To Sparky, wherever you are…

Cat postage stamp
It’s almost exactly a year since I said goodbye to Sparky, my lovely big fat ginger tom. He was an old rescue cat who’s health was failing and we had to take him to the vet, fully expecting to be bringing him home. Unfortunately he was worse than we thought and they kept him in, and on the 21st of December we had to put him to sleep. You can imagine what kind of Christmas I had. Autopilot. Now I don’t want to depress anyone at this time of year, so this is a celebration of my daft and loyal cat.

cat sunbathing

cat in a pizza box

Ginger Pizza

Sparky burst from his cage at the Tameside Animal Shelter and sprawled on the floor, demanding to be tickled. It was that and the fact that he was ginger that sold me. I’d always wanted a ginger tom after reading the Orlando books as a child. His personality won the day, and looking back, I think he chose me with his friendly confidence. There were other cats, exotic, and colourful, each one vying for my attention. I spotted an attractive black and white female with striking blue eyes and a ruff of long silky fur attempting some kind of ballet on her ledge, but the ginger tom at my feet head-butted my shin, just to remind me to collect his luggage and sign on the dotted line. I think I fell for his attitude and beautiful green eyes. The woman at the shelter was relieved that I’d decided to take ‘Ginger’ as he was seven, and got passed over because he was considered mature in cat terms. ‘I don’t care,’ I said beaming with happiness, ‘he’s the one. I just hope he doesn’t clash with my soft furnishings.’ The atmosphere in the office cooled slightly. ‘Honestly,’ she said. ‘You city boys!’ I had to explain I was joking. City humour.

cat in sphinx pose

The Sphinx

My mother had a cat called Sparky when she was little, and so he was christened. Somehow ‘Ginger’ didn’t quite cut it. His previous owner was an elderly lady who passed away, and I wondered if he was a farm cat because he was so big and strong…and completely cool with dogs, even with my neighbour’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier who just wanted to eat Sparky. Noisily. My cat had razor claws, lightning reactions and a mean left hook.ginger cat big paws I’ve had three cats in the past, but none of them seemed to have Sparky’s presence, or intelligence. If you asked him a question, he would reply in his best attempt at speaking. It was definitely a concerted effort to be understood on his own terms, because if you interrupted his response, he would stop and wait for his turn to speak. There was a lot more going on behind that big goofy face than any of us knew. Whenever I had guests, he would position himself on the arm of the couch exactly in the line of sight between me and whoever I was trying to talk to. He had to be involved, and everyone got used to craning round his ginger bulk in an effort to speak to each other.

Cat on computer

Purr-vert

Although he was a big cat, I think I spoilt him a bit and on routine trips to the vet, people would actually stop and gasp at his size. Worried children would point on the tram or in the waiting room and say, ‘Mummy look at the lion.’ As I carried him in his big white cage, I would hear comments like, ‘What are they feeding him?’ I became concerned about diabetes and decided to put Sparky on a diet. He wasn’t happy about that, since demanding food with menaces was something he was extremely good at. I was effectively smashing the food cartel he was running in the kitchen. Sparky did lose weight but unfortunately it wasn’t due to any lack of calories…

big ginger cat staring

'For god's sake man, put the camera down and feed me.'

As time passed he developed glaucoma which was controlled with extensive treatment, but he also appeared to have kidney problems and although I knew he had a shortened lifespan, nothing prepared me for what happened in the dying days of 2010. While everyone else rushed round preparing for Christmas, I watched as Sparky became more and more disoriented and skinny until finally he lay on the bed, writhing slowly in his discomfort. He could hardly squeak when I spoke to him and it dawned on me that this was an emergency. We took him to the vet and they decided to keep him in for observation. I think I knew it was the end, but clung to my denial anyway. A foolish kind of comfort.

singing catWhen the call came from the vet, I was steeling myself. My friend Gordon provided moral support and brandy, and suddenly we were standing in the surgery saying goodbye to Sparky who was now so frail that he hardly knew where he was. He knew something was up, you could tell. I tried to reassure him, but he could see how upset I was. I told him he was going to be fine, and he made an effort to reply. I think he was asking ‘Why?’

The decision was made to put him out of his misery, rather that take the option to let him die at home. He had feline HIV and only hours to live. There weren’t any options, really, and it was the hardest decision I ever made.

