Monday, May 03, 2010

A Sad Farewell to the Best Old Friend

And so the time has come to say farewell to our little friend, Alfonse le Soot. He would have been 13 years old right about now. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile may remember his dramatic disappearance in July of 2008. And his equally dramatic return just over a month later. No explanation was ever found for his disappearance, but we were so happy to have him home.

In late March of this year we made a trip to California, only to have the terrible news from our wonderful house-sitter, Judy, that Alfonse had collapsed and had to be rushed to the vet the day after we left. The vet tried mightily to save our little fellow, but he had experienced sudden heart failure resulting in a clot that paralyzed his hind legs. After three heart-rending days and a steadily worsening condition, the decision had to be made to let him go.

We returned to Australia two days ago and today, with heavy hearts, we picked up Alfonse’s ashes, brought him home and buried him in his final resting place. We chose the spot he loved to visit every morning…in the garden, next to the old bathtub in the horse paddock..where he always preferred to have his morning drink of water.

Alfonse was our sweetest cat, with the silkiest all-black fur ever seen, and lovely dark-toast-colored eyes, and the longest tail of any of our cats. When he found himself in the house and wanted out, he would stand by the door and give the most piercing, strong call…we called him Our Little Opera Singer.

When we adopted him from the animal shelter in Amador County in 1997, he was in a cage with his mother and siblings, all of them completely black. Mama Kitty was awake, but all the kittens except one were sound asleep. It was Alfonse, of course, rubbing against the cage and saying “Choose me…Choose me!” Ross’s heart melted instantly, and he quietly said, “I’d like this one.” As we were settling up with the shelter, the attendant said, “This cat’s name should be “Lucky” because all-black cats are really hard to place.”

He was such a funny-looking little thing, very scrawny and tiny, with two bald patches in front of his ears. We wondered whether he’d ever fill out and get a proper coat of fur, but within a few months he was handsome, sleek and gorgeous.

In October of 2006 Alfonse made the long trip to Australia, accompanied by the six other feline members of the family. He hated the month-long quarantine time near Sydney because he had to be in a cage all by himself. When I visited twice a week during the quarantine, he let me know in no uncertain terms that he didn't want to be there and expected me to spring him from his captivity. Once he and the other kitties were finally released, he was the happiest of cats, prowling around the house and garden, exploring his new environment. All his life he loved to climb -- trees, trellisses, anything that would give purchase to his claws. His lithe body stretched along a huge branch many feet above the earth gave me pause, many times, but he always made it safely down again.

Alfonse had suffered the indignity of having been Top Cat in the household for a couple of years, until The Grey Brothers, Cloudy and Patch, showed up to depose him. He suffered this setback with grace and patience, and never stopped being his lovely, loving self.

So today we farewelled our lovely little Alfonse. He will always live in our hearts and memories.