Friday, January 28, 2011

Jaspurr


Jaspurr Bonchat D’Tusque Creason 1991-2012
Jaspurr was known as  “ the tall, stately gentle cat,” always reserved and dignified, an elegant black cat with a beautifully sweet face. He was quiet and shy and quick to remove himself from any threats or loud noises. He was so sensitive that even a good sneeze might send him into hiding and if arguments raged in the house he would wisely vanish until the heat cooled. He came to us not as a kitten but as a kind of teenage cat, around six months of age. We found him at an adoption by a fine organization called “Lifeline for Pets” who held an event in a San Fernando Valley pet shop. Partial to black cats I leaned toward him to take a look and he returned my interest by marking my chin with his cheeks. I was won over and said “this guy is the one!” He had started life terribly as he and siblings were abandoned in a cardboard box left in a public park. One of his littermates was dead before “Lifeline…” intervened but he survived. This left him rather careful and sober in his approach to humans and the big world in general. It took a long time for him to trust and he was very choosy about which humans he would allow into his confidence. I was the lucky one as we bonded after much caution and careful interplay. To be accepted by Jaspurr was like winning the world series and the Super Bowl in one.
Originally we lived in a noisy and dangerous for cats duplex in Silverlake where I tried and failed to make him an inside cat. When he was delivered, as a six-month old he hid behind the stove for weeks before he came out and accepted pets but only slow ones along the ridge of his back and scratches under the chin. He also trusted Katya but that was it for people in his estimation. After he found his way outside he spent much of his time on the hillside next to our apartment and his wily ways kept him out of harms way. When I finally found sleeping at this duplex impossible due to unruly neighbors our bond was almost broken since I spent no nights at home and few waking moments as I searched for an alternative to this constant barrage from upstairs. In September of 1995 I managed to buy a home in the hills of Glassell Park and set out to bring this now half-feral Jaspurr with me. The day I went to get him was sticky hot and he had been on his own for a while with just food set out each day and the nights solo since I was sleeping in a vacant house nearby. I knew he would be desperate in his attempts to avoid the cat carrier so I shut all exits and hunkered down with an old black and white TV, a can of tuna and a single lamp to lure him inside. Finally, he came but when I closed the front door he panicked and set off trying to avoid my towel and cat carrier. He actually ran on the walls, leaving great scratches in the paint and finally spied a tiny three inch opening in the kitchen window which he managed to get half way through before I grabbed his tail and hauled him yowling back into the room. I knew this was my one chance and if I failed I would lose him forever to the back alleys of that neighborhood where we had had two cats killed by predators. Finally, with hisses and bloody scratches and several escapes from the carrier I managed to get him into my car and set sail for our new home.
Jaspurr stayed true to form in the new house, darting into a closet and staying in hiding for a mind-boggling four months!! Years later I would find sports jackets with claw marks where he climbed up and down to his dish and litter box. I was determined and eventually he found this new domicile a heaven for his kind. He lay in the sun, snoozed on my bed, ate his fancy feast and watched the birds in the acacia trees outside our front room. Yet, not too long after he had accepted and reveled in his new life he received a jolt in the form of a kitten named Purrkins who was brought by friend Lucinda. Jaspurr’s first official act in greeting “baby one” was to attack him murderously and bite him on the neck, drawing blood and terrifying the newcomer. Still, they eventually became close and groomed one another, slept within inches and were fine friends. A couple of years later a usurper was fought viciously in the front room by Purrkins while Jaspurr stood by and when it became apparent the combatant would be staying he was appropriately altered, named White Pwaws and was welcomed to the feline family but only as an outside member since he peed on all things interior. Inside the house belonged to the firm of Jaspurr and the dynamic junior partner Purrkins who ruled with iron paws and coexisted quite well. That was until the terrible morning of October 1, 2003 when a coyote killed our precious Purrkins and left Jaspurr alone once more. Already 12 years old Jaspurr became the elder statesman and was given the dignity deserved by such status, sleeping on the human’s bed and hiding whenever company visited. As a matter of fact most friends and family never laid eyes on the old gentle cat who was so shy he would vanish at first sound of a doorbell or car door in the driveway.
His peace was short-lived when Katya and Bobby moved in, bringing noise, activity, drama and in order; Frankenstein, Chiona and Dexter. Each passed muster with the old cat and were accepted by the Big Boy who deferred to most demands but was capable of throwing an angry paw at the bossy Chiona if necessary. Jaspurr wasn’t for everybody but being accepted by him was the greatest honor in the Creason household. Only a few ever knew the feel of his velvety coat and the grace of his sweet purrs. His health started to fail when he reached 14 or so and after a seizure in February he had an MRI and then cancer treatments that left the poor scaredy cat radioactive in his basement “cell.” It was hard for him to forgive such treatment but it did save his life as he rehabbed by burrowing into the box springs in the basement room where he was quarantined for a couple of weeks. After another rather messy extracation from the box springs he once more rejoined the household and seemed to actually enjoy his rise from the ashes. He had beaten cancer and old age only slowed his caution creep down to half speed.
