A lot of the blogs I’ve written prior to this one have been about pets or loved ones that I’ve painted. Commissions I’ve been hired to do by someone else meant to be given as gifts of a cat or a dog or a person that has gone to the great beyond. 

Today, it’s my turn.  I started this painting of my cat, Spark,  about 3 years ago in his healthier days. Because I was working so much on hired commissions, I threw it in a pile unfinished. On July 8th at 4PM in the afternoon, my Spark, at 21 years old, sailed eloquently over the Rainbow Bridge. 

The following words could be construed as quite sad, but they are intended to be my feeble attempt to write a heart felt tribute for this little being that did so much to make my world go round. 

June 29th, 2013 marked my 10 year mark of returning to full time land life after 6 years of working ships and travel. I was nervous about finding work and acclimating to land life on the home base again.  A few months after my return, my sister-in-law told me there was a cat that needed a home. Near as we could calculate, he was around 11 years old at the time.  

I put it off for awhile. Then I put it off more. So deeply concerned that my new jobs wouldn’t work out, I wouldn’t be able to make a living on land and would have to ship out again left with the traumatizing experience of rehoming a cat that just GOT re-homed. Not good for him OR me. 

But the window of adoption opportunity was closing and I had to make a decision. Took the leap, and Sparky, as he was called then, came to live with me.  He was my decade long life transition cat. 

Our first meeting was less than Disneyland. He was terrified. He crawled under my bed. I had box springs under my mattress at the time. He tore a hole in the bottom of it and made a hammock for himself which became his safe house.  So quiet, I’d check from time to time to see if he was even still here. He’d peer at me through the dim under the bed lighting from his hammock. He just didn’t know what to make of me. Nor I of him. 

I’d never had a “scardy cat” before. Wasn’t sure what to do so I let him progress on his own terms. It’s not like I chronologically journaled the time frame, but I’d say it took the better part of a year and a half before he decided to ditch the hammock and give living with me a whirl. 

From that moment on, he was transformed into a very social guy. He was part of my every day rituals yelling for food, boxing my ankles if I didn’t move fast enough while feeding him, chatting like he was siamese (he wasn’t, but he had a LOT to say) and always by my side. He’d walk across the floor to work with me in the morning and put in his 8 hours reclining in his “office” bed. Rough gig but he pulled it off. LOL. 

Once we got to this place, it felt like he’d always be here. Always. 

I’ve surely had my share of pets. But this guy, Sparky, Spark Plug, Spark was a 4 pawed soldier.  I’ve never had a cat who made it his full time job to watch over me. I didn’t even realize that he took it so seriously until the past couple of months. He was actually a working cat. And I was his work. 

He turned 21 this year. On his worst days, he would still show up for work.  Sometimes when I went downstairs to practice for an upcoming gig, I would hear him just howling. It was the loneliest sound ever because he thought I’d left the house. About 4 years ago, he became deaf as a stone, but knew the moment I pulled into the garage from a gig by vibration of my car.  Always greeted me at the top of the steps while giving me the “what for” for the first 10 minutes after my arrival. After he finished giving me an ear full, we’d retreat to the couch for some TV and after gig wind down. Team work. 

All these things got a little harder for him in the past few months.  My friends can tell you, he looked like the worst alley cat you’ve ever seen but still had his little personality.  A couple of weeks ago I again went downstairs to practice for an upcoming gig. No howling this time, but when I got to the top of the steps, his little face was pressed on the top step waiting for me to return. It was at that moment I knew he was hanging on because he took watching over me so seriously. It just hadn’t dawned on me before.  

In the middle of the night, July  7th, he became disoriented. We’d had a lot of false alarms, but this was something different. Saturday morning he had stopped all food and water and just peacefully rested in my room on his bed.  At around 4PM Saturday July 8th,  I leaned over to him and said  “You can go to Heaven now, Spark. I’d keep you forever if I could, but I know I can’t.  You have done the most wonderful job of watching over me. It’s ok if you have to go”.  Within a few seconds, his tired eyes became fixed. Most extraordinarily, he stretched out his legs to the fullest extent as if he was flying and slipped away.  

 This is where I thank my neighbor, Kim,  for stepping in to help me bury Spark with his favorite toy mouse and his bed in my garden at the foot of the steps.  She and I sat on the porch with my brother and sister-in-law afterwards and I began to process the loss of this wonderful animal.  Thanks guys. Your company meant everything.  I was kind of a mess. :( 

This little soul saw me through 10 years of transitions. Always talking to me, always putting his left paw on my arm to let me know he was watching  and occasionally giving me hell for reasons I could never interpret. 

For the first week after he was gone, I could feel his little spirit in the room when I went to bed at night so strongly. Like he never left. All leading me to know that he didn’t want to go, he didn’t want to stop watching over me, he just had to. His little body had done all it could do. 

So cheers to this incredibly service oriented cat.  This is a tribute to how the littlest of souls can do the biggest of things for you without you even realizing it until they slip away.  I’m awarding him 5 stars for a life well lived. He will be missed beyond measure until I figure out how to put one foot in front of the other again without him trying to trip me. 

Spark, I picture you in graceful flight to a place of final rest, peace, toy mice and cushy beds for your epic cat naps.

I will love you forever.

And as one of my friends told me, I will NEVER not miss you.