One week ago today, I had the gut-wrenching experience of having to euthanize my cat of nearly fifteen years. Sadly, he declined quickly the last month of his life, and sprouted an orange-sized tumor in less than a week. But he lived a good life of almost seventeen years’ duration, during which time that annoying, furry creature won my heart and earned my grudging respect.

His name was “Heathcliff” back in 1998 when I rescued him from my mother-in-law (who was about to return him to the pound to an uncertain fate). The name called to mind the passionate, tortured romantic in Wuthering Heights. But my husband equated it only with the wisecracking cat of Sunday funnies fame. Perhaps my little dude was a bit of both, but mostly he was a big, friendly nitwit. So my husband began calling him, “Doofus O’Reilly,” which I immediately transformed to a more dignified-sounding “Dreyfus.”

Dreyfus was a big, strong, good-looking guy with a soft white tummy and piercing green eyes. But he was more than just a pretty-boy: He had substance. Now that he’s gone, I’d like to impart some important life lessons he taught me during his short time on earth:

1. Passion equals happiness. So what if you're missing your claws? Use your mouth! Take risks! There are worlds to be conquered, tall walls to be scaled. We all have disabilities, both obvious and invisible. Adjust. Make do. But for God’s sake, go for it!

2. Freedom is everything—so stand your ground. Never let anyone push you around. You’ve got to fight for your rights, so learn how to make the most of what you’ve got. And remember, whenever you turn your back for a few seconds, others will come along and try to whittle away your freedom. So don’t forget to mark your territory each and every day, if only to let 'em know you're still here.

3. A little charm—and luck—go a long way. Bad things will happen, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun. Even if you’re headed for the firing squad, bide your time and chill. Observe your tormentors. Then, when an opening presents itself, bob and weave, show off some moves. But whatever you do, draw some attention! Who knows? A sympathetic soul might happen along and notice you, and it only takes one savior to turn the whole damned thing around.

4. Be intractable, yet teachable. Life’s essentially a battle of wills. The successful ones often get where they are through sheer tenacity. But don’t break too many rules out of pure stubbornness, because if you jump on a forbidden kitchen counter or scuzz up the wrong bed one time too many, they’ll send you away. While you shouldn't let closed doors deter you, you still need to remain open. So allow others to impart their wisdom and civilize you every now and again. Walk the straight-and-narrow just enough to show ‘em you’re no dummy, then choose your battles wisely and hang tough till the bitter end.

5. Make friends, because your one “special person” can never be all things. Even those who love you most have their own lives to live and problems to solve. Give ‘em some space, and use those opportunities to hang with neighbors on their deck or commune with the cute calico next door. We’ve all got unmet needs. Friends can help fill in the gaps!

6. No matter what happens, forgive. Crazy bitch lady all stressed out and not paying attention to you? Get out of her way, then come back later and nuzzle. Vet turned you deaf? You’ve got every right to be furious; but eventually, you'll have to come around or else you'll be the one who's shunned. Life’s too short to stay mad, and nobody likes a sourpuss. So get over yourself already!

7. Never Go Down Without a Fight. Even when you’re sick; even when you’re old. Even if you’re doomed! Muster that last ounce of strength and courage, and show ‘em what you’re made of. Look death straight in the face, then try to claw and crawl your way out of its path. Someone or something is gonna kill you anyway, so whatever you do, don't make it easy! They’ll remember your final act long after you're gone. And that's the stuff legends are made of.
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Published on November 15, 2012 05:33 • 177 views • Tags: cats, life-lessons
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message 1: by Courtney (new)

Courtney love it! Cats may not get the glory that dogs get, but I think they are smarter and have a lot to give. Condolences on your loss!


message 2: by Sheryl (new)

Sheryl Sorrentino Thanks, Courtney!


message 3: by Randy (new)

Randy Wilson Passion = happiness - yes!!!


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