Mistopheles (or pheles, or baby pheles, or baby girl) and her sister, Stumpy, were my 24th birthday present. as kittens in the same litter, they got their illustrious start as love children at the California humane society where an employee who was not paying attention allowed a "visit" between two new unfixed admittees. with a start like that, you knew it was gonna be a good life.
they lived in California, then Chicago, before moving to Alaska (not including a brief stint in Seattle), where they were introduced to the great outdoors and all it had to offer, including grass (wow!), bees, butterflies, and other bugs (so cool!), and voles (you have NO idea!).
Though they were litter-mates, they have always been different - that was clear to everyone who met them. Stumpy has half a tail, is a little ornery, a little crazy, a little....um, heavy, and a lot loveable. Pheles was thin and svelt with a long beautiful tail, a sweet and delicate nature, and also a lot loveable.
Pheles, in her quiet nature, taught Nuchie his real place as low dog on the totem pole. Stumpy just hissed at him. he learned through both methods and all three figured out how to live together.
Pheles at 5 years and Nuch at 4 months. this is the 'stink eye' in case you can't tell. it's an effective tool in a cat's bag of tricks.
a more recent example: that's little Pheles crashed out on Nuch's big bed (with his toys!), while he looks on...
the old saying goes that if dogs and cats can get along, it's because cats compete for space and dogs compete for attention. it must be true, since Pheles occupied a HUGE space in my heart, making it grow to be able to confine the enormity of her love.
Baby pheles suffered a serious illness when she was little and in her lengthy drugged state, took refuge under the bed sheets. she never lost that endearing habit for the rest of her life, and was steadfast in her belief that if she couldn't see you, you couldn't see her. she spent a lot of time with her head tucked under a sheet, or rug, or if those weren't available, pressed into a corner so that she couldn't see you. i never knew if she really thought her body sticking out was invisible, or if she just believed that humans were too stupid to figure it out.
Pheles was dignified if ever a cat was. if she was forced to suffer some indignity, like being picked up for example, she refused to look at you. again, if she didn't look at you, you didn't exist. it was just that simple. but if she wanted love, she would march right in front of you and collapse in your path - it was pretty close to irresistable. lately she discovered that the back of the couch was also a good place from which to demand love.
after a mercifully short battle with cancer, baby girl died on Tuesday. but she left behind some lessons i live by:
sometimes, if the world is uncooperative, it's ok to hide under things.
despite the risks, sitting in the sun is an important thing to do.
planting things and watching them grow is also an important thing to do.
and most importantly, always, always, always, no matter how hard, always try to be with someone who is sad or scared if they'll let you, even if all you can do is sit quietly next to them. (and, if you're a cat, rub up against them every once and a while.) over the past 13 years of my life, i've shed a few tears and Pheles was there for all of them.
a friend reminded me today that how hard it is at the end just tells you how good it was while they were alive. i'm grateful that we had a chance to hang out for as long as we did, and that right at the end, i could sit with you quietly and offer you my shirt sleeve to hide your face in.