For five sweet years he cheated the reaper and kept one old human wonderful company. In the bad times and through loss and heartbreak the old cat purred his healing arts into my heart. Sometimes it got to be too much with him standing on my chest and smearing my face with his “kisses” but then I would remember how close we had come to losing him and I would again welcome the drool drops to my beard and stroke his bony old back in gratitude. At least four times I had to take him into the vet because of problems with his bowels or dehydration but with May up ahead he was set to reach 20 years of age, a tremendous feat for a cat who just stayed out of harm’s way and lived a long, loved life. Just weeks ago, when one of his back legs was not functioning I accepted that I must do him the last favor but the vet sent him home with grateful tears from his ecstatic human. He aint ready yet, she said.
Last Monday I got up early and threw down the yoga mat, which was always a signal for him to emerge from his little cave he created behind some CDs on a bookshelf. He loved to join me in seated fold and head to knee pose and his purrs would sweeten any asana. At the beginning he walked around me like a Lilliputian and at the end when I assumed the corpse pose he stood guard, purring loudly in triumph. That night, we sat in our chair together and as I chatted on the phone he turned his wise old head upside down and slept the sleep of cat perfection. I petted him gratefully and praised his beauty. In the morning I again performed my yoga with his supervision and prepared breakfast while he slept in the chair where my scent permeated the cushions, his favorite smell. When I left and remembered to leave the front door unlocked for the housekeeper I looked back at him, getting a glimpse of his aged ears as he snoozed contentedly. I thought that this could be the last time I might see my sweet Jaspurr alive. At nineteen-plus every day is lived with one foot on rainbow bridge and the other on a Teflon banana peel. The lady came to clean the house at 11 and sometime around noon she scared him from the chair and out the window into the outside where he had not been all winter. I don’t have any idea what went on the rest of that day but I guess that he decided to accept the fate he felt coming on by going it alone. A true gentle cat to the end he wouldn’t want to trouble us with the end of his life and he went down to some dark and private place and turned his back to the noise of the world and went to sleep forever...so I thought. However, after three full days of absence and hope evaporating to a bitter dryness in the heart I went searching for the final posture of the beloved boy. I have read that when cats go off to die they find some place dark and quiet and very private. All signs pointed toward the creepy, shallow crawlspace under my deck. Yet, as I shined my flashlight under the house here and there, I opened the room in the basement that I had gone into last night to access the crawlspace there. Unbelievably, like Lazarus there stood the bony, ebony frame of Jaspurr, very much alive, albeit looking pretty freaked out. He ran from me but returned when I presented a large plate of tuna and shrimp. I gave him room and he had a fine dinner but then vanished again. Maybe, like Pip in Moby Dick he has gone mad and maybe he will never come upstairs again into the human's world but he meowed loudly like Mark Twain that the rumors of his death have been greatly exaggerated. The following paragraph was to be my last words on the subject but I guess we will have to try again later, hopefully much later
     Eighteen months later, a precious five hundred days of sharing the house with the old cat through several more trips to the vet and the euphoric return lighter in wallet and bowels came the inevitable. After IV fluids and years of lactulose and special diets, of making tuna soup and rejoicing at his continuing spryness he just started to shrink like old people do. He still purred beautifully, still sat on my lap at every opportunity and still could hop up on the bed or chair or even dinner table like a youngster. But this morning he woke me in the wee hours and told me it was time for him to go. The deep sadness I felt in taking him from the home he loved and driving in the darkness that eternally long one mile cannot truly be expressed in words. It was all very peaceful and he even jumped to the floor with one last burst of energy but his body was betraying him and there was really nowhere to go but rainbow bridge. The love I poured into him while the sedative took effect was as pure as my heart can create and his last look into my eyes was exquisitely expressive. He died at 4 am on July 3, 2012 after twenty-one years of sharing everything life had to throw at me. Jaspurr was the very best of what I have lived and loved over those two decades and he will be with me to my very own end, not too far ahead. The final paragraph of this story was written a year and a half ago but it still stands true.
If you have never loved an animal then you may think this emotion strange but the emptiness in my heart is almost unbearable, a sorrow that only time may dull to the point of acceptance. Over the twenty-one years that we shared our lives he brought me joy every single day. When mere humans moved in and out of my life he stayed by my side, never judging me except by the touch of my hand on his fur. Every time I came home I could count on his light lifting me out of my petty worries and when he looked at me I felt pure and simple love. I have had many wonderful animals in my life and several lovely cats now that share my home but I will never, ever, never, ever have such a deeply affectionate friend as my Jaspurr. He was always the difficult one, the reticent one, the rare jewel of black catdom but a very special fellow to me. Farewell my boy, wait for me on the bridge.