Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Miles, a tribute (April 1991 - December 21, 2010

It was a pretty hot day – somewhere in the mid 80’s. I remember clearly because the air conditioner in car (our trusty 1989 Chevy Spectrum) never worked well, and we were all feeling it on the way home. There they were, in the back, panting. Two little kittens we had just acquired, cute and fuzzy and small enough each to fit in the palm of a hand. The black one – with white nose, muzzle and paws – had already demonstrated his precocious personality. He let out a little yelp that was all attitude. I said “that’s it, his name is Miles” (after my favorite jazz man with attitude). For good measure, we named the other one, female, Ella.

This was May 28, 1991, a day before Deb’s birthday. We had decided, upon moving in together, to get a cat. And now we were going home “as a family.” The kitties, who came to dominate our lives in so many ways, were the first birthday gift I ever bought for my not-yet spouse. Our lives have been enriched in so many ways over the years – making us chuckle every time we think of the original receipt: $5.99 (no tax on livestock).

Miles and Ella were with us through grad school, ordination, and finding our first jobs. They moved with us from Cincinnati to L.I. to Westchester to NJ and then South Bend. The cats were the first to welcome home our children (there’s a great picture of Miles in the borrowed bassinet we set up for Benjamin; the cat slept in it before the baby). How they climbed up and jumped off the walls while playing. Playing ring-toss with the plastic rings from a milk bottle…Miles swatting down a bat (yes, a bat) in the middle of one summer night…Ella rolling around upside down and squawking for attention…their love of raw veggies (!) rather than chicken parts…They were always entertaining, and a source of concern. As any pet lover knows, they became integral parts of the family.

Nothing lasts forever – even beloved pets. Ella died a little more than 5 years ago, just as we were looking to move from NJ. It was difficult, as she suffered from disease, and had been with us 14 years. And yet, the kids were younger, and easily more adaptable to (and perhaps less cognizant of) this change.

We just figured Miles would go on and on. He was never fazed by anything, and remained very healthy even as he aged. He too was affected by kidney problems, which often happens in older cats. However, in the few years since his sister’s demise, treatment had advanced quite a bit. As a matter of fact, the first thing we did to address his condition was feed him chicken soup. No kidding. The vet said “you need to maintain his intake of liquid and protein, so I want you to give him chicken soup.” “Really?” I muttered quizzically. “Yes”, doc said, “you’re Jewish, you get it, give him soup.”

For several months, the addition of chicken soup alone buoyed his strength and slowed the progress of disease. And of course, eventually, we had to engage other treatments and medications, until finally, yesterday, the time had come. Miles was no longer responding to meds, getting progressively weaker. Not wanting him to suffer, or go through any real physical crisis – it was clearly time to let go, say goodbye. Easily the most gut-wrenching decision we’ve ever had to make. Some times doing the right thing still hurts.

So now as a family, we mourn Miles’ loss. I know over time we will only look back with fondness, love and deep appreciation to his role in our lives: nineteen years and eight months of blessing.

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