Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Catching Up

Those who are not on Facebook but read me here wouldn't know why the silence, but may have guessed. Yes, my cat Jig died. I didn't feel ready to write about it at first, then I felt like that was the first thing I should write about, and then not writing became a habit. That's often been a pattern of procrastination for me....because I don't feel like doing the thing I think I should do first, I don't do any of it.

The first night after the first visit to the vet, I had a dream. I kept it to myself for a long time. There was a creature after Jig, and I was trying to save her from it. It was spiky-faced and black with a big wide mouth and sharp fangs. I was only somewhat succeeding in keeping it at bay when I woke up. I didn't know if it got to her or not. I tried to do that waking thing where I complete the story of the dream the way I want it to be, but that doesn't work. I knew this wasn't good. Throughout my life, I have rarely dreamt about those who are closest to me. It is only when they have died, or have left me, or about to die or leave me, that I dream about those that are as much a part of me as my own blood. I guess those I've shared oxytocin with. I didn't want to give the dream any more power than it already had in my head.

A few days after that dream, I realized that creature was like an animal version of Lord Yama. This is, believe it or not, another reason I kept it to myself. I didn't want to spark conversations on the cosmology of Buddhism, and how I feel about it, which is 'I don't know.' or 'both-and.' Or quite likely, 'it's all in our heads, but what does that mean if we are all interconnected?' It was kind of like this graffiti dragon that showed up a week or so later. At the very least, I knew my subconscious was telling me how serious this was with Jig.

On February 15th, Jig didn't come out all day. When I went to find her to feed her, she was hiding deep under a piece of furniture. She was gasping for breath. She didn't want to come out. I knew she was trying to die, and trying to do this alone. Again this was a Sunday evening, and again we took her to the emergency pet hospital. The doc thought she was likely experiencing heart failure, that when muscles waste away from weight loss, this sometimes damages the heart too. Jig seemed to be desperately asking us to make the pain stop, to let her be so she could stop. She seemed to be all bone, skin, fur, and pointy tips. While the doc gave us the option of more tests, etc, we decided to let her go. Steve said, "You're a good cat, Jig," which made me cry all the more.

I realized she looked a bit like the creature from my dream. In some way I couldn't shake the feeling that Jig had shared my dream, that she had made this decision over a month before, and we'd only been delaying something that had already occurred. After she was gone, I noticed a change in myself. My legs worked better. Sometimes I felt like my circulation was poor, and I had difficulty standing. Now my legs felt fine. While I was grieving, I felt less depressed and more able to do things. These past few years, Jig and I have had quite an empathetic connection, and it occurred to me perhaps I'd been experiencing a physiological empathetic reaction to her weakness and her sadness. It wouldn't be the first time I've done something like that. Now that she's gone, I'm learning just how much she defined me. I still have the thought when I come home, "Soon I'll see Jig." Sometimes it's that verbal, sometimes it's an image or a feeling of her about to be on my lap. I still have the habit of peeking behind the bathroom door before I go in there to make sure I don't startle her if she's in the litter box.

Now that she's absent, I've realized just how much less of a barrier it is between my identity and an animal friend's, than it is between me and another human. We can be more physically close, lap-sitting for hours. I can pet her whole body in one motion. Most of our language is non-verbal. There is less of a sense of separateness, whereas with a human, even a lover, there's almost always an awareness that our thoughts are separate, that we are separate selves. So while I grieve for a lost love, I also grieve for a lost piece of myself. The part of me that was me-and-Jig can no longer be what she was.

How did I get to be 41 and not experience this, you ask? Jig was the first animal that lived this long with me. As a child, many of our cats didn't live very long, being outdoor animals in a rural area. Our dogs, too, were outdoor animals, and while there was some of that intimacy of snuggling together on the floor, I didn't get so close as I did with Jig. And, well, I've learned to love more deeply in the decade I've known Jig. Indeed I believe she taught me I could love an animal with all my heart. She taught me to see the Buddha in her.

You're a good cat, Jig. I miss you.


Anonymous said...

Oh, H, I am crying here at my desk. She was a good cat and I will miss her. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about this. It was very touching.

Anonymous said...

The last photo made me cry to Jig was lucky to have loving humans like you and Steve and I am lucky to be your friend.

Anonymous said...

Of course I meant "...made me cry too.Jig..."
My inner editor says to clarify this