Why do we do it? Why do we have pets, knowing their life spans are typically shorter than ours, that our love for them is as for any family member or friend for whom we invest much time and great care? I hope this tribute will answer that question for any of you who don’t already know the answer. For those of you who know, please enjoy the abbreviated Story of Scootie.
Back Story on Scooter
Scooter (also nicknamed Scootie, Scoots, Munchie, Scootie Patootie, Punkin, and later, Little Grandpa) came into my husband Ron’s and my life after a sad accident. It was six days prior to our wedding day, and my sister and her husband were coming to stay with us the next night before we all drove to L.A. for the big four days of wedding activities. Ron and I needed to do some errands that Tuesday night to prepare for their arrival. It was dark when we returned, traveling on a narrow road that parallels the freeway with a fence to our left and a ditch and field to our right. Suddenly, a fluffy grey kitten bolted out onto the road from the right directly in front of the car, and there was no time, no way, to avoid her/him. We felt the horrible thump, stopped the car immediately, and Ron said he saw the injured kitten slink back into the ditch. We decided to move the car as far off the road as possible and have a moment of silence for the little life that we ostensibly took. I told Ron that I had never hit an animal with my car, and he said the same for him. We both cried. Drying our tears, we decided that we would open our lives up to a cat and that we would call him or her Scooter, in honor of the kitten that had scooted across the road.
I found Scootie, an adorable Black Smoke Persian, in a pet store in Arroyo Grande in late October. He had been born the day after Ron and I got married: the day we returned to our Atascadero home from our wedding in LA. The minute I saw this kitten, I knew I loved him. His fur was a bit thin so he looked kind of scraggly, and long tufts of fur were spouting from his tiny black ears. He fussed a bit when I held him, making this endearing “ack” sound. He was small, clearly the runt of the litter, and I saw the other kittens in the pen squeezing him out of the food dish and pushing away from the toys; but he didn’t want to fight. I recognized that Scootie needed a special home, a chill place like Ron and I have, in which to spend his beautiful life.
As it turned out, Scootie really was a sweet, loving cat with not a mean bone in his body. Our older cat Jazz was an intense, solid white, pedigreed Himalayan Persian with a fierceness that we think helped him live to be 15 1/2 years old. The two cats bonded on a level that Ron and I say was like Beatrix Kiddo and Pai Mei in Kill Bill: Scootie, of course, being the student with chops to cut, and Jazz being the master teacher. Jazz (also known as Bubba, Pharaoh, Grandpa, Mister, and The World’s Most Perfect Cat), was tough on Scoots, but their unique relationship bore countless moments of endearment.
Both cats hated to pose, but we occasionally found them side by side. Scootie, being the younger, smaller cat, desperately wanted Jazz’s love and approval.
Jazz had spent many long hours during his final two years on planet Earth in the corner our closet, resting on a bunch of shoes in almost total darkness. When Bubba died in June 2008, Scootie showed his sweet, sentimental nature, wailing night and day for nearly five months in mourning for Jazz . . . until we got him a companion, Nilla.
Nilla (also Bean, Missy Bean, Missy Messy, and Miss Precious Perfect) is a Seal Point Himalayan Persian that fell in love with Ron upon sight and there was no way we were not taking her home. She likes to think she is the Queen, but I gently remind her that there can be only one Queen; she is the Princess. Nilla and Scootie did not appear to bond well, as Nilla was quite bossy to him. She frequently tipped over the food and water bowls in flagrant displays of either control or angry chaos, flung her stinky poop outside their litter box (Scootie, all the while, was fastidious), and cheated him out of his precious playtime by cutting in at every session. But they, like Jazz and Scootie, had plenty of cherishable times together.
But most importantly, Nilla defended Scootie against the Ace of Spades.
Ace of Spades
Ace, or Beastie, as we grew to call him, adopted us in our back yard in August 2012. He simply hopped over our fence and wooed Ron into us getting him fixed and vaccinated for rapid move-in. Ace, a 22-lb miniature panther with a huge set of [scary] chompers, literally dominated life in our little castle. (I say dominated, past tense, because we had to bequeath Ace to another family.) He would rove about day and night, muscling himself into every peaceful situation that existed. But here’s the caveat: he was genuinely nice about it. No kidding. He would stroll into a room and in a flash, pounce on little Scootie, then whine when Scoots would high-tail it out of Ace’s sight. Scootie wanted peace, Ace wanted play, all the time, play, but he didn’t know his own strength . . . or recognize Scootie’s lack of interest in the Worst. Matchup. Ever.
