My pal Beaucat will be 17 years old in a few weeks, and it’s hard to watch a close friend grow old.
Beaucat has been with Jane and me since we lived in Florida. We got him and his sister, Harrie, at the St. Lucie County Animal Shelter in Fort Pierce. I was reluctant to get pets. We were both busy with very demanding jobs, and I didn’t think we’d be able to spend any time with them. And I knew that sooner or later, we’d have to deal with losing them, and that made me uncomfortable. But Jane talked me into it.
One day in July 1993, we agreed to meet at the animal shelter during our lunch hour. Jane got there ahead of me and had found two kittens she liked by the time I got there. I stood in front of a small cage, the attendant opened it, and the kitten that would become Beaucat came right out like I was late for an appointment. He walked up my right arm, stood on my shoulder, and meowed loudly. I’m guessing he was saying something like “What took you so long? Get me the hell out of here.”
Beaucat is doing a lot of loud howling these days, but it’s a different kind. From what Jane and I have read at various cat websites, it’s related to old age. He seems out of it at times, sort of lost. The howling, according to what we’ve read, is because he’s confused, disoriented and lonely. It’s a sort of feline senile dementia.
It’s not easy to deal with sometimes, because he can be very, very loud and it sounds like he’s mad and scolding me. It’s an incredibly grating howl, and it can instantly break my focus if I’m trying to concentrate on work. Sometimes he does it when I’m in the middle of a phone call, and I have to explain to whoever I’m talking to that no, I’m not torturing a cat, I have an elderly cat that’s getting senile.
But he usually stops when I pick him up and drape him across my shoulder. That seems to be where he’s wanted to be since that day 17 years ago in the animal shelter. When I was working on my first book, he was often draped across my shoulder snoozing. It became such a habit for us that I’d suddenly realize I didn’t remember when he’d jumped on my lap and climbed up on my shoulder, or how long he’d been there. And when I pick him up now, he often drapes across my shoulder, sighs loudly and settles down, and for a while it’s just like old times.
We lost Harrie (right) to cancer in 2005, and the sadness that had made me reluctant to get pets in the first place because they’d eventually die was as bad as I’d feared. But Harrie was a great cat, and having her for 12 years was wonderful.
Beaucat’s time will come sooner rather than later, and I dread it. But he’s been a great companion and has enriched our lives, and I wouldn’t take anything for that memory.