Saturday, August 09, 2008
Princeton is gone.
In 1996 I was in my parents' house on Princeton Road in Florida, taking apart their household after they died, when my daughter Gillian called to say she had found the perfect cat for me. One might say I didn't need a cat, since we already had quite a few. But Mystic, the lovely longhaired black & white cat I had nursed back to health after finding her, desperately ill, hiding in an abandoned washing machine, had drowned in our swimming pool a couple of years earlier, and Jill knew how traumatic that event had been for me. She decided I needed another longhaired cat in my life.
He was one of many kittens born in a horse barn where Jill took riding lessons. My daughter Suzanne drove up and got him, which must have taken some effort because he was fearful in the way of all feral kittens and not at all used to humans. He spent his first two weeks at home in my room, getting used to me. It forged a bond that will never be broken.
We called him Prince Tony as well as Princeton, and he answered to both. If I encountered him unexpectedly I'd say, "Prince Tony! My baby!" and he always responded with one of his original sounds. Princeton could be a handful, but when Jill heard me greet him that way she knew I was happy that she had brought us together.
The picture on top was taken recently, after he had lost a lot of weight and wasn't feeling well. The second photo is from his youth. He was a big cat with a magnificent coat. He was quite vocal, and would usually speak when spoken to. In recent months he would call my name (at least that's what I think he said) several times a night. I would rouse myself from sleep just enough to raise my hand, and he would put his face into it. I would pet his head, and then he'd go back to sleep.
This spring, when he was 12, he became very sick. The vet thought he had non-viral leukemia, and treated him for that. He got better with antibiotics and worse (I think) with prednisone. Last week another vet offered a different diagnosis: acute massive infection. She sent his blood to a pathologist, and I'll find out on Monday if they learned anything from it. She also ordered a strong antibiotic from a compounding pharmacy, but it didn't get here when we thought it would, and by this morning it was all too late.
He went through so much, and I wish I could take it all back because in the end it did nothing for him. If I had a second chance, I would handle his illness differently. But we rarely get second chances. I saw Jill's car twice on the way home from the vet's this morning—same model, same color, not so common anymore—and took it as a sign, though not a very dramatic one, that he was with her now. In any case, I know he is. I just wish he were with me. Prince Tony. My baby.