If we do meet again, why, we shall smile;
If not, why, then this parting was well made. (Julius Caesar)
This Sunday we had to say goodbye to our dear Barney, the most sweet-natured and dignified of elderly gentlemen cats. I knew our time together might not be very long, but he seemed so alert, so lively, that we had hoped to get a few years at least. Sadly, it was not to be.
He was diagnosed with diabetes in August, and didn’t seem to mind the injections I was giving him twice daily. But then he stopped eating, his fur started getting scraggly, his urinary tract infection just wouldn’t go away. I was taking him to the vet every few days, adjusting his dosage, having him checked out, but towards the end of last week he barely had the energy to do anything other than sit under his favourite bush in the garden. Even Zoe, who has not been his greatest fan, was gentle towards him in his last few days.
It only takes a few seconds to fall in love, they say, and I fell in love with Barney’s sweet expression as soon as I saw it on Twitter. But it takes months and years to get to really know someone – and I wish we’d had that time to get to know each other fully. However, this is what we found out about him during the six months we had together.
He was a Zen master. Every couple of days, Zoe would make a run at him, and he never retaliated, merely lifted his paw on occasion in the gesture of a benign and wise Buddha.
He was a great helper for any cook. He would follow my every move in the kitchen with bright, intelligent eyes, as if asking: ‘What else can I do?’ (He would also search the floor very thoroughly for any fallen pieces of food.)
He didn’t come upstairs at all until the very last week before he got really ill. He had a deep miaow which he learnt to use most expressively when he wanted to be let out or some attention.
He was one of life’s natural philosophers. He loved sitting in the garden, breathing in the fresh air, stretching out in the shade.
He was a gentle giant, tall and thin, with big, manly back legs. He had a loping gait and was extremely agile for his age.
His favourite spots were: just in front of the fridge door or on the back of the sofa when we were all watching TV. Or sleeping on the sofa when we all wanted to sit on it.
He was extremely good at guilting you into giving him extra treats (although we desisted because of his health problems).
He was not a lap cat, which made it all the more special when he honoured me with his presence.
He had the most beautiful, profound eyes, a gaze that you could just drown in.
The house is just not the same without his quiet presence.