Saturday, April 28, 2012

My Friend

17 years is a long time. So much can happen in 17 years.

I remember walking into that shelter as if it were yesterday. April 20th, 1995. I'll never forget that day.

I grew up with cats and had to leave my own behind when I left for college (something that still haunts me), so the moment I knew I was moving into a cat-friendly apartment, I went on the hunt for my special friend. I wasn't looking for just any cat, and boy did I see cats. I searched every pet store and shelter within a 3 county radius. She wasn't the first- or even the second kitten, I saw that day at the Marion County animal shelter. The first cage actually had two of the cutest kittens I've ever seen in my life, and both howled at me to open their cage, but I couldn't bear to break up a pair and leave a lone kitten behind; and so I moved along. The second cage had a litter of 5.

When I opened the cage door, four huddled in a corner while Chabot strutted up to the edge. She let out a little meow- something that would become one of her trademarks, and I was hooked. She was so cute, and LITTLE! She crawled all over my car for the 20 minute ride home. When I got home, I made her a makeshift bed (see: shoebox + blanket) and a makeshift litter box (see: shoebox lid with shredded newspapers). She had ample room in that bed and I remember her little green eyes looking at me that night before I turned off the lights to go to sleep. She meowed and CLAWED her way up the comforter and laid next to my head on the pillow. I gently picked her up and put her back in her bed. We repeated this process another two times before I just said, "fuck it," and let her sleep there. Her purring lulled me to sleep many a night. I let her sleep there until she no longer fit and moved to my side or the foot of the bed.

She did some of the coolest things. Everyone always said she was the coolest cat.

On the monthly trips home, she would spend the 4.5+ hour car ride between Gainesville and Miami walking around the car or sleeping on my lap. She would crawl around the back and people would see her and honk. It was hilarious. On her first ride to Miami, she crawled around so much that I wondered if she was looking for somewhere to take a shit. Almost as if I willed it, she popped up from the back, onto my lap, put her two paws on the window, and meowed. Because I am totally fluent in cat speak, I thought she was telling me she had to go; so, I pulled over. I held her tight as cars flew by us, and positioned her over some grass. Would you believe she actually peed?!?!?!? She did it every time she had to go to the bathroom...for years.

She would talk- clearly, after that bathroom story; but no, really talk. You would tell her, "Chabot: speak," and she would meow at you. It was her version of cat parlor tricks, I guess. My grandmother used to call her the social butterfly because she would just walk up to her in the hallway of our building, meow, rub her leg, and then continue.

She was a sly hunter too. While it is commonplace to get the token lizards, rats, and small birds, Chabot once brought me an armadillo. She brought an opossum too. She was also known to steal food from plates left unattended. I suppose that was the consequence of always feeding her tuna and table food.

She loved to play all sorts of games. Lord only knows how much money I spent on toys and quality cat nip. She loved to play "catch the thing under the comforter" where I just made jerky movements with my hands or feet under the comforter as she tried to pounce on it. She also loved to play under doors. You could stick an item under a door and she would try to grab it on the other side. She would stick her paws under trying to grab it. It was the cutest thing seeing these little paws sticking out from under the door. She would go n u t s with cat nip. Purring and rubbing and doing the crazy shit cats do when they're high. She would hide on top of the fridge and then jump on you when you walked by. She actually played this hide-and-go-seek game all over the place- under beds, around corners; it was awesome- except when I was running late for work and she ripped my stockings.

She loved laundry day- days. She had a penchant for jumping into laundry hampers full of clean clothes and piles of clean laundry atop the bed. She'd restregarse bien in all the clothing. Her long, white hairs all over everything didn't help her case. Oh, and let me not forget about drawers! She would crawl in drawers and sleep on the clothes. Chabot got me to do what my mom couldn't: to close drawers. In these last years, her favorite spot to sleep was the drawer underneath the crib where all the baby blankets are.

She'd always come running to the door- whether she was outside or in, when I arrived. She never ignored my call. She'd meow and rub herself up against my legs. I knew it was an excited hello, and I was always happy to see her too. I now wish I wouldn't have rushed through some of those moments as quickly as I did. She would stand in the window and I would tap the glass and play. It was hilarious when she would pop her head in the tub. I would be in the tub and she would just peer in from a corner...or when she would knock over all my shoes trying to find hiding spots. I miss so many things already.

I miss seeing her. She was the most beautiful calico, with the most gorgeous green eyes.

In 17 years, so much has happened. I've voted for four presidential candidates. I've traveled the world. I've had 5 cars. I've moved 6 times. I've mended a broken heart or two- always with her purring softly beside me. I've buried a grandparent. I've buried friends. I've had a few jobs. I've had countless hair colors. There have been 6709 sunsets. I've weathered 5 hurricanes. I had a benign tumor removed from my body. I've danced my ass off more times than I can count. I got married. I had three children. I lost one. I lost her.

So much has happened in 17 years, and yet it seems like such little time to have been able to spend with her.

I miss you so much, my friend. You are loved very much. I hope I did right by you. Thank you for choosing me that day. Just, thank you. I hope to see you again.

RIP Chabot Casanueva Rodriguez
4/20/1995 - 4/26/2012