Purrprints on the Heart

Skipper at home in Arcadia
Skipper at home in Arcadia

When I was about ten and my brother eight, dad took us to the local animal shelter. We were going to get a dog. We ended up with a cocker/lab puppy. I don’t remember anything about the shelter, only the ride home. John and I in the back of our station wagon, in the days before mandatory seatbelts, with our small black pup. We named him Skipper, after our grandfather’s cocker spaniel.

Although he was our dog, he was more mine. I fed him, cleaned up after him and took him for long walks. John joined the Air Force, dad passed away on a Christmas Eve and Skipper grew old. I got a teaching job in Orange, which lasted for forty years, and mom was moving back to Minnesota. Skipper was on his last legs and was both deaf and blind; I cradled him in my arms as the vet put him to sleep. He grew still and I cried for the remainder of the day.

Merlin and Magic in window nest
Merlin and Magic in window nest

Eighteen years ago my wife got a Burmese kitten from a local pet shop; she named him Magic. He was a small bundle of fur who stole our hearts. Because we both had full-time teaching jobs, he spent workdays alone – so we got him a playmate. A local breeder had a Burmese kitten returned to her and contacted my wife. We drove across the county to see this little kitten and he was a very little kitten. He didn’t like being held (my wife thinks he was mistreated by the people who returned him). My wife let me name him; I called him Mandrake after the magician in the comic strips I had read as a kid. She didn’t like that name, took back the naming rights and called him Merlin.

A young Merlin in bed
A young Merlin in bed

Three year old Magic was a laid back cat; Merlin, although quite a bit smaller, was aggressive. Eventually they grew to tolerate and then to like each other and would play, chase and sleep together. They enriched our lives and we grew quite fond of our two “little boys”. The years went by and they grew old.

Over the last two years they would occasionally get sick and recover, after years of never getting sick. It was obvious they were aging. They had less energy, would sleep more; Merlin gained weight and Magic lost it.

The vet examined and tested Magic a couple of months ago and recommended a special diet for kidney health and fluids (IV) a couple of times a week. He stabilized at about six pounds. Merlin’s health deteriorated a couple of weeks ago and was given a lot of tests. Over Washington’s Birthday weekend an ultrasound indicated cancer (around the heart and lungs and it had damaged his nervous system). On Washington’s Birthday the vet put him to sleep while my wife held him.

Merlin and "his" lovebirds
Merlin and “his” lovebirds

On the 28th I took Magic in for fluids and dental cleaning. About three in the afternoon the vet called my wife as I was driving to pick her up at work. Magic was dead; he died during the dental treatment, probably stress according to the vet. Unlike with Merlin we had no chance to prepare ourselves or say goodbye. I had tears in my eyes all the way home and cried for the next hour. Magic meant more to me than I had thought; my little guy was gone. No longer would he wake me at four in the morning for breakfast, yell at me when I got home after four in the afternoon and fed him late, push his way onto my lap and nap the afternoons and evenings away.

I still look for Purrball (Merlin) on our bed, his favorite place, when I pass by the bedroom door and am surprised he is not there. When I wake up in the morning, I wonder why Shortstuph (Magic) didn’t wake me and I miss his warm purr on my lap when I read in my lounge chair during the afternoon and evening hours.

Magic and Merlin in bed
Merlin curled up with a Magic pillow

My wife wants a couple of traditional Applehead Siamese (Thai Cat) kittens. They won’t be able to replace Magic and Merlin but we have still have room on the bed and on our laps for a couple more little guys. And there is a lot of room for them to leave some more purrprints on our hearts.