Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The meek shall inherit the earth: An ode to Slim the Cat

This story is my own personal from-the-heart ode to a brave and glorious cat! Slim the Cat.

"Joe," I wailed into the phone. "Slim is dying! What should we do!" Joe is my 26-year-old son who knows just about everything. All four of my children know just about everything but Joe is the only one willing to share that knowledge with me.

"How old is he now?" asked Joe. Age? What does age have to do with it! Slim is a living legend! Living legends don't just up and die. "He's 15." I guess that's pretty old in cat-years. Maybe it will make me feel better if I tell you the whole story about Slim.

I have a back yard the size of a postage stamp. One day in 1990, a strange kitten started living in my back yard. The kids called him "Spiderman". Wrong. SpiderMAN was a girl. How did we find out? When she gave birth to four kittens, we got our first clue. Three were out-going, cuddly and friendly. One of them was the runt of the litter. We named him Slim.

Spiderman ran away. We found good homes for the other three kittens. But Slim just looked meek and trembled and wouldn't let us touch him so we just left him in the back yard. Pretty soon, other feral cats started adopting our back yard. They had kittens. And their kittens had kittens. We caught them, gave them away to people in front of the supermarket, put ads in the local newspaper for them, sent them off with friends who lived on farms, had them spayed and neutered, trotted them down to the Humane Society -- and even pushed one particularly feisty cat out of the car in the middle of the night in a Good Neighborhood. Shhh. Don't tell no one about that.

All this time, through all these cats, Slim meekly hid up in the lemon tree -- and survived.

Then there was the family of raccoons who moved into our back yard. And then there was the family of possums. Between the ferals and the critters, the place started to look like the Wild Kingdom. We even had a family of roof rats. Yuck! Slim managed to survive all that.

"Come into the house, Slim? Here kitty kitty kitty kitty...." Nope. Slim was basically a wild cat, an outdoor cat -- and a 'fraidy cat. I was the only one who could even get near him, but only because I put out a bowl of dry cat food for him every morning and night. That worked for me. I wasn't a cat person. It worked for him too. He wasn't a person cat.

Then the neighbor next door got it into her head that Slim was a nuisence and started calling vector control on him. For a while there we had vermin specialists from the City of Berkeley banging on our door and trying to collect Slim. I finally had to threaten the neighbor with certain tidbits of Hot Gossip I had about her to get her to back off.

Meanwhile, every fierce tomcat in a ten-block radius decided to prove his macho-ness by trying to beat up on poor Slim -- who, like Gandhi, refused to fight back. And now, after 15 years of using non-violence to defend his turf, Slim is battling his final enemy. Cancer. And Slim is finally losing the War on the Back Yard. Cancer finally is winning. Cancer has more WMDs.

"What should I do, Joe?" I just can't bear the thought of putting Slim to sleep. The sweet little 'fraidy cat has fought so HARD for so many years just to LIVE.