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13 July 2009

Charlotte-Scarlett the old temple-guarding Siamese leaves our household

Hmm apologies if things have seemed to slow down here on Vleeptron ... been a very rough week.
That tan/brown sleeping heap under the Christmas tree is Scarlett, or Scarlett-Charlotte, the ceaselessly screaming shrieking Siamese cat. She was very old -- by some guesses maybe 17, but could have been older.
Last night she came to the end of her run. There wasn't any other choice, but we had to ask the vet to end her suffering. We all said goodbye Saturday night. She was exhausted, but awake, alert, she knew we were there petting her and speaking to her.
I don't mean to sound dumb, but I really don't understand why the animals and the people we love give us so much for so many years, make our household so happy and so warm and comforting and rich, and then die.
There's such a terrible hole in the living room now. For the last six months she'd pretty much lived her life in her one big comfy chair. At night we'd leave the public FM radio station, classical music, on for her. We suspected she liked light classical to bring peace and reassurance to her night.
The temptation is huge to want to believe in eternal life, an afterlife -- if and only if I get to hang with my animals again, to have them near me again.
Scarlett-Charlotte had been my mother-in-law's cat, and when Mom couldn't care for her, we moved S-C in with us, and S-C seemed to like the new arrangement. As she grew older, and got frail, we pampered the crap out of her.
Mom was raised in Georgia, so she named Scarlett for Scarlett O'Hara from "Gone with the Wind."
I tacked on Charlotte, from the 18th century romance novel "Charlotte Temple," by Mrs. Rowson. It's an English novel, but has the historical distinction of being the first novel with an American setting. The innocent schoolgirl Charlotte Temple is seduced by an army officer cad, who takes her to America to be his mistress while he fights the rebels, and then abandons her. I think I posted the first few pages of it on Vleeptron, where Charlotte first meets the scoundrel lieutenant.
So I'd call out to her: Charlotte-Scarlett! And then give her very rough fingernail scratching on her back and butt, she liked that a lot.
No, quite frankly, I don't understand suffering, and I don't understand death. I don't see the point of it all.
A lot of the stories in "The Arabian Nights / 1001 Nights" end this way:

And they lived happily ever after,
until there came the Destroyer of Friendships,
the Shatterer of all Loves.

Charlotte's breed seems to have been bred to be guard cats for Buddhist temples.
How can a cat guard a Buddhist temple?
We found out quickly. Charlotte is very smart and very observant and very high-strung.
When, in the middle of the night, while we slept, she detected anything Wrong with the household, anything or anyone where it shouldn't be at that hour, she would begin to shriek, howl, very much like a baby's cry. Unignorable, impossible to sleep through.
And she would keep howling until one of us woke up, got out of bed, and walked out into the living room to see what Charlotte was screaming her brains off about.
That's how she guarded the temple.
Very effectively. If nobody acknowledged, addressed and fixed Charlotte's complaint to her satisfaction, nobody slept.
She was an extremely challenging old cat to love. She wasn't designed to love and be all warm and fuzzy. She was designed to guard the temple.
I'm sorry the photo doesn't do her justice. She had an exquisitely beautiful face and color markings. Her body grew a bit scrawny and thin and old, but her face, her expression, remained beautiful to gaze at into her last days. Her long thin tan tail ended in a black tip. The toes of her paws were in the same soft but startling black.
She had very little interest in or love for the outdoors. But a few superhot days each summer, she would cautiously agree to go into the front yard, lie under a bush, and let the Sun bake her for hours. An old tropical cat is always cold in New England. In winter, she paid very close attention to the sounds of the thermostat, because when it clicked, that meant that soon the metal radiator would get hot -- and Charlotte would make a beeline for the hot radiator.
She had strange, difficult relationships with the other cats, they made her nervous and fearful. But she fell instantly in love with big giant Maine coon Elmer, and gazed in astonishment at his handsomeness, so we gave him a new nickname: Tyrone Purrer.
In her last years she grew senile, and was often disoriented when she woke in the middle of the night, and howled: Where am I? How did I get here? Where is everyone? What's going on?
But it was easy to calm her down with our voices and by petting her, and she would go back to sleep.
She didn't like adventures or thrills, or strangers. She particularly didn't like the vacuum cleaner. She watched the outdoors closely through the living room window, and when a bear was smashing around in the bushes (trying to get at the bird feeder), that would terrify her for the entire next day.
She had a very scary-looking crisis early Thursday morning, and we put her in a big cardboard box with a blanket, and drove her to a new vet clinic in Deerfield that's always open and specializes in dog and cat emergencies. They're not running a charity, and Charlotte's last days ran up quite a tab -- two blood transfusions and all sorts of diagnostic tests, that finally made it clear she was dying, and nothing could prevent that. All that was left to do was to end her suffering and torment.
The staff of the emergency clinic was very expert at managing the love and concern of the pet owners. Everyone in that waiting room was worried and miserable. One dog waited his turn to have a little black beard of porcupine quills removed from his chin.
There was a big old sheep-herding dog, and an 8-month-old boxer with mysterious, frequent little seizures. It was 10 at night, and mom and dad brought their 6-year-old daughter, a study of worry and concern long past her bedtime.
They herd and protect our sheep, guard the temple, kill mice and rats (and moles and bunnies and squirrels and chipmunks and birds). And drown us in torrents of unconditional love. Living with us gives their world meaning, safety and peacefulness. Knowing we're there lets them sleep long and deep. I think they dream about hunting -- and sometimes have nightmares of being chased by dogs or coyotes.
I have no interest in hunting, but have infinite admiration for their skills at hiding, stalking, racing, pouncing, the quick kill. It's quite horrible to see it up close.
Much more horrible, in city and country, if they weren't such skilled, dedicated hunters. The mice and rats would quickly take over, plague would come back, a huge amount of our grain would be lost, bread would skyrocket in scarcity and price, we would be a lot hungrier.
It's the middle of the night, and for the first time since Charlotte came to live with us, I miss her yowling terribly, I wish it were coming from the living room interrupting my thoughts and my work, and I would get up and soothe her with my voice, and pet and scrunch her with my fingernails, until she knew where she was, and settled back down in her chair, and purred, and went back to sleep, with soft classical music playing on the radio.


Big D said...

Sorry to read about your loss. I wish you well.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Thanks Big D.

Besides her beloved Tyrone Purrer, Charlotte had another very unusual relationship. When I catch my breath I'll tell you about it.

eepy post said...

Rest in Peace, Scarlett Charlotte.


patfromch said...

Yeah, mate, I can feel your pain. Loosing a pet and loosing a lover are about the toughest things that can happen to you. Condolences.

SteveHeath said...

Bob, damnit...Ya just made me get up and go pull my 12 year old Bleu out of her bed and remind her she's TopCat in our house of five (two cats, dog and two guinea pigs). In recent months she's dropped about 1/4 of her previous weight, though all her other vitals seems healthy.

How's Elmer Elevator - that big ass Maine coon cat doin' these days?

SteveHeath said...

Musing a bit more as I reread your eulogy for S-C...I believe I recall her as being the upper bunk kitty during my two night stay in Oct 2005 when you showed me the hospitality of the lower bunk in guest room, eh?

She was remote from the other four (at that time) cats as I recall. But now I realize why I slept well. I was under close and careful guard.


Jim Olson said...

My two; Oberon at 16 and Diva at not quite 16 are both well, but we had quite a scare with Oberon in the spring. They are both happy, purring bundles of unconditional love; and that is the price: we out live them.

Jim Olson said...

I'm sorry, Bob. My thoughts are with you and SWMBO.

Despicableteacher said...

I'm so sorry Bob :(