You jump out of the plane.

You can’t jump back in again just because your parachute won’t open.

When you say goodbye, it’s the last page. Nothing comes after that. I couldn’t stay for the final moment. I wanted to remember him in life, not see him cold and dead. Gordon, bless him, agreed to stay and hold him. I kissed my cat goodbye. I ran out into the waiting room, unable to see for tears. I bumped into the door.

There are still people who think that animals don’t have feelings, but anyone with a brain will know that emotions are part of the instinct to survive. Without them, we would have no fear of fire or predators and just get burnt a lot or eaten. Each animal has a personality of it’s own, which is why so many of us adopt them into our families and treat them with love and respect. Our natural affection for them means we often treat them as children, and although some people find that funny, the true love for our animals becomes painfully apparent when we lose them.

Ginger cat on bed
I still miss him, and sometimes it feels like he’s still around somewhere nearby. A presence. A little shadow. One day I’ll get another cat, from a rescue shelter and it’ll probably be ginger. Sparky gave me so much happiness and that’s what I remember now.

cat sleeping in sun

Sweet dreams, fat boy X

As a footnote, I found this blog by Bernadette Kazmarski, The Creative Cat and the section on pet loss really helped me to finally come to terms with my grief. The blog also contains some really funny pictures of the author’s cats, and her artwork is amazing. Take a look!

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Categories: Cats, Photography, Random, Vibe Monitor | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 43 Comments

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43 thoughts on “To Sparky, wherever you are…

  1. Paprika

    that’s such a sweet and heart-felt tribute =(

  2. What a great cat! Such a big personality, he just took over the room, I can tell! Bless you for adopting an adult/senior cat, but Sparky is one of the greatest reasons for everyone to adopt cats older than kittens. Look what you get! How many years was he with you?

    Thanks for sharing my blog, and I’m so glad I could help you–being able to write about it was the result of a lot of loss and grief on my part and I use my own grief to help heal others.

    • He was a bit of a character, everyone loved him and he always came to say hello to visitors, even if it was to check they were leaving! I had Sparky for seven great years. Your blog is so good – the next best thing to actually having a cat.

  3. sending love to sparky! a year gone already.still feels like he s behind the door waiting.miss u sparky

  4. Stevo

    that video is well cute! handsome cat :)

  5. gordon m sutton

    A purrfect post for a cat in a million.

  6. Gillian

    Hi, I think it is a super film about Sparky – he comes over as a real star and it is a lovely reminder of the beautiful cat that he was..

  7. Really liked this post – I have four cats. They’re all from the shelter, and all needing some amount of special care. I can only imagine what it would be like to lose one …

    • Thanks Alicia. I guess we just have to love every moment we spend with them, knowing they won’t be around for ever.

  8. Thank you for Liking my brief post about Willamina! Your orange lion, Sparky was very special. I can tell from the film you made. Yes they are our children and that’s okay. My current attachment is a 19 lb man-cat named Sushi. He is on a diet and I think I see some progress. He does have diabetes so I worry about him a lot. The shots I give him twice a day have become a loving, bonding ritual between us. If I forget, he comes to me and reminds me it is time. Cats are Love.

    Judy AKA The Lioness

    • Thanks, Judy, glad you liked the video. My orange lion! I love that. Sushi sounds lovely and he’s lucky to have you looking after him.

  9. No question Sparky was one special cat! So glad you introduced him to us.
    Kathryn (Sparks) :)

  10. Thanks Kathryn, he’s still tickling people after all this time. I’m glad his memory is living on.

  11. Sparky reminds me so much of our furball, Jones, who was named after the cat in “Alien”. We still miss him desperately and I know I’m having a bad day when I begin thinking about taking him to the vet for the last time. He kept fighting off death for months, to the amazement of the vet, but eventually our chunky 6kg mog faded away and we had to do the right thing. I have yet to find a cat I don’t like but I really want Jones back so I don’t know if we will ever get another hairy house guest. It will take quite long time to get over sharing with the best. Some pictures of the ginger beast: http://www.myspace.com/oxeyedaisy/photos/albums/album/521188 And thanks for liking my photo.

    • Thanks Mr. Greenford, your photo said ‘spring’ in a very English way – nothing like a weeping willow!

