Tuesday, October 4, 2011

20 Years of Being Jake

20 Years of Being Jake

1991 Jake found his way to me. He rode underneath the hood of a dually pickup truck hauling some horses. He was found holding on to the gas tank with his claws, and had been clinging there for two hours on a stormy, rainy night trip. He was only 3 weeks old. His destiny was not to be a barn cat after all. He loved to be held and kissed on the top of his head, right between his eyes. He would spend the next twenty years seeking those forehead kisses every chance he got.

1992 Jake lived with my roommate Mo and me on Armitage in Chicago. She made me neuter him early because she had a fear of male cat spraying. He lived his whole life with a kitten like mew and a small head. She will never live it down…but consequently no spraying ever happened on her watch. He enjoyed the chaos of all of the dirty clothes we strewed on the floor and enjoyed making a bed out of them. He once got lost in my closet for two days and found his way out when he was good and ready. He enjoyed the single life, and heavy partying that first year.

1993 Jake and I moved in with my now husband Rene. He did not like the cat because he would step on fresh cat vomit in the middle of the night and it would get between his toes. He met his first dog Rene’s Australian Shepherd “Patches”. Jake loved to sit in our bathtub when it was wet and watch the drain. He did not mind getting wet. We would watch him sit on the toilet seat while watching the water go down. Once he actually fell in and jumped out seemingly in the same second. Sometimes I felt like I was watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon.

1994 Jake watched Rene and I come and go from our apartment. He saw me in my wedding dress. He and Patches became quite close. When Patches passed we allowed Jake to sleep with us in our bed. He was an only child again.

1995 Jake was officially adopted by our new Australian Shepherd puppy “Oliver”. Oliver cleaned him so much that he completely stopped cleaning himself. Instead he opted to lie underneath Oliver awaiting his scheduled bathing times. Oliver always allowed Jake to eat from his bowl first during feeding time. Oliver and Jake were best friends.

1996 Jake moved with us into our new town home. He was so used to the confines of apartment living that he chose to hide under our bed often; it was his favorite spot in his new great big world.

1997 There was a new sheriff in town. Time spent sitting on my lap was replaced by time spent sharing my lap with a nursing baby. He seemed so light compared to the baby. I remember that well.

1998 Ryan the sheriff became mobile. Jake was afraid of him grabbing his fur all of the time. He never once bit or scratched Ryan but he warned him often. We used like to entertain our friends by asking Ryan what sound does a cow make “MOO” What sound does the dog make? “Woof…woof…” What sound does the kitty make? “Hissssss”

1999 We moved to a bigger house once again. This one had a large basement. Jakey found a hiding place underneath our basement stairway. He made a home there and when visitors came by he would make sure he was in his safe place. People never believed that we had a cat.

2000 The millennium. Jake enjoyed his life at the bigger house. He could get away from the boy, enjoy his dog, and sit with his mama chewing my hair whenever he got the chance. Life was good.

2001 Jake spent a lot of time at the house alone. We had bought a barn and worked day and night taking Oliver with us. He was always happy to see us and did not resent it. He knew we were busy.

2002 Jake discovered green lush grass and the great outdoors. We let him outside to walk on the back patio. He would touch the grass with his front paw and quickly retract it. He tried this again and again, and finally made the big plunge on to the grass floor. He ran into the house and sat in the back window and watched the dogs play from the safety of our kitchen. He seemed proud of himself for his great outdoor adventures. He would try to go out often after that for a short explore. He was finally coming into his own.

2003 Jake got a new puppy. Austin came into the family and did not adopt Jake the way that Oliver had. Jake always accepted new pets into our house willingly and even with Austin’s raucous behavior he was not impressed or intimidated. Oliver still protected and cared for him every day.

2004 Oliver died suddenly from a fast moving cancer. Jake missed him but never left my side. He understood loss and seemed to know that his spirit friends were never far away. He helped me heal and didn’t mind the streams of wet tears I left on his fur. He completely stopped cleaning himself and had to be brushed by us instead. Oliver had spoiled and loved him unconditionally for nine wonderful years.

2005 Jake still looked like a youngster. The early neutering had served him well after all. We found paw prints on the counters from him jumping up on them when we were not around. I started counting past nine lives at this point…and couldn’t believe how strong he still was.

2006 Jake learned as many dog commands as he could. He could come and sit for a treat. He followed me around faithfully.

2007 We brought home yet another puppy for Jake to raise. He got chased but knew how to hold his ground with the strong and foolish boxer pup Baxter. He had no problem with all of the neighbor’s dogs either and their comings and goings. Even with Austin herding him constantly he learned to ignore him and understood that dogs will always be big part of his life.

2008 Jake ate out of Baxter’s dish when I would put the dog food down. Baxter stood way back and whined at him while Jakey ate his food without ever looking up. Baxter just lets him do it now and waits patiently until Jakey is finished.

2009 Jake figured out that people who came to visit were not there to take him away or harm him. He found bravery somewhere within himself on his own terms and actually started to come out to see people when they came over. He sat on laps on the couch, got hugs from family and friends, and he let anyone pick him up and pet him. It was a strange and fascinating metamorphosis. I was so proud of his personal growth, and he taught me that it is never too late to change.

2010 He started to show his age. He was well past his ninth life. His days were quieter now and his nights were spent at the bottom of the stairs calling to me and looking up for me to come to him. During the day hours he enjoyed sitting on the laps of the wonderful kids who came to hang out with Ryan and Jake played Call of Duty with them for hours.

2011 Jake gave me plenty of time to say good bye to him. I had a chance to tell him what he had meant to me, and how we had grown up together, raised a family, many dogs, and a boy who had grown up to become his friend. He let me know that he is ready to take his great and joyous journey home. He let me know in his quiet way that he will be greeted by his Patches and by his Oliver. He will be with his abuela, and my grandpa Max who so loved cats. There will be a great celebration of his life and how proud they have all been of how he took care of me, watched over me, and protected me with goodness and unconditional love everyday of his twenty years.

Sleep well my sweet boy…you deserve all of the glory you will receive after living a perfect and wonderful life of service to the forever keeper of your heart. I will be eternally grateful for each of our twenty years together and will remember you with great admiration for the life you lived and the soul you grew to be. When our journey began and you arrived in my life at just 3 weeks old, I thought I was there for you, but in fact it was you who was sent here to be with me. Thank you for all that you taught me about goodness and purity, about living, and about letting go. It was perfect. I will see you at the bridge…I know you will be waiting for me there.