It was the night of a Halloween party when she first arrived. I had just bought my first house in 1999 and friends had come over on an exceptionally warm night to celebrate. I had set up an area to bob for apples out back and we fired up the grill, drank silly spooky themed cocktails out of a cheap plastic cauldron and had a great time. I didn’t notice her at first, but soon there was a group of people gathered around this beautiful tiger stripped cat who I assumed was a neighbors. She was so friendly and kinda just walked around and mingled with guests as if this were a party thrown especially for her. In the end someone (me) fed her part of a hotdog, and she never left. I named her “Swamp Ophelia” after the Indigo Girls 5th studio album. Imagine how mortified she was when I took her to the vet to find out that she was in fact a he that had already been neutered. We dropped the “Ophelia” and stuck with Swamp, and that is how my cat got his name.
He is a force to be reckoned with, stubborn and determined and I would be rich if I had a quarter for every time he stood on his hind legs at the back door paws wrapped around the door knob, meowing with a whole litany of rants to get me to open the door. I know he looks at me sometimes communicating very well the fact that if he just had opposable thumbs he’d open the damn door himself. Oh he is the great adventurer, I have whistled for him and seconds later I would hear something on top of the garage then I would see one paw (Streeetttccchhh) and then the other as he would slowly pranced down the roof of the garage like it was nothing at all to be up there sunbathing. While he likes to play in the backyard and hang out by the pond under the asian pear bush make no mistake, he is an inside cat for the most part in by dusk loving to curl up on register grates, dirty laundry and paper bags (such the environmentalist) and his all time favorite… the warm cable box.
I bet I have been through 5 cable boxes since I have had him, finally the makers of those contraptions got smart and put side vents as well as top vents, I have a feeling this was not a rare occurrence in the feline world. He was a hit with all my friends, his personality was as big as his heart and I remember crying into his soft fur many times over the years, having him head butt the tears away and when I couldn’t sleep at night soon after my Dad died he would appear at the foot of the bed as if he were sent on a mission from above and the vibrating hum of his purr would offer enough comfort that I always woke up the next morning with Swamp as the last memory before I drifted off to sleep. He is the last pet of mine or my mom’s that was in the presence my Dad, or my Grandmother before they passed away, there is something to that for me, something very special. Swamp is very special, he is the longest relationship I have had, and he has never left…(although he has on occasion enjoyed an all nighter in the wilds of the backyard!)
We think he is about 14 and this week he became ill, he spent time with Dr. O yesterday and in her special, very calm and soothing way called me last night at home to tell me that after running some tests he is in fact pretty sick, more than I had ever thought when I took him in yesterday morning. While we don’t know exactly how much longer he has, I know the time I have with him is limited and I will do my very best to continue to try and make him feel as loved as he has made me feel over the years. I don’t know what will happen or when it will happen but I know that with Dr. O’s help I will make the best decision when the time comes and my number one priority is to not let him suffer, in the same way he has done everything in his power not to let me suffer. Thank you for picking me Swamp, I am the fortunate one.
“no way construction of this tricky plan
was built by other than a greater hand
with a love that passes all out understanding
watching closely over the journey
yeah but what it takes to cross the great divide
seems more than all the courage i can muster up inside
although we get to have some answers when we reach the other side
the prize is always worth the rocky ride
but the wood is tired and the wood is old
and we’ll make it fine if the weather holds
but if the weather holds we’ll have missed the point
that’s where i need to go” -E. Sailers
Indigo Girls from the album Swamp Ophelia