Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Sweet Harry (1989-2010)

Harry, his last day...
Harry is no longer with us. He was 21, fairly old for a cat, and he had an amazingly rich life. Now Kathleen and I are discovering what life without our black cat is going to be like.

Yesterday morning Kathleen spent some quality time with him, knowing it might be her last chance. Her life with Harry spanned about 20 years, longer than any other relationship in her life, including her parents. My relationship with Harry lasted 14 years. But Harry's kidneys were pretty much gone and he had arthritis so bad it was hard for him to walk. When his quality of life started to nose-dive, it was time.

Kathleen asked about my favorite memory of Sweet Harry, and I told her it's probably "The Cat Test."

When I was courting Kathleen, she told me she was attracted to me, but I had to pass three tests: the SCUBA test, the SISTER test, and the CAT test.

I had my advanced SCUBA diver certification, but she wanted to spend time with me underwater to make sure I'd make a good dive buddy. She didn't want to dive with some bozo who thrashed around, kicked the coral, couldn't remember the names of fish and blew all his air in 30 minutes. It was actually a pretty easy test. I just followed all her suggestions. Since then I've had well over 200 dives with Kathleen.

For the sister test we had to fly to Canada and spend time with her youngest sister. She's a geologist, and she took us camping in the Canadian Rockies. I love nature, and I think I endeared myself to her when I asked, "I've always wanted to know where mountains came from. And would you tell me the story about the history of the Earth? Start at the beginning." I may have put her on the defensive, but I convinced her I was sincere, and it was her favorite topic.

I didn't know how I was going to pass the cat test. There were no rules. I think if her cats didn't like me, it wasn't going to work out between us.

One evening when Kathleen was making supper, I was sitting on her couch. Harry came in through the kitty door. "He doesn't like men," Kathleen said. I thought, well that's a challenge I'm going to have to accept. So I pretended that I was Harry's big buddy, patted the space next to me and said, "Hey Harry, come on up here and sit next to me."

It must have sounded just right to Harry at the time, because that's exactly what he did. Then I made my move. I had lived with cats before, and many of them would let you rub their bellies if you put your hand between their back legs. I did that, as if it were the most natural thing for two old buddies to do, and Harry responded by flipping over on his back.

Kathleen gave me a sharp warning."He doesn't like his tummy rubbed."

But Harry seemed to love it. He stretched his arms out past his head while I gave him my best strokes. "You mean like this?" Kathleen just looked at him in amazement.

So thanks to Harry, I passed the cat test. And the rest is history. But if Harry had been in some kind of bad kitty mood and had given me one of those who-do-you-think-you're-talking-to-white-man looks, everything might have turned out differently.

There are lots of Harry stories, and we've been sharing them. We miss him. To us, he was a person. We had a significant relationship with him. He enriched our lives. So even though we're reaching for acceptance and affirmation, we're not there yet. It's a process and can't be rushed. This weekend we'll create a special landscaping spot for his ashes in our front yard.

Post by Dennis E. Coates, Ph.D., Copyright 2010. Building Personal Strength .


Meredith Bell said...

Very touching story, Denny. Your and Kathleen's deep affection for Harry comes through. I'll be thinking of you both during this time of grieving. Glad I had the chance to meet Harry and interact with him during my visits.

Kathleen Scott said...

Thank you, Denny, for writing this. It was true to Harry and to us and our life together.

He was sweet and saw me through some of the toughtest times of my life. It will take a while to accept his loss.

Sarcastic Bastard said...

Dear Denny,
I am so crushed to hear this news. Like I said to Kathleen, it was the kind thing for you guys to do, since Harry wasn't feeling well anymore, poor sweet old dear.

I told Kathleen that I had a feeling it was going to be a crappy day today. Guess my notion was correct from this news.

You are both in my thoughts.

With love,


Elizabeth (Beth) Westmark said...

Great story, Denny. We have a special spot known as "good dog ridge," where a fresh Easter lily comes up every year.

When Buck and I were first dating, my cat, Genie Bird (who was with us for 16 years) and Buck had a hate-love relationship, but in the end, he is the one who bought her a small red storage building of her very own with a couple of shelves in it (with steps) so she could sit in the sun and watch birds. She still came inside, too, but seemed to love her kitty condo.

Hodgesb said...

I am so glad Harry rolled over and gave in for you to make your best move to pass the CAT test, because now, you enrich our lives with Kathleen.
He was one smart cat !!!!!
During my visits I feel I conectded with sweet Harry too

Lori Meyer said...

I'm so sorry to hear about the loss of your beloved cat. Harry sounds like such a sweet and loving companion. My little black cat, Lucy, is a treasure to me and I will be giving her some extra hugs this weekend.

May Harry's memory always be a blessing for you. With sympathy, Lori Meyer

John Zimmer said...

Nice post, Denny. Sorry to hear about your cat. We've had ours for 12 years and she is part of the family.