Fortunately for little Scootie, Nilla holds grudges . . . for a long, loooong time. Hours would pass after an Ace attack on her or Scootie, and Ace would be stretched out on the floor in the sun, clueless to the terror he had inflicted. Nilla would strike suddenly, causing him to cry and run until she had him quivering in a corner, terrified and mewling. While I don’t condone violence, it was satisfying to see Ace get his comeuppance by our teeny tiny 7.5-lb. Nilla.
Not all moments were torturous: the three kitties somehow found common ground aside from the feeding trough. Ron and I were happy — and perhaps a bit astonished — by these seemingly cuddly times. They seemed so . . . content with each other. What were we missing? Because this looked like cat paradise:
Things changed immediately after Beastie moved to Grover Beach to live with our friend Nathan and his grandson. Our house became quiet again. See, I forgot to mention that Ace L-O-V-E-D me so much that he wanted my attention all the time. He vocalized almost constantly — and what a vocabulary! While annoying, it was also entertaining because we could hear distinct words and phrases. For example, when I would scold Ace, I could hear him say, “Awww, man!” No kidding. Regardless of his cartoon-like cuteness, we had to erect a barrier to the computer cables and stuff under my desk because he perpetually tried to get back there and muck around. While the barrier was effective, it didn’t keep Beastie from annoying me all day as I tried to work and study; Ron had to build a screen door of sorts that we could put up and take down easily. Again, the door kept him physically out of my space, but allowed him to terrorize Scootie and destroy furniture elsewhere in the house until I could take the door down and stop him. Dealing with Ace was a thorn in my side. Hell, it was a rhino horn in my side. But he was so sweet! It was a hard decision at first because he loved Ron and me hugely, but in the end, we had to separate. I still miss him, but I am happy that for Scootie’s last six months of life, Beastie was not around to physically and psychologically abuse him. Nobody deserves that!
A smart cat, Scootie found a safe space at night sleeping on the pillow sham behind my head. Ron and I placed a “satellite water dish” on my night stand so he didn’t have to leave his refuge and risk being molested by Beastie at the regular kitty feeding station.
Also, Ron and I think that his yoga-like routine at the satellite water dish helped strengthen his muscles and distribute positive energy throughout his aging system. Scootie felt snuggly, safe, and secure in this space, and eventually this would become even more clear: we were looking out for him on all fronts. And isn’t this what we should all be doing for each other, especially for the most fragile, sensitive, and targeted in our world? We say a resounding YES. YES. YES.
Scootie’s Last Weeks
In August, I took Scootie to the vet for his senior checkup and had some blood work done, which indicated a possible blockage or other condition. The vet recommended an ultrasound, but we had heard from a good friend what that involves (a real life nightmare for pet, vet assistant, and pet parents), and no way were we going to put Scoots through any such procedures at his age. (This was a hard call for us, as it is for many pet parents, so please judge us with feathers instead of bricks.) With that decision made, I researched ways to make sure his #2s were moving nicely and regularly, and decided to feed him canned organic pure pumpkin daily. This worked out well since he lapped up a teaspoon a day in the first week and gradually ate about a heaping tablespoon daily in two servings.
I think the joy he experienced in eating this treat that he loved combined with being spoon-fed made him feel special at first, mostly because Nilla wouldn’t eat the pumpkin. And this process definitely changed the quality of his #2s for the better. By early October, Nilla expressed interest in the pumpkin, and I think this, in small part, turned him off to it. Another factor may have been his waning interest in food altogether, even when, on October 25, I brought him to the vet after he had not eaten solid food nor pooped for a few days. She recommended a special canned food that I purchased that day, and offered an appetite stimulant, which I bought the next day and gave to him immediately at home. No change. He continued to drink lots of water, but ate no solid food, refusing pumpkin, canned food, dry food with added water, and so on.
Ron and I administered a second dose of the appetite stimulant on the third day according to directions, but we saw no increase in his desire for food. He was not exhibiting signs of distress, anxiety, or fear. Love, however, was still his mainstay. We decided that a natural death for Scootie was in his best interest: he should pass in his home with his loved ones in the easiest, gentlest way possible. The challenge was, for both Ron and me, going through that process for the first time ever.
