow?
To take advantage of the effort I had already put in (not to mention my current state of dehydration) I, once again, shifted the hole slightly and began to dig. One side of the grave would run along the white pipes I had just unearthed. Over and over again I drove the edge of the shovel into the packed clay and broken up the bottom of the hole making slow progress just a layer at a time. By this time daylight was quickly surrendering to the dark and I was running out of time. I picked up the pace stabbing the shovel in to the clay over and over and over.
Almost done. Just a few more…”CLICK”. My stomach sank as I pulled the blade of the shovel out the plastic pipe and water began to drain into the bottom of the hole.
I looked at Buster, our elderly Beagle, who was standing there watching. “Sorry buddy, but I’m not doing this again.”
After two holes, a pipe, a cable, three blisters, and a trip to Lowes; Chloe the cat was laid to rest. We stood around the hole and said goodbye one last time. Elle asked questions, Lesley cried, I wanted to, and Jake wrote a letter.
You were a nice pet I loved. But now it’s time to say good bye. I liked the way you snuggled with us. I promise to keep the cowboy blanket forever cause that was your favorite. I liked the way your whiskers tickled us. I also liked that you would chase our hands. Well, it was nice noing (knowing) you, bye.