Walden World

The wacky and wonderful tales of Beth's and Catherine's global adventures. And all things Walden too.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Sagwa and the Fourth Miracle

When I say "miracle" I mean the following; this is a definition in the Oxford English Dictionary: "Miracle: 2. a remarkable and very welcome occurrence". Sagwa was a miracle cat right from the start.

In January, the year we got Sagwa, Rebecca, my beloved cat of 22 years, died in my arms of old age. I was devastated but couldn't really complain much on her behalf. She had got her fill out of life and there is only so much life all we creatures can muster or master. I always called her my "familiar".

A "familiar" is a name witchhunters gave to the pets of those whom they suspected of sorcery; a "familiar" is a spirit in animal form who accompanies you in your life and doings, you being the witch. With Rebecca had died my 'familiar'.

Soon after Rebecca's death I contracted pneumonia something terrible. When you are really ill, it's actually difficult to sleep. Maybe the fact that I couldn't really breathe had something to do with it. In any event C left for work on this particular morning leaving me wheezing, hacking and with nothing to do but watch TV. The only thing bearable being broadcast at 7 am on a weekday in the Sault Ste. Marie area were kids' shows on TV Ontario, the only option other then say "Katie Couric" and such ilk.

Among the shows that early morning was a rather weird one called "Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat". Weird not only because of the content but because I had a raging fever and was really quite out of it. The storyline featured a bunch of talking white and grey Chinese cats with bright blue eyes doing some sort of elaboate fan dance for a 1920s hollywood movie crew. Staring at the screen through my haze I was captivated. Fever or no fever I loved the show and thereafter spent each morning getting ready for work glued to screen like a 5 year old munching on their Cheerios.

Some months later just before my birthday C returned from taking the dog to the vet in an excitable state. I had to see something and come right now. We drove to the vet's office. The vet was looking for a family to adopt a cat. Though they had many offers, they declined them all, wanting the right people to take the stray, whom they called "Strangles", home. Appparently we were considered the 'right people'. Mind you anyone who spent some $3000 in the last year on a cat and dog alone, would have been right to any vet who had a financial interest. So now we get to the stray herself, why is she called "Strangles"?

This is the first miracle.

A client had phoned the vet and told the office that they had been feeding a young, female stray who was having respiratory problems and seemed very sick and likely to die. They wanted the vet to treat her or to put her down but, they insisted, they would not pay for it. The office staff went and picked the cat up. Indeed the kitten laboured for every breath and was very weak. It was evident she had some sort of terrible lung condition and as she was failing to respond to antibiotics they prepared to euthanize her. As the doctor was about to insert the needle in her neck, her hand brushed against something strange. It was only then that they realized that someone had placed a tight elastic band around the kitten's neck some time ago, which, as the cat grew, had scarred over and was slowly asphixating her. They did emergency surgery to remove the rubber band and the kitten, now dubbed "Strangles", bounded back with great elan.

So that is where I first saw her, at the vets'office: she was a creamy white and grey, long haired cat who was clearly of a Siamese/Burmese mix with bright, ice-blue eyes...and a totally weird Frankenstein shaved scar which encircled her entire neck. You would think she had just had her head reattached from the look of it.

We adopted her and as she looked just like the cat from my children's cartoon, down to the black messy markings on her face (in the show the cat is taunted with the nickname 'Inkface') we called her "Sagwa".

The second miracle was the change in Sagwa over the next year after we got her home. She went from a terrified, hostile, feral cat to an undeniably sweet and fascinating creature. Not to say that she didn't continue to attack your feet for fun as you slept, but her personality changed ever so slowly from suspician to complete trust and love. Never was there a more affectionate cat. She would chirp, jump in your lap and spend all day following you around watching every move, which was eventually followed by a request for attention.

The third miracle was her choice of friends. When we got Oliver a new kitten, she would grudgingly wash him (he was an unhygienic kind of guy) but overall disliked him and any other cats including our next adoptee Pippin.

But when it came to dogs Sagwa acted like a teenage girl from 1975 looking at photos of Leif Garrett in 'Tigerbeat' magazine. She would lie in front of Jonah or Fierc or Maggie or whatever dog was present and roll on the ground making dreamy blue eyes at her paramour canine, flirting unselfconsciously like Marilyn Monroe in the "Seven Year Itch". Never one to be denied attention, if the dogs didn't ante up she would simply lie on top of them; other cats be damned, she loved people and dogs.

Two weeks ago we came home to see Sagwa in one of her usual spots, resting high on the shelves in the kitchen, she preferring to lie above in erstwhile mountain tops from which she could survey all goings on below.

Sometime during the time I was barbequing she went outside. No big deal, we let all the cats out, but it was still daylight, mid-summer and Sagwa loved nothing better to hop about the long grass in our yard or sit in the bushes next to the windows. Then someone knocked at our door. There was an older well-off couple with a large silver SUV parked in our driveway. I smiled graciously and thought they were looking for directions.

"I know you have a cat who is white and has long hair and I know because I've seen her on your roof at the window...and I think that...she's outside she's been hit...we didn't do it, we just came and saw her there..." and I can't remember the rest. Catherine and I ran outside and there was Sagwa lying in the middle of the road, not four feet from our driveway, splayed on her back staring at the sky. Blood was trickling from her head and beginning a trail down the street.

I picked her up, she slumped in my arms, black eyes like doll glass stared into the sky. They weren't bright blue anymore. I stood there covered in blood and wailing, holding that limp body.

When I was in India a long time ago, sometime around my birthday, I went a little nuts when I happened upon something. I was climbing off a boat in Varanasi and saw beneath me a dead baby boy floating in the water of the river. He was blue like a Hindu god. Little children did cannonballs off the ghat and splashed around in the river waters oblivious to the small corpse floating so lifelessly among them. It was then I realized that when things die, something leaves them. A spark, a spirit, some animation that makes dust into life. Clay into flesh.

I held Sagwa as her head fell back. Her neck broken. No spirit, just fur and blood: corpus. So herein lies the fourth miracle.

In all the time that it has taken animals to evolve through the hundreds of millions of years; to have life find a way against so many odds on this lucky, perfectly positioned little planet; in the time that it has taken for us to evolve and then to co-exist with other species and eventually domesticate each other and ultimately form bonds, there in Sault Ste. Marie I had found another 'familiar': Sagwa, a spirit that accompanied me.