Final Days for Scootie
During the last seven days, Scootie parked himself under Ron’s desk, which was in the same small room behind my desk, so he was nearby. As days went by, he was spending more time deeper in his space. We placed another satellite water dish here for him, and set up the space heater to keep him warm and cozy. He occasionally came out for water and affection.
He would also let me brush him on these outings, and allow Ron and I to hold him for a few minutes. Scootie never really cared to be held too long; it was his nature to be petted and groomed — but not confined. He was a true free spirit.
Scootie’s last full day on Earth was Monday, October 31, 2016. It was one of the most difficult days of both Ron’s and my life, as Scootie peacefully declined hour by hour, all the while maintaining his dignity and loving nature. I was home all day with Scoots. Always fastidious, he tried to find his way to the bathroom with the litter box rather than piddle on the carpet, but instead, he twice made it only to the guest bathroom where he emptied his bladder of perhaps a couple of teaspoons of fluid. One of those times, I found him and when I petted him, he began mewling like a kitten. His breathing was becoming more labored over time, and he had difficulty walking more than ten steps at a time. He was still able to make it to the water dish in the kitchen throughout the morning and early afternoon.
Such a gorgeous little creature. Helpful websites offered information about what to expect from him physically throughout this process. One sign of his last hours is his lowered head and sleepy-looking eyes, which we started to see in his last day.
He eventually moved out from under Ron’s desk into our bedroom closet. I placed a dish of water next to him, and spread out his favorite blanket, a cream-colored afghan that my mother, long since passed, had crocheted for me more than twenty years ago (see photo above with Scootie, Nilla, and Ace on the afghan). During this time, I was checking on him every five to ten minutes, offering as much love as he seemed able to handle.
Ron came home from work, and we followed through on our plan to drive to San Luis Obispo for dinner while hundreds of trick-or-treaters descended on our neighborhood. Afterward, we pit-stopped at TJ’s for some provisions, all the while wondering what Scootie’s state would be when got home.
We found Scootie resting in our bedroom beneath a dining room chair, a favorite spot of his for the last few years, although up until October, he slept as much under as on top of the chair, which was covered in my mom’s afghan. Scootie moved out about four feet and rested in front of our dresser, which is across from the foot of our bed. After a moment, he rose and began walking toward the litter box. I picked him up and put him in it, but he had nothing to release. (I didn’t notice until the next morning that, while we were gone that night, he had tried to get into the litter box but obviously could not, and so he relieved his bladder on the linoleum floor next to it.) I asked Ron to get Scootie’s favorite bath-time towel, and I spread it out on the floor in front of the dresser, laying him on top of it and folding the towel over him for warmth. We petted him and spoke gently to him: “Good boy, Scootie. Relax. We love you, Punkin. We are here for you.”
Ron and I tried to maintain a sense of normalcy, putting on our typical “chill” clothes and then hanging out with him for a few minutes before putting away groceries. We continued to check on him every five to ten minutes. Around 11:00 PM, we walked in and Scootie, upon seeing us, stretched out almost the full length of his tiny body, turned partially on his side so that he could make eye contact with us. We stayed with him for a while, petting him slowly and gently, until Ron decided to go to bed, leaving our low-watt nightstand lights on. I still had a few things to tidy up in the kitchen and continued to check on Scootie every few minutes.
I petted Scoots, who felt much cooler to the touch. I doused the bedroom lights and turned on the light in our shower room nearby to provide some filtered light. I crawled into bed a little after midnight, but Ron and I kept hearing Scootie vocalize now and then. I slipped out of bed and retrieved the afghan, laid down next to him and covered us both, tripling up the blanket over his body. As the minutes passed and I heard his breathing become very slow, I quietly said to Ron, “Honey, I think it’s really close.” Scootie and I were making constant eye contact. Suddenly his pupils became huge, so much so that I could barely see his harvest-moon-colored irises. I saw a shimmery greenish-yellow bean of light moving in his eyes, and then golden droplets of light-energy began slowly shooting from his eyes and face. Then, spectacularly, I saw a warm light rise up from his body, making the afghan glow for three or four seconds. I knew I had witnessed Scootie’s soul leaving his body. And yet he continued breathing and his heart was beating. He turned his head so that I could not see his eyes.
