January 27, 2007
Why do we have funerals? To honor those who have left this earth?
To comfort those who are left behind to mourn? To celebrate a life,
perhaps cut short? Funerals have healing power. It is a time to
say goodbye, to remember fondly the one we loved, or respected. But we
don’t have funerals for pets. And yet, I feel as sad today as the day
that my dad died. Some would say, “It’s only a cat.”
Yesterday at 4:30pm, I said my final goodbye to my beloved Libre. She
came into my life one September afternoon in 1991. I had just gone
along for the ride to Tijuana; I had been staying in a trailer on the Del
Mar Fairgrounds for the summer horseracing season. My friend, Betsy,
had family in Tijuana, so off we went on the last Tuesday before the end of
the meet. I was standing outside the house, a tiny, ramshackle
building that her in-laws called home. Playing on the sidewalk was
this ugly little kitten; she was chasing an old, dried leaf that was blowing
in the wind. I asked the family who she belonged to and they said that
she was on her own, the mother had been gone for a week. They
occasionally gave her milk, but they were poor and couldn’t afford to feed
her on a regular basis. They picked her up and handed her to me and
pleaded with me to take her home.
Well, it didn’t take much encouragement and off we went towards the border.
As we approached the guard shack, I placed her into my purse and she
immediately started purring and curled up and went to sleep. When
asked if we had anything to declare, we said “no.”
So as we entered into the United States of America, I declared her name to
be “Feo Pero Libre” which means “ugly but free” in Spanish. For you
see, she really was quite ugly, scraggly, fur that looked like it had mousse
in it, and covered with fleas. She was only about 5 weeks old.
So we immediately stopped and bought flea shampoo and I did the deed in the
sink of the trailer. Booboo, now 18 years old, was only 3 then and was
staying with me in the trailer. She immediately went into hiding,
hissing and spitting, wanting nothing to do with this illegal immigrant.
Two days later, we moved home to Anaheim, and off to the vet she went for a
checkup and vaccinations. After a stern lecture from my veterinarian
about smuggling animals, he treated her and told me that I needed to keep
her isolated from Booboo. So Libre spent her first couple of weeks in
the bathroom of my studio apartment. She found the bottom drawer of my
dresser to call her own and could be seen curled up on the soft, cotton
towels anytime you came into the room. But as soon as you opened the
door, she’d lift her little head up and jump out of the drawer and come
running to greet you. She’d play and purr and made me feel like I had
saved her from an unspeakable life had I left her on that street in Tijuana.
After receiving a lot of love and attention and real food, Feo Pero Libre,
became just Libre. She was no longer Ugly, just Free. Fast
forward ten years or so…Libre began losing weight and her fur, which never
did look luxurious, began looking even more ragged. Turns out she had
an overactive thyroid. She had to be hospitalized for 10 days to
undergo Radioactive Iodine treatment. She made it through that and
Some time later, she began developing mast cell tumors, pre-cancerous and
had to undergo several surgeries to remove them. But her spirit
brought her back and she never lost her energy or will to live.
Then we moved to Anaheim Hills. She loved to lie in the sun in front
of the windows and watch all the birds at the feeders. She and Lefty,
now almost 10 years old, could be seen lying together in the red room where
the sun comes through the stained glass in the afternoon. In the
summer, I would get the girls hair cut into what they call the “Lion’s cut.”
Shaved except for the mane and feet and a puff on the end of the tail.
They looked so cute.
Libre, as do my other two girls, especially loved catnip. I “marinate”
her stuffed mice in the catnip and she would rub her head and ears with the
mouse and then throw it into the air. She’d do this over and over
until she was tired and then roll over and go to sleep.
She also loved to torment Booboo. She’d stalk her until she got Booboo
cornered and then attack. Libre was very brave. When PJ (my mom
and dad’s Sharpei) came
to visit when I lived in Santa Ana, she stood up to her and chased PJ off.
She continued to be fearless when it came to the dog.
And I don’t know if fearless is the right word for latest battle, but she
did fight. Of late, I thought she had developed a cute trait.
She’d get up on the bathroom sink and howl for me to turn on the water.
So I’d turn on the tap and she’d drink from the faucet. She’d do it in
the middle of the night sometimes, despite the fact that there is always
fresh water upstairs and down.
But on Wednesday, she seemed tired. But I didn’t really think she was
sick. But Thursday it became obvious that something was wrong with
Libre. She was having a hard time holding up her head when she
continued to try to drink water. She could barely walk, more like a
stagger. As soon as the vet opened, I called, but the doctor was in
surgery. As soon as I could I took her to see Dr. Riggs, who
immediately suspected her kidneys. He smelled her breath and said that
he smelled ammonia. She was very dehydrated so he kept her overnight
for IV rehydration and blood tests. The next
morning, Dr. Riggs called me with the bad news. He had never seen any
cat with such off the scale results for kidney failure. He said he
might be able to keep her alive for 2 or 3 days if I left her in the
Instead, I decided to pick her up and bring her home so that I could spend
some time with her and say goodbye. She was my baby. I loved her
as much as anyone can love anyone or anything. She had been my rock
when I was sad or sick. She used to lie on my chest and snuggle her
head under my chin when I went to sleep. She usually let me move her
to the pillow so that I could actually get to sleep, but not without trying
to maintain that position.
So, now unable to even lift her head, I brought her home and held her for
the next 5 hours. I called Jill and asked her to come over, as I
couldn’t bear the thought of going alone to the vet at 4:15 to give Libre
over for euthanasia. I didn’t think I could drive. So Jill came
and when she spoke Libre’s name, Libre managed to lift her head just a
little and look up at Jill. She laid it back down and we just petted
her and gave her loving until it was time to go.
And so it was that yesterday I said goodbye to one of my best friends ever.
She will be cremated and her ashes returned next week. So there will
be no funeral, but I wanted to give her a eulogy anyway. We have been
together for over 15 years. She was a cat. Don’t ever let
someone tell you that “You can always get another one,” because you can’t.
I could clone her, but it wouldn’t be the same. Of, they’d look alike,
but she has a soul, and that is what makes us unique. I miss her.
I cried myself to sleep, a fitful sleep, and each time I awoke, there was an
empty spot on the bed.
There will be no wake. But I share this with you, because you are my
friend, my family and I know that you know how I feel.
Thank you for letting me tell you about my friend.