Tigra was my cat. She slept next to me, cuddled up against my side. She used to sleep at my feet, but she must have figured out that my side was safer and definitely more peaceful. When I was up late, working by myself, I was never alone. She never went to bed until I did. Sometimes she decided it was late enough and began complaining until I left my desk. Of course, she had her contrary moments as well. She knew how to get my attention immediately when she was hungry: She would jump onto my desk and begin to shred my papers or toss them helter-skelter all over the floor.
Invariably, Tigra was at the door when we came home. Sal was a little jealous. “I feed her more often than you do,” he would say, “why is she always by your side?” I had my theory.
On the Saturday after 9/11, we were lucky to be on the first plane allowed to land at JFK (but that’s another story). We went home, picked up the car and drove to the country. When we pulled up at the house, there were two cats sitting, waiting for us, caterwauling insistently. There were slim pickings in the house, so I poured a little milk for them. “Don’t feed them,” Sal warned, “or they’ll keep coming back and we won’t be here.”
We left for the city the next day. The following weekend, one of the cats was hanging out by the house. I gave her some cheese. The third weekend, she was still there, and I bought some cat food. I let her into the house, because it was pouring rain. She drew closer to me, and rubbed against my leg. Fortunately, she was familiar with the litter box routine. Then it was time to leave, and we looked at each other.
“We can’t take her to the city,” Sal said menacingly.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because we go away. What will we do with her then?”
“We don’t go away that often,” I insisted.
Sal was relentless. The rain kept coming down.
“Okay,” I said. “You throw her out.”
Sal disappeared. A few minutes later, he showed up with a carrier in his hands. (We still had some of the equipment our first cat had used.) We arrived in the city, and while Tigra checked out her new digs, we prepared to go to bed. She headed into the bedroom. “Where is she going to sleep?” Sal demanded. With that, Tigra jumped on our bed. “She’s not sleeping on the bed,” he protested.
“Okay,” I said. “You throw her off.”
The rest, as they say, is history. We never regretted our decision. We took good care of her, and she loved us back in return. Her absence leaves a gaping hole. It’s going to take some time to heal.