IN MEMORY OF ALFRED (ALFY)
Too often we dismiss the death of a pet as a minor event, not sharing our grief because we hold animals to be somehow less important than man. But they are fellow souls that contribute richness to the world. They are devoted companions that can mean as much to us as our fellow humans.
Alfy saved my life. He was an extraordinary cat. He woke me each morning at 4:49, a minute before my alarm clock. Even day light savings changes only threw him for a day or two. He was absolutely dependable. Then one morning he woke me two hours early and refused to let me fall back to sleep. At his insistence, I roused enough to smell the faintest hint of smoke in the air. I tried to dismiss it as my roommate sneaking another cigarette on the porch, but Alfy would have none of my sleepy carelessness.
When I rose to investigate, I found a small fire on the porch. A careless cigarette had ignited a pot of discarded butts and the resulting fire had melted the container, spreading the flames across the concrete toward the house. The growing pool of burning plastic had already consumed yard tools and debris. As I looked, the flames were starting on a table leaning against the house. It took me fifteen minutes to douse the fire. Plastic is oil based and seemed to reignite even as I poured water over the traveling mass. I have often wondered how long it would have taken before it burned the house, had Alfy not insisted I get up early that morning.
Alfy was critical in our rescue of a small, injured, orphaned kitten we named Squeaky. Squeaky was barely alive for days after his surgeries to repair a large gash on his leg. Alfy tenderly nursed him back to health, cleaning his fur, coaxing him to eat, playing gently with him, and watching over him. As Squeaky grew they became best friends, and romped through the house together for the next several years.
Alfy coaxed me back to health, too, as my marriage ended. He stayed by my side through my divorce and my forced move to a new city. His natural affection soothed my many tears and made me chuckle, even as I mourned the loss of my dreams. He greeted me at the door each time I came home and nuzzled his way into my arms as I fell exhausted onto the couch after work. I fell asleep each night to the sound of his purring and gentle melodic mews.
There was no time for me to say good-bye when he passed. I neglected to realize how seriously ill he was when I left him behind at the vet’s that day. It never occurred to me that his life force, so strong and joyous, even on that final morning, could so easily pass away. The shock has shifted to guilt and regret. My sorrow is now a pervading loss of feeling. Squeaky and I carry on.
I remember his soft tongue kisses, his caressing paw, his three foot leaping on crooked legs, the smell of his soft fur, and the loving wisdom in his eyes.