That’s Jett with two t’s
About a decade ago, my friend Anne Marie, who runs the local animal shelter, called me up. She had just taken in a purebred black Persian cat who needed a new home, and wondered if I knew anyone who might be interested. “What’s his story?” I asked her.
Strictly speaking, the animal shelter is for strays. But sometimes people call Anne Marie when they have a purebred pet who needs a new home. Often she refers them to the local breed rescue group, but because Anne Marie knows so many of us pet owners in the area, she will occasionally take in a purebred cat or dog, knowing that with a few phone calls she may be able to find a new home fairly quickly. Such was the case with Chloe, a glamorous flame-point Himalayan whose original owner had died of old age. The owner’s daughter had called Anne Marie, and within a few weeks, Chloe found a new home, with me as it turned out. Now she had this black male Persian in similar need.
“Well, here’s the story,” Anne Marie began. The Persian had been purchased four years ago from a breeder as a kitten, by a couple who had one other cat at the time. The other cat never accepted him. And the man in this couple never liked him for some reason. In fact, he apparently disliked him rather actively, brushing him away whenever the cat came near for affection. The woman in the couple loved him, had him groomed regularly, took him to the vet, and so forth, but the cat just never really became a fully integrated member of the household. After four years of this ambiguity, one day, the man was lying in bed, and the Persian jumped up to give him another chance to exchange a little friendly attention. As the man once again proceeded to shoo him away, the cat climbed into his lap and peed on him.
“No, he didn’t have a urinary tract infection or anything,” Anne Marie told me after I finished laughing my head off. “The woman could only figure he was just, shall we say, expressing his disenchantment. So, she decided she’d better find him a new home.”
“Well,” I said, “I have to come in and meet this little guy. Who hasn’t felt like saying ‘piss on you’ to some git who doesn’t like you? I admire his attitude.”
Long story short, I ended up taking him home. He came with papers certifying his pedigree, along with an excessively twee ‘official’ name, which had been shortened by his previous owners to the ridiculous call name “Carbone.” Sort of Latin for black. Accent on the second syllable. I would have peed on them for that name alone. “Well, little guy,” I told him, “in the first place, we’re going to give you a more macho and cool name. How about Jett, with two t’s, like Joan Jett? She was a rocker and she was very cool.”
The strong, silent type
I don’t know what Jett was supposed to do to be liked in his old home, but in my home, he was a thoroughly sweet, completely inoffensive little shadow. He generally kept himself to himself, but would quietly find his way to whatever room I was in and make himself comfortable nearby. The first few days, Chloe had to ensure that he respected her undisputed position as queen of the household. But after about a week of her swanning around, and him following her slavishly like a heartsick courtier, she relented and accepted his friendship. Thereafter, she mothered him, allowed him to snuggle up to her, on occasion forcibly and vigorously washing his face and ears. He adored her. My dog Foxy was another matter entirely. Foxy was the soul of kindness and gentleness, but it took Jett a while to accept this fuzzy wolf-like creature as benign. But, eventually, all three kept me company in bed each night.
Jett was like an alley cat trapped in a Persian’s body. He would stomp around like he was some big, bad junkyard cat, instead of a fluffball with a flat, adorable face, big round eyes and a slightly crooked little nose. He steadfastly hated to be groomed. He generally didn’t have much to say, and when he did, he said it in an unexpectedly musical voice. And he had a remarkably loud purr. But any and all attempts to groom him would elicit the most horrendous, violent growls and yowls. Occasionally, there was even some bloodshed — mine. But for the most part, he and Chloe were quite the decorative pair, like cat salt and pepper shakers, laying about the furniture and dressing up the place. He was never a big socializer, and guests could spend an entire evening in my home without seeing him. But despite his shyness with strangers, he was happy, comfortable with his new home, and affectionate to us all, even Foxy. And for the next several years, we were a content and harmonious household.
Several months after I’d been diagnosed with breast cancer, Chloe died of what appeared to be a heart attack. She was a grand old lady of sixteen. We were all of us bereft. She had mothered us all in different ways, and had a special relationship with each one of us. She and Foxy had become great pals, and had long overcome their language barrier to forge their own language of trills and murmers, calling one another to bed each night. She was always my special snuggle-pie. And for Jett, she was mother, sister, adored queen, playmate and catnap partner. Eventually, I would adopt another female cat, Fiona, and a male Manx, Teddy, both from friends who were too ill to care for them anymore. Ted respected Jett’s position as the male who was here first, but otherwise ignored him. Fiona became friends with Jett, but in a very casual, offhanded way. Jett took to cozying up to Foxy more and more, and talking to me more often, taking comfort perhaps from our missing Chloe together.
The night that I had to have Foxy put down last November, after a long decline into excrutiating arthritis and canine dementia, I came home and laid in bed, heartbroken and spent. Jett, who had never been much of a snuggler, crawled onto my chest, tucked his head under my chin, purring like race car, and stayed with me for a long time. Almost immediately, his health began to falter. He developed hyperthyroidism, and lost several pounds before I could stabilize him with medicine. He began to be dehydrated from early renal failure. His fur lost its luster and thickness. He developed a chronic eye infection. He developed bowel incontinence. I began to spend a good portion of my days cleaning up after him, administering liquid medication for his thyroid, ointment for his eye, subcutaneous fluids for his dehydration, special food to try to fatten him up again. He was skinny, his coat was patchy, he was just not his old self anymore. Once again, I had to face the fact that my beloved boy was old and miserable, and was not going to get better, no matter what I did. This past Wednesday, with heavy heart, I made the decision to take him to the vet and let him go, back to Chloe and Foxy.
In a few weeks, it will be three years since my life was changed by the diagnosis of cancer. And I have lost all the fur babies who were with me for that shattering event, who comforted me through treatment, who were only too happy to cuddle with me as, for more months than I like to recall, I spent hours and hours of my time in bed, struggling with post-treatment fatigue, never feeling refreshed from my rest, but at least comforted by the warm presence of my loving, furry triumvarate. They were a gentle, daily, reassuring reminder of when my life was normal, when I felt energetic, when I could take my health and vigor for granted. And at the same time, their unconditional love and acceptance made it easier for me to come to terms with my new, altered circumstances. They reminded me that, however much my life had changed, however much I did not feel like myself anymore, I was still me, their favorite human, still intact in the essentials, no matter how much cancer and cancer treatment took from me. And now, all three of them are gone. And with them, a part of myself feels truly and permanently unrecoverable. Who we were, who I was, now resides only in memory.
I miss you, Jett, more than I can say.
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