Just then, Ron asked if was going to stay there or come to bed, and after a few moments, I slipped back into bed. Within a minute, Ron rose and turned on the bedroom lights. I followed him to the floor next to Scootie. Ron said, “Maybe he needs water,” so I asked him to get a medicine dropper. As soon as Ron sat down and I had some water in the dropper, Scootie’s head turned toward Ron and I placed a few drops in his mouth. I felt his body: it was cold and he let out a final breath. “I think it’s over, Honey,” I said. Suddenly, Scootie appeared to be looking at Ron and hissed, baring his teeth four or five times. Ron was taken aback, and said, “He’s mad at me.” Then I realized that Scootie’s physiological actions were caused by the final chemicals pumping through his system as designed by animal DNA, and that what we witnessed is quite common. I tried to calm Ron: “No, Honey, this is part of the process. He’s gone. Feel his body. There is no breathing, no heartbeat. Even if he was in a coma, he would have vital signs.” Ron put his hand on Scootie’s body to confirm.
We sat there for a few minutes, tears running down our faces. Ron said, “Would you like some tea?” I said, “I need a glass of wine after all this. [pause] No, I’ll have tea with you.” We sat at our dining table, talking until we were ready to go to bed. We tried snuggling, but neither of us slept much, if at all. A couple of hours in, I saw the same shimmery, glimmery greenish-yellow light bean from Scootie’s eyes in my mind’s eye, spiraling around behind my closed eyelids. I smiled. It was Scootie. Not a doubt in my own soul.
Quirks, Kinks, and Idiosyncracies
Scootie displayed some remarkable traits and mannerisms throughout his adorable life. He was rather small with those huge harvest moon eyes and tiny nose on his precious little flat face. His tail had a funky curve at the very end, and it was noticeable as he loved to flick and flaunt that tail.
He ate his solid food, which we called “crunchies,” by scooping a few pieces onto the floor and using his right front paw to feed himself; he always left several whole crunchies on the floor while scooping more from the dish. He was generally a good groomer except when it came to that feeding paw: he let it get crusty, and I had to regularly clean it. Ron and I called it his “skanky paw.”
Speaking of food, Scootie was always first to stand by the cabinet door where we keep the crunchies and let me know it was time to fill his dish. We called this “top o’ the mornin’ top-up” or “top o’ the evenin’ top-up”, and he was always on time for both sessions. He liked to crawl inside the crunchies cabinet and chew on plastic zip bags. In fact, he loved chewing on plastic bags in general: he would swarm around us and beg to chew on them. He would even try to get inside the refrigerator when the door was open and find the nearest bag before we had to shoo him out.
Ron had invented a game with the crunchies back when Bubba was still with us. He would position a single crunchy on the carpet and “kick” it with a finger to send it flying across the room, and then Jazz would chase it and eat it. Scootie learned this game immediately, of course: it was play time with an instant edible reward! He still played the game until the week before he died.
Because of Scootie’s nearly concave facial structure, and just being a Persian cat, his sinuses were extremely short. Whenever he lowered his head to eat or drink or groom, he would always sneeze in the cutest way: we called his sneezes “the oofies”!
Unlike some cats, Scootie did not often vocalize (apart from those four months of wailing after Jazz died). When he did speak, he had a favorite word, “ack,” which he would utter when wanting food or attention, leaving his mouth open for dramatic effect. Other vocalizations were screeches when brushing sessions went too long (he would time out at 45 seconds!) or when I spent too much time (according to him) grooming him by hand and working out knots in his fur.
Playtime was interesting as the years went on. In Scootie’s first couple of years, he would jump straight into the air to catch toys — we had never seen such a tiny creature leap so high, it was amazing! By the time he was five or six years old, the crazy jumping stopped, and he would only chase strings ‘n’ things along the floor, preferably on carpet. We would hold a piece of twine, for example, and spin really fast as he chased the end around and around and around until either he caught the thing, or we got too dizzy!
Lastly, Scootie not only loved being petted, his particular favie was having his ears rubbed; both at the same time was best. Even better was having both ears rubbed while being scratched on both sides of his chin. That was heaven on earth for little Scoots.
Ron and I chose to have Scootie’s remains cremated at Eden Pet Crematory. His ashes will be spread on a private property in Paso Robles, but he will live forever in our cherished memories of the The Biggest Little Kitty in the County.
