Piggy

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She came into my life as a little old lady who knew how to weasel her way into anyone’s heart: with croak-meows, snort-purrs and big green eyes staring up at you. Her name was Candy. Thanks to those unique snort nuzzles and honk purrs, and how she could make herself as cozy as pigs in a blanket, I couldn’t help but adopt a new name for a cat who was already 15. For the last two and a half years of her life, she has been Piggy, Pig, Pigums and Piggsley, all in turn. Her life started somewhere in Oakland, as the runt of a rather large litter. Growing up she was always the little one, but somehow fought through her first 10 years before some new parents came to town and took her into a home with just one bigger sibling. They nursed her back to health, bulked her up to 7.5 lbs and unlocked the sweet, gentle lap-sitter who I met on my first visit to their house. She found my comfortable lap and immediately climbed on board. That, I would discover, was her great charm. Far from being a regal beauty with a big, fluffy tail or exotic markings, she was a plain-Jane herself, and didn’t discriminate against any equally undistinguished potential lap, blanket or bed. That was her sophistication, her grace, her emotional intelligence. Instead of being set in her ways, she was always open to new laps for naps and noses or knuckles for nuzzles. On her first night at my house, she snouted her way under the covers and curled up right next to me, as if she had always belonged there. She even snuggled in with my visiting sister once, who is far from the cat lover I am. Nearly every visitor to my home has witnessed her un-cat-like toleration of love and indiscriminate dispersion of nose nuzzles, drool puddles (during all that lap-sitting and snoozing) and breathy honk-purrs. Piggy and my grandma have even napped together. She would often sit in the window and croak a short series of three “mow”s when I left and later when I returned home. Even if she was curled up sleeping, her immediate response to a little pet or even a sensed closeness was that gentle, surprised series of croaks. Her only unhappy sounds were the mournful “mooow” she would howl when a sudden flash of dementia or loneliness shook through her little body, or the guttural growl she let out at the odious sight of another cat who, at this point, she had all but vanquished in her life-long journey to becoming an only cat. As with most older ladies, you can’t expect them to be sweetness and gumdrops all the time — a lady does have standards. But for the better part of every day and every hour, she hobbled about on her arthritic back legs with a sense of dignity. Her supervised outdoor playtimes in the yard were literally a journey to stop and smell the flowers, nuzzle the steps, tickle the grass and sniff wistfully into the air. With those meandering rituals complete, she would make her way into a slow seat on the porch, and turning a few corkscrew circles to find the right orientation, bathe in the sunshine and enjoy the greatest joy of a Piggy’s life: the great tradition of napping. Through the last year and a half, as she has bravely fought cancer and illness, her grace and dignity has never wavered. Even her sense of humor continued to evolve. In fact, she had lately deduced a more playful way to wake me up: stroking my face ever so gently, letting her claws tickle down my cheek slowly until I opened my eyes right into a little nuzzle. On July 25, she gave her final nuzzle in the comfort of her favorite closet. A sensitive vet came to administer some relaxing kitty drugs, and she drifted off into her final flowerbed. That’s where she is buried now. These are my parting thoughts to a cat who came into my life to be nursed in her last days, and in the process nurtured me to health and happiness. Rest in Peace, Piggy (also known as Candy).

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