He wasn’t the most engaging of cats. I was a little afraid of him at first. A Bengal. Part of a new breed created by mating Domestic Tabby Cats with Asian Leopard Cats. It is, or at least was, illegal to own a Bengal in the state of Connecticut. But I wasn’t in the state of Connecticut any more.
He was a third generation Bengal and cost the first lady who loved him over $500.00. He was not her only cat. When Domino’s lady died and husband, who was not a cat person, didn’t want him. Another nice lady rescued him and paid $50.oo. But Domino wanted his first lady back, and he protested by pooping and peeing in inappropriate places. The second nice lady offered him free to a good home, saying she didn’t have the time and energy to deal with training him.
I picked him up while Cathi was at work. I didn’t meet the nice lady who had rescued him. I met her young woman assistant. We had a bit of a laugh, Domino was hiding in plain sight, with his face behind a curtain in a corner and the rest of him plainly visible. He came with his cat carriage. I carried him out to our second hand Mazda van and secured him in the back seat. I talked to him all the way home. He pretty much ignored me. But somehow I knew he was extraordinarily intelligent.
After I got home, the woman who had rescued him gave me a call to ask if everything went all right. Yes, it had. I told her I had the impression he was very intelligent. She sounded surprised and said, “Yes, he is-” and went on to explain that she just didn’t have the time and energy to potty train him. She’d been assured that he’d been all through that and had passed with flying colours.
He was larger than many cats, taller and weighed sixteen pounds most of the time he was with us. And he was strong. I built a bionic bird cage for Cathi and her kids’ budgies ( ‘Parakeets’ to youse USAtians, 😉 ) And watched him many times, jump up on the outside of the aviary (Three feet deep, five feet wide, six feet tall, with tree branches securely screwed in place inside.) When a couple of the birds thought they might start a family, Domino wasn’t going to let that happen. Any time the pair started acting amorously he would jump on the outside of the cage and rattle it severely. It was built around a two by three frame with a solid half inch plywood back and roof. When Domino climbed up on top and tried to grab any bird who strayed near the ‘wire cloth’ heavy duty screening stuff, I went to the nearest home hardware store and bought and had them cut three pieces of acrylic longer than his reach, drilled and installed the acrylic in place and then he couldn’t get his claws through the ‘cloth’/ heavy screening. For their part, the birds learned quickly that he could not get through the ‘cloth’ and I could swear they wagged their tail feathers at him teasingly. We bought the birds a happy little house for them to build a nest inside, but nobody ever laid any eggs. Maybe Domino prevented that.
But yes, he still missed his first lady. And he was almost inconsolable, until we brought out the brush. He loved his brush so much he fell off his futon couch when I brushed him, quickly recovered, looked at me with a dark, “You didn’t see that-” threat in his eyes, but then melted at the sight of the brush and flopped around and even fell off the couch more than once during a session. But he still wasn’t happy. And he still peed and pooped- ruined his futon, made me become very careful about where I sat down to do any computing after sitting in very wet chairs more than once. Ick.
We had heard Doreen Virtue on the radio a couple times. One of her talks was about animals’ guardian angels. She explained that she’d appealed to one of her cats’ guardian angels when the cat was out on a very steep roof and in danger of slipping and plunging to its death and had been surprised that the cat turned and happily came right to the window and jumped safely inside as soon as Dr Virtue thought about appealing to the cat’s guardian angel. The first job I could get when I was finally able to work up here in Canada with permanent resident status, was cleaning a bank. My step son had special needs and wanted to join cub scouts. Cub Scouts said he could join if I became a cub scout leader. Meetings were on Wednesdays. I told my boss that Wednesdays might be a problem, I might have to start much later than usual. He asked if I wanted help on Wednesdays. I said sure. I met a helpful and diligent young man named Derek and on one of the first Wednesdays we worked together, we discovered a bat loose in the bank. Derek called our boss. The boss nonchalantly said, “So what’s the problem- Kill it and try not to make a mess of it, clean up whatever happens-” And I didn’t want to kill it. Derek didn’t want to kill it. I thought I’d try Doreen Virtue’s advice, called out to the bat’s guardian angel, explained that we didn’t want to kill it, we wanted to get it safely out of the bank, and found a small brown lunch bag, followed the bat into the next room it flew into. It flew into a series of cubby holes, on the lowest level of those cubby holes- I placed the bag in front of that cubby hole and the bat walked right into it. I carefully closed the bag, tried to speak soothingly as I carried it outside with Derek by my side, making sure he had my keys in his hands so we didn’t lock ourselves out, I put the bag down on a potted tree at the edge of the parking lot. A young couple was intrigued, asked what we were doing. When they heard the word, “bat” they hurried away with their hands up for protection. The bat flew away. The young couple hurried away in the opposite direction and I thought things went well.