Nilla is still in mourning on the fourth full day after Scootie passed. This initially came as somewhat of a surprise, given her bossy, competitive nature with Scootie. But upon further reflection, Nilla has strong maternal instincts: she was always trying to groom Scootie, which he wouldn’t allow. We know now how deeply affected she was by losing her older “brother from another mother.”
Ron and I are grateful for all the love and support we have received not only during Scootie’s last days, but throughout his life. In no particular order, our thanks and deep affection goes out to all of you equally, and if we missed someone, we are very sorry.
Kahle A-B., for being a Keeper of All Things Scootness, for being the daughter we never had, and because we will never forget you saying that when you met Scootie, you wanted to “hold him and squeeze him ’til he pops.” The best. We felt the same way: Scootie was Just. Too. Precious. We all (including Mahrs!) wanted him to explode and be one with us, be all around us and in us, and perhaps now he is. His everythingness was truly amazing. That you saw Scootie just days before he passed meant the world-of-our-best-dreams to us all. Your epic love continues to nurture, bolster, and cast light and love on us. Crooookieees, forever.
Sandy M., for being present even when you’re not physically close enough to schedule last-minute lunches, let’s-drink-bubbles-dates, and extreme crying jags that probably require strong netting and intermittent hugs. Quote from Sharine: “If I hadn’t called Sandra after my first meltdown following Scootie’s death, and she hadn’t taken my call, I might be wandering through the Mojave Desert right now, wondering why drinking my tears isn’t quenching my thirst, and why that big cactus is sidling up to me for a look-see.” No, I’m not going to re-make “Under the Sea” with a Scooter-based desert theme. But, nice try. You always know how to keep my creative juices flowing, even in emotional rollercoaster times.
Maria K., for being the sweet friend who lost your furry family member who was much, much larger than Scootie, but you also know that size, in this instance, does not matter. As one of his best caretakers and not-so-secret admirers, we appreciate your up-close and distant love for your little “Scootie-Bear.” Your consistent presence in Scootie’s last half of life and in his final days meant multiple universes to us all. After his death, everything you shared — your own experiences and personal wisdom — was a big, warm, fuzzy blanket, just when we lost the little black one we already had. The card you sent came at just the right time, reminding us again of Scootie’s far-reaching affect on all who knew him.
Denny H., for being a steadfast brother who was “right there” with us, all the way from Michigan, during the last weeks and days.
Sherrie H., for being the compassionate friend who, still a bit raw from losing your dog Roxy this year, has a big enough heart to listen to me talk — during our lunch date — about Scootie’s passing. Conversations about death during mealtime can only happen with a family member or a really special friend.
Teresa J., for being the sweet little lemon drop that you are, bringing a card and gift to the house on Scootie’s last day. Even though you hadn’t met him until then, I was so moved that you took time out of your busy day off to shop for gifts and make a visit.
Band Mates Phil, Wave, Okie, and Bam, for being the cool friends you all are and suffering through rehearsal, the day after Scootie passed, during which I was rather despondent and could hardly smile. Even “performing” was so difficult that I when I made eye contact with anyone, it increased my pain. All I could do was try to play and sing. My saving grace was watching and listening to Ron’s stellar guitar work.
Joseph F., for being my favie (former) guitar student, good friend, and perfect pal for Scootie while we traveled this last August. Scootie always felt good with you because of your chill nature. I know he appreciated every moment of petting, playing, brushies, and just your presence while here in our home, whether you were here for lessons, just dropping by for a visit, or taking care of him.
Felicia, for being one more of my favorite people on the planet and for helping Joseph care for Scootie, especially hand-feeding him pumpkin.
Nathan S., for being a spiritually in-tune friend who totally understood my experience in Scootie’s final moments of life. Your phone call came at just the right time, and your gentle nature was comforting during our conversation.
Mahry A-B., for being the precious little animal-lover that you are. Even though Scootie freaked out upon meeting you, it was absolute pleasure to watch you scream joyously when you first saw him, and then cry in abject agony when you realized you couldn’t hold him and squeeze him until he pops. We all feel that way, my little Mahrzipan, we all do.
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(All photographs in this post by Ron Hagadone and Sharine Borslien. Please do not reproduce them or use them in any way without our express permission. Requests can be made to Sharine on this blog’s contact page.)