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Just another stay at home mom trying to do it all, save the world, and not run out of coffee.
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Twitter: @CarolBruckmann

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rest in Peace Tamale

When my dog Sasha and I moved back to NC we left behind my best friend, her three cats, and the dog she adopted to help her deal with the pain of losing Sasha. Needless to say our apartment in NC lacked some of the chaos we had come to love. So I dropped by a local vet office and picked up a 6 month old diluted orange tabby reputed to have no fear of big dogs. She instantly became a part of our family and helped fill the void that comes when you move to a place where you are friendless and away from the people you love. Although playful she was usually content to snuggle on my lap or sleep with us in my queen bed. She was always trying to sneak outside, but in my panic that something would happen to her I would always get her back in as quickly as possible. Her name was originally Molly, but when I scolded Sasha for playing too rough with her, "Don't do that to Molly" I realized that naming her after Mexican food was really more my style.

Time passed and our threesome grew to include another cat, another dog, and two turtles, and eventually three other humans - but of course you always love your firstborns even when new distractions come your way. When I was in my third trimester of pregnancy with Caitlyn we kept a cat for our friend's brother who was hospitalized in a motorcycle accident. It didn't go well, and Tamale started peeing on the carpet and furniture. Apparently she inherited my temper and passive aggressiveness. Behavioral training didn't work, so we made the decision to put her outside. I just knew she would be dead in a couple of weeks, but the other option was to send her to a shelter where she would die or another cat would die because someone adopted her. I couldn't deal with that thought.

Surprisingly enough, Tamale thrived outside. She rid all the surrounding yards of voles and other sundry varmints, bringing them to our doorstep as a thanksgiving offering. Who needs front claws when you have brains I suppose. In recent months she had been allowed in and out of the house whenever she wanted, and she usually chose outside when it wasn't freezing and/or snowing.

When I received the text from my neighbor Thursday night asking if I had seen Tamale recently because she thought she saw a cat that looked like her dead in the road my heart sank. It had already been a ridiculously bad night, and I was on the verge of an emotional breakdown. I walked towards the body in the road repeating "Please don't be Tamale" over and over again, but it was no use. I saw cars carefully going around her, and although the face was grotesque I recognized the markings of my kitty. I couldn't leave her body there, so I picked her up in a towel. I made it back to our yard then came inside to get Jamie then collapse in grief, shock, and horror. He was so supportive, and we took the other animals out to see her body so maybe they would understand. I know she died quickly and probably didn't really feel much pain, but I wish I had been there to hold her as she died so I wouldn't feel guilty about it.

Since she sometimes got into mischief like getting stuck in trees after chasing squirrels I felt it was appropriate to bury her in my "Naughty Monkey" boot box. Talking to Caitlyn the next morning actually helped me deal with things. We have talked about death before, so I knew that a million questions would be coming.  The conversation went back and forth. "Tamale got hit by a car last night and died" "Why" "It was an accident and she was in the road." "Why was she in the road?" "I don't know... maybe she had some friends over there she was going to see." "Why did you do that?" "Do what, let her outside?" "Yeah." (guilt.... thanks kid) "Because she was pee-peeing on things and that's gross." "When is she going to come back?" "She isn't coming back. When your cat dies you can't have them anymore." "Did she die on  the cwoss?" "No, she got hit by a car." "Why did they do that?" "It was an accident.""When the angels bring Tamale back to our house I'm gonna hug her." "The angels aren't going to bring her back... it's rare for people to come back to life." (Jesus' resurrection, while helpful on many levels, does not come in handy when explaining dead pets to 3 year olds.) I told her that we were going to dig a hole and have a funeral where we could say nice things about Tamale, and she would have a chance to say how she was glad Tamale let her hold her and pet her.

This morning Jamie dug the hole and we all went outside, including Elijah and our friend Rebecca Ann who had spent the night. Upon Caitlyn's request and after checking things out, Jamie let her see Tamale's body. Caitlyn helped him put the box in the hole, and I asked her if she wanted to say a few words. I couldn't hear most of what she said, but when it began with a bowed head and "Dear God, thank you for Tamale" we all quickly bowed respectfully. The prayer was several minutes long and included thanks not only for having a sweet cat that let her pick her up but for Daddy digging the hole, Mommy giving the box, and Rebecca Ann coming to the funeral. (Either she's been watching eulogy television behind our backs or she's the next Anne Graham Lotz. When Jamie's Episcopalian Dad heard about it he said what a good Baptist Caitlyn is.) The whole process was good for all of our emotional healing I think, but my sweet kitty will always be missed.

Shalom Seekers