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A Letter to Tiger

July 17, 2011

It is rare I read something that has such a profound effect that I find myself sobbing out loud. This is what happened when I read my friend, Gwen’s beautiful tribute to her cat. Sadly Gwen lost her beloved kitty, Tiger, last week. Those of us with pets know how devastating these losses are. You can tell from Gwen’s letter to Tiger how much she treasured him. Thank you, Gwen, for letting me share your and Tiger’s story. I hope it touches people the way it touched me.

Sweet T.  Tiny T.  Tiger Mann.  Kitty Kat Jack … My baby Tiger.

By Gwen

I have to admit that when we first met I wasn’t too impressed. A cat. Uh, OK. Worse yet, you were mean! Really scary. A 12 pound, orange, furball of viciousness that stalked me down the hallway, bit my legs, hands – even my head while I was asleep – and you absolutely terrorized our guests.

A few victims deserve recognition on your rap sheet.

Nicole – Trapped in a bathroom during the Super Bowl by Warden Tiger.

Little Kayla – Punctured and bruised foot compliments of Tiger.

Mom – Afraid to set foot off of the bed for fear that Tiger might attack from beneath AND no longer visits San Diego for fear of a Tiger attack  (perhaps that one is just Karma for telling me there were alligators under the bed when I was little, Mom).

Marilyn – Scared into the fetal position at the head of my bed witnessing a rare Tiger on Gwen attack that left me bruised and bleeding with a hole in my favorite jeans.

The list goes on …

Your kitty dad put up with it…even egged the behavior on, but as soon as he deployed for four months, you were going to learn MY rules. I took that time to teach you a few lessons. Not through heavy handed means (well, maybe a heavy blanket or pillow to fend off residual attacks from time to time), but through patience, love, consistency, boundaries and forgiveness. Soon, you were testing the waters of the pet/parent bond. First, sitting at the other end of the couch. Then, in the middle. Later, bolstered against my leg. Until…you felt safe enough to sit in my lap (but no petting please!). In time, that was your favorite place to be – anywhere ON me. After a while, I learned that I couldn’t sit down without you jumping into my lap to be loved (pet me please!)

You are an odd one. No cold water … It must be lukewarm, or better yet HOT water for you to drink it. No random tuna from a can. You only eat albacore for your discerning palate, or no thanks.  Even your specialist, Dr. Slusser, said “I think he’s milking you” on that one. And speaking of Dr. Slusser … His staff put up with you (pee…bites…growls) since 2006. They deserve big kudos for caring for you despite your violence towards them. They’d say, “Well, he’s not the WORST kitty we’ve seen, but …” But even they respected your fight. You always pulled through. You always let them know you were in the ring, even when you were down to 7 pounds at 16 years old.

Thankfully, the attacks stopped at home … mostly. Depends on who was around. Sometimes you’d lash out  when you were startled/didn’t like a noise/voice/speakerphone/fast movements … But old habits die hard when you’re old. When your kitty dad and I argued, you always took my side by biting his legs if he raised his voice or whenever it got tense (which was often). But, he loved you so much after adopting you in 1994 and taking care of you for 15 years, that he let you go with me when we split up … because he knew you were meant for me.

You were a mess! Intestinal lymphoma, blocked tear ducts, a heart murmur, a diagnosed behavioral disorder, etc… Others didn’t understand. “Just put him down. He’s too much to deal with. He’s too expensive. It’s just a cat.” Still, I loved you.  Loved the feisty fighter you were and the sweet, cuddly, comforting, kitty you became. You taught me so much about love, commitment, hope and compassion. You ARE special and I loved you with all that I could, Tiger. I did everything to keep you comfortable and happy as you became ancient. I made a commitment to take care of you and I hope letting you go into peace is another way I can continue to do what is best for you…Even if I want you to be with me always.

We made each other happy and I will forever have a little Tiger paw print on my heart. I love you so much baby Tiger! I already miss you so much. Be free and feisty in kitty heaven. RIP 1994 – 2011.


15 Comments leave one →
  1. July 17, 2011 11:33 pm

    I’m hugging my Henry a little closer tonight. I dread this day. The downside of loving our pets is knowing we’ll have to say goodbye one day. Tiger seems to have had a good life, was loved and cared for very well. A lucky cat, a lucky owner, to have found each other. RIP, Tiger. Beautiful photo.

  2. July 18, 2011 5:38 am

    What a beautiful tribute…I wish you all your happy memories…

  3. July 18, 2011 6:53 am

    So touching. I’m crying at my desk. Definitely brings back memories of losing a pet. Thanks for sharing.

  4. July 18, 2011 6:57 am

    My pets have been the friends that got me through the toughest times . . . they listen, they know when something is wrong, and they sincerely offer heartfelt comfort in their own cat and dog ways. Thanks for sharing Tiger’s tribute.

  5. July 18, 2011 7:10 am

    🙁 it’s really hard for me to read these because my beloved dog is getting old and has terrible arthritis. I am just dreading the day that I will face what Gwen has with Tiger — I’m so sorry, Gwen!

  6. July 18, 2011 8:25 am

    It’s so heartwrenching to lose a beloved pet, a member of the family. Thank you for sharing your friend’s tribute to Tiger.

  7. July 18, 2011 9:10 am

    As a huge kitty lover, this spoke volumes to me, Leah. Thank you so much for sharing. I have a cat named Rocky who’s 16 years old. He obtained his name because he too was a fighter. They’re the best.

  8. July 18, 2011 10:20 am

    It’s the hardest thing to lose someone, who is loved so much, even if this someone is not a human, but a feline. Sorry Gwen!

  9. July 18, 2011 12:28 pm

    Lovely tribute and precious memories. It’s heartbreaking to lose such a special member of the family. 🙁

  10. July 18, 2011 2:09 pm

    When pets die, they leave such a void in our lives. Beautiful, heart-felt letter. I’m glad she let you share.

  11. July 18, 2011 4:48 pm

    This is a very touching tribute to not only a cat but to her loving owner also…

  12. July 18, 2011 8:44 pm

    Oh MY goodness… what a tear-jerker of a post. I had to get tissues twice, perhaps because this story resonated so much due to the loss of our orange tiger girl a year ago. I can empathize so, so much with the pain you’re experiencing, Gwen. You are a kind soul to have stuck by this kitty who just wanted your love. RIP, Tiger. And say hi to our Chloe over the rainbow bridge! What a lovely tribute.

  13. July 18, 2011 9:48 pm

    Love this Leah! Thanks for sharing your friend’s tribute to Tiger. I have said goodbye to many a beloved fur family member over the years. It seems their lives are just too brief. We are blessed to share our journey with them. They make our life so rich! Better to have loved and lost…

  14. July 19, 2011 1:55 pm

    That was a lovely tribute. Cats have a way of getting under your skin. They can be a pain at times, but they are lovely creatures. This was absolutely wonderful!

  15. July 20, 2011 12:18 pm

    I write through misty eyes. What a beautiful tribute to Tiger, may he rest in peace and live on in your heart.

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