So I tried to ask Domino’s guardian angel what Domino wanted or needed. I received the vivid impression that Domino was trying to tell me, “I want somebody to play with- another cat.” I told Cathi and we got Domino a friend. The first friend was too young and too timid and didn’t know how to play rough and tumble cat wrestling games. And before she was with us for three months, we found her dead on the bathroom floor. No bloody mess, she’d died of a heart attack. When we blurted out that Sasha had died so quickly the next time we brought a friend to the animal shelter, one of the women in charge heard us and told us she would write us a voucher good for a free replacement. The person who was with us asked if there were any animals available now, and most of them were being watched and evaluated and screened for diseases and so on, but one who seemed likely to pass was this orange guy they were calling ‘Morris’. Does ‘Morris get along with other cats?’ “Well, let’s see-” they opened his cage and carried him around and let him say hello to several other cats and nobody hissed and everybody seemed happy and our friend asked to hold him and he gave her a big hug and okay, we want this guy. He had to be ‘fixed’ first, but if he was this easy to get along with before he was fixed, he would probably be a wonderfully laid back friendly cat afterwards. Then he caught a cold, then he was okay, we were told to come pick him up. They thought it was a good idea to keep him segregated away from other cats at first, but this orange guy would have none of that. He and Domino got on perfectly well from the first time the orange guy escaped from the bed room. Orange guy cried and reached for his new friend under the door and Domino sat there and waited for his next escape and then showed orange guy around, they wrestled and played and Domino was one happy cat. Most of the time.
Domino loved chasing what we in the states had called a super ball, and up here in Canada they are called ‘bouncy balls’. He would leap and run and play as impressively as the world’s best short stop ever could. It was kind of sad when he outgrew that. He just one day looked at a bouncing ball and shrugged, looked at me with a kind of, “been there, done that- what else is new?” expression.
We tried to communicate. He had some very interesting ‘meows’. When we took him the the vet to get a shot, I sat with his cat carrier on my lap and said, “It’s going to be all right, we’re going to go in the next room with that nice lady and maybe she’ll give you a shot, maybe it will sting a little bit, but we’ll be fine-” and he loudly and distinctly moaned, “No- No- Noooooooo-” He gave the orange cat his name. We were calling him Tigger, he did have subtle stripes. But Domino called out “Moe- Moe- Moe-” and Moe came happily prancing out of somewhere. And the next time we called out, “Moe-” the orange guy appeared with a big happy smile and that was that. The name stuck. A lot of the time he would turn to me and silently mouth something and nod his head, I’d mouth it back and nod my head. Sometimes he would respond to that, by looking like he was rolling his eyes and thinking, ‘There is absolutely no hope for humans-‘
Okay, this is getting longer than I thought it would. Domino died last Sunday, during a full moon – just before midnight. I have been devastated. I’m taking this harder than I took any death in this life. Maybe because I saw him suffering near the end. Not much suffering, he refused to eat. He turned his nose up when offered his favourite greenies. He did drink, he complained, he moaned, and walked around meowing loudly and I thought he was saying good bye to everything he loved, and then he walked in front of me while I was meditating – he moaned once, flopped down on his side, breathed easily for a couple minutes and then stopped breathing. My mind’s eye saw him looking at his body curiously. I called for angels and archangels, and prayed they could give him the choice of springing back to life with full health, or going on. I felt him say, “I’m sorry, I have to go now-”
Yesterday I realized I could look at some of things he loved without falling apart completely myself. Today I embraced the idea that even though he was not in the centre of things, and spent a lot of time hiding out, slinking around behind us and running away when we noticed him there, this cat had a presence that I sorely miss. I could believe that he was a guardian angel disguised as a cat.
I’ve been assured that one of these days I’m going to see a cat and either hear outright, or somehow know, “You knew me as Domino- take me home and let’s resume where we left off. I’m in charge- you got that? As long as you realize that I’m in charge we should have no problems at all-“