Wednesday, May 21, 2008

We Will Miss You Garfield

I've waited two weeks to write about this and I think it's because I have been hoping upon hope that I wouldn't have to. But sadly, it seems our beloved cat has found somewhere else to live and most likely he's keeping someone in heaven warm and happy. It's true, after 7 wonderful years of keeping us company Garfield hasn't come home in the last two weeks. We suspect it likely that the ever growing population of coyotes has possibly chased him one too many times, but I will continue to believe that even though he still seemed in the prime of his life, he decided it was his time and ventured into the woods somewhere to find a comfy spot and lay his head to rest.

I've owned two cats in my life other than Garfy; Daisy was our family cat and lived 18 years and slept on my sister Ali's bed all the time, Sammy was my cat in college and loved my dad more than me and eventually found a new home when I married Cory since Cory was not particularly fond of felines. Garfy however, changed his heart.

His story is a good one. Bailey, our younger of the two Springer Spaniels, and I were out on a walk back in 2000 shortly after we had moved into our house on North Fork Circle. Halfway through our walk out of the ditch pops a furry tan ball of fur, "mew, mew" he cried and proceeded to follow us along. We were about 1/2 a mile from home, out in the country, and that determined little kitten, with no prodding by me, followed us the entire way at about 10 paces back. Now, I will admit, once we got within 50 yards of our cul de sac, I did start to slow down and make sure he was keeping up with us, but I knew that once at the house I would probably hear from Cory to get rid of it and that the dogs would never put up with a cat around. Garfield proved him wrong.

Of course, I was correct in that Cory did tell me to take it back to where he first showed up, but I was determined to let him at least see how sweet this little kitten was, convinced he would change his mind. (Not an easy feat for those of you that know Cory when he's made his mind up on something!) To try and show me that it would never work having a cat around the yard (I never would have attempted to make him a house cat, that just wasn't his style), he threw open the door and egged Fisher, our older Springer Spaniel, to "go get the kitty!" figuring at the sight of a wide eyed, flushing dog the kitten would hed for the hills. Boy was he wrong! Garfield just laid down on that deck and let Fisher sniff and prod and lick him all over. It was the start of a forever friendship among two high strung hunting dogs and the most laid back cat on the face of the earth.

Garfield, as he then came to be known due to his tan/orange color, became a part of our family in a way we could never have imagined. As a kitten, only 6 weeks old when we first came to know him according to our vet, he would lay on my chest at night on the screened porch while I read. When Cory was out in the woods with the dogs, looking for signs of deer or just generally bumming around the property, he would tag along with them, almost like a scene from The Incredible Journey. He brought us little gifts, not appetizing, but at least keeping the house clear of mice and other fun country critters. He kept the dogs company, snuggling up to them on their beds during the day while we were at work, one big pile of brown and white and tan. I'll never forget the day he sat on the ledge of a brick wall at the front of our driveway, tail slowly swaying back and forth as if he was on the verge of collecting some very hard won prey, only to look 4 feet up the brick front of the house to see a chipmunk holding on for dear life, heart pounding. Or the afternoon two Canadian Geese decided to check out our pond, and Garfield boldly walking to the edge, surely to capture these great birds, until they turned and swam right for him, and the closer and bigger they got, the further back from the edge Garfield moved until he completely turned tail and ran (those are the biggest ducks I've ever seen!)

There were trying times with him, a few very expensive vet visits, which originally were agreed by me to Cory never to happen - "if something happens to him, we are not spending a bunch of money keeping an outdoor cat alive"... Agreed to but not followed through, as evidenced by the steel pin that had to be surgically placed after a broken leg (which if a coyote did get him, the pin was worth every cent if it's choking on it!) and the week long drain that had to be flushed with a syringe after a nasty cat fight blew open a wound in his side. But nevertheless, he proved worthy of every penny we spent.

Since we moved to our newer home well into the country, he's the reason Jack's 2nd word was Cat - (long A CAAAT!) And one evening upon rounding the bend in the road leading to the house I watched him in the field as he played his usual game of capture and release with some furry four legged critter, picking it up and placing it on the ground, letting it go and waiting until it ran just a few feet away, then pouncing and bringing it back to do it all over again. Little did he know high in the tree in the field behind him sat a hawk, watching every move and just at the right moment swooping down and snatching Garfield's toy right in front of him. I'd never seen that cat jump so high in all his life!

So each morning for the past two weeks, as I open the garage door to leave, I hope to see a flash of tan run in and jump up on his carpet tree to get a snack. And each evening when I turn the bend, I imagine seeing that confident strutt coming out of the woods or through the field to greet us home from a long day's work. And each night, I lay down in bed, leaving the window open, since this is one of the few seasons we can let a cool breeze in, I hope to hear "meow, meow, meow" outside the bedroom window.

But there's no flash, no strutt, no "meow" and so now I have to come to terms that Garfield has found his new home and is keeping someone else company.

So Garfield, for all your sweet purrs, for all your funny antics, for your furry bond with Fisher and Bailey, for your gentleness with Jack and finally for being the best cat a family could love, we will miss you Garfy. Keep a spot warm for us.

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