I really didn’t (still don’t) want to write this post.
It’s been a rough week around my house. On Sunday (Valentine’s Day) we lost our beloved cat Rootbeer. For 13 years she was always there for us and our house feels like a big empty void.
So I think if I tell her story here, she’ll live on in some way in through my words and pictures.
I found Rooty when she was about two years old outside my office building while I was living in Tucson, Arizona. We had an office dog – a black lab named Harley – who was my furry friend until I found my own little girl, Roo. She was hungry and Harley’s food was enough to keep her coming back to the office each day for about a week. That never changed as she aged – she was always super motivated by food.
Maybe that’s why it was so hard to notice that she had become ill – she was still eating like a champ.
I brought Rooty home on a weekend – a step that my husband disapproved of greatly with his allergies and all – but I was able to convince him that if he didn’t like her we would send her right back on Monday. I had dogs growing up, but I always wanted a cat. It had been my wish for every birthday. And here she was, a gift just for me.
Needless to say, Rooty never left our apartment after that weekend. We loved her. She first lived with us as a courtyard cat. Coming in and out during the day, roaming as she pleased.
When we bought our first house, she had a huge fenced in yard to roam and she loved being outside. Dusty as Arizona is, she often rolled in dirt and came in covered with a fine layer of desert. So she grew accustomed to getting baths.
When my husband was accepted to a doctoral program at Florida State, our move from the desert to the humidity of Florida was a big change for her. As we drove our U-haul away from our home in Tucson, she proceeded to stick her butt towards the front of the cage and peed all over my legs. I guess she wasn’t ready to leave either. But we did. And it was her friendship that got me through some of the sad times like moving away from a place we loved so dearly.
It was a long route to Tallahassee, but we got there, we adjusted and we were back to apartment living for awhile. It was in our new apartment that we adopted our sweet Della. Rooty desperately wanted to snuggle with her, but Della is and always has been independent. So they were always acquaintances – never best buds.
We eventually rented a house so the cats could roam free and enjoy the humidity, mosquitos and lizards. As we made new friends in our new place, so did Rooty. Everyone LOVED her. She was personable and all she wanted was to sit on your lap and cuddle. She was a purr-machine.
Our friends Scott and Kirsti, who had cats of their own, grew especially fond of her and called her their little rutabaga. Scott used to just carry her around the house when they came to hangout. Best buds for sure. She had many nicknames – Rooster (we call Della chicken), Rooticia, Rooty Tooty, Bagel…the list goes on.
After moving from Tallahassee to Scranton, PA to work for the university here, we spent the first year living in a house that was undergoing major renovation. Rooty was friend to every contractor, plumber, electrician.
She made lots of new people-friends in Scranton and was especially fond of her Auntie Ileana who recognized the special soul she has. Rooty was such an easy friend to have. I told her all my secrets, she gave me kisses when I was upset and her presence is forever going to be missed.
Her story ends with a long 15 years of life, the last year being blind and deaf and ultimately ending with diabetic ketoacidosis. Although her last hours were traumatic – a rush to the emergency vet, a difficult decision to let her go – the majority of those years were spent getting endless amounts of scratching, sometimes special cans of tuna, a few baths here and there, but most importantly her time was spent giving and receiving so much love.
Each day gets better. Every time I tell her story I get a little stronger. When the morning comes my heart twinges a little less.
I am reading a book right now by Sherry Turkle called “Reclaiming Conversation.” The book discusses the generational loss of empathy and ability to have meaningful conversation. I’m so glad that I have many friends who haven’t lost this ability. Turkle says “conversation cures” and this rings true for me this week. It’s been so helpful to talk on the phone and have coffee with friends who knew her, family that loved her and to know that it’s ok to cry what seems like an endless amount. Because pets are our friends, our life partners, our babies and truly a reflection of the love our own souls offer to the world.