      Jones from Alien was great example of feline cool. He just sauntered onto a film set and sat cleaning himself while all hell broke loose. The fact that he deigned to hiss at a xenomorph must have taken epic union negotiations. And he survives, so all in all, a typical ginger tom. I just had a look at your Jones…! Gorgeous cat. I’m going to wait until they invent running machines for cats before I get another one. Thanks for sharing, and hold onto the good memories. :-)

  12. I’m sorry for your loss, but happy for your gain in adopting him. I, too, adopted a mature (10 yrs old) male “gingah” cat just last May, so it’s almost been a year for me. I adore him, of course; he’s practially my child. I grew up with dogs, so he’s my first cat and I can’t imagine having a more perfect one to snuggle. I know everyone says this about their animals, but he really is the sweetest creature alive.

    Blessings!

  13. Thanks for your kind words, Heather. Ginger cats seem to be extraordinarily good natured, loyal and affectionate, it must be in their genes. Your Oliver is so cute! He even seems to forgive you for bathing him. Sparky only ever had one bath and sang grand opera right in my ear. Deafening. The perfect defence. I hope you have many happy years together and please watch his diet. They are little hustlers when it comes to food!

  14. Pingback: Thanks for the Kreativ Blogger Award! « The Creative Cat

  15. Brilliant tribute to a brilliant cat. I’m sure he’s still with you and will be always!

    • Thanks Debra, there are still some very pleasant echoes around the place and it’s so good to see him remembered like this. Thanks for dropping by!

  16. A very sweet tribute to a very sweet kitty. Thanks for sharing.

    RPRT Photo

  17. i lost my ginger tom called gerald 2months ago he was 16 still miss him every day think i allways will

    • It never goes away, that emptiness, but it slowly turns into something sweet like a treasured photo album. You don’t get it out much, but when you do look at it, you sigh and you smile. It’s the smile that says you’re healing and that comes with time. Although, saying that, I had a strange mourning day recently, two years on. Cried in my sleep. Mandy, sorry to hear about Gerald, hope he’s with you always.

  18. thank you for those kind words i no it will get easier but i just miss him so much x

  19. What a cutie! I know how you fell, though in a different manner. My cat Adriana disappeared more than three months ago and we haven’t found her since. The uncertainty and losing her is hard.

  20. westseventhfreelance

    Thanks to Bowie I looked you up. So many wonderful things to doscover here… and Sparky. Your tribute is so loving and beautiful…

  21. Sparky reminds me of my ginger cat Sheri – strong-willed, self-confident, graceful, smart. The list can go on forever. Ginger cats are special. True, every cat is a personality, they all are beautiful and unique, but gingers do stand out. Cats like Sparky make you instantly fall in love with them. Even if you’ve never met them. Through a couple of photos, a video and a touching story. You are very lucky to have met him.

    • That’s so true! I did fall for him instantly. Apart from when he head-butted the camera in the video, he was the apple of my eye.

  22. Sparky was so awesome. What a beautiful home and garden he had. He was loved, like a child. I understand that sentiment. The video captured your Sparkey, I loved the way he read the newspaper.
    Not just 1/2 hour ago I posted this on my blog. i have three cats.

    http://cryominute.wordpress.com/2013/01/23/my-humans/

    I have a category called “Meow Cats” and “Morocco” if you have a chance to drop by my zone sometime.

    • Hi, what a lovely post about your cats – you’re the feline saviour! Sparky was very human, and I treated him like my son. Such a good-natured cat.

  23. Hi Mark,

    I’m so glad your blog was featured in today’s newsletter or I might never have seen this wonderful post! It is an awesome and touching tribute to your dear Sparky…made me cry! (In a good way.)

    My husband and I are the proud parents of three senior furballs. One of the two kitties is jus couple months shy of her 20th Birthday! Sadly though, it’s tough to say whether she will make it that long or not…she is in the final stages of renal failure. But I count myself very blessed to have had her in my life for so long. She’s a skinny tuxedo Siamese mix, who despite her age is still, at least for the moment – thanks to special food, medication, an excellent veterinary team and her own stubborness and & will – the queen of our household. And my heart. ♥

    Our black lab, a sweet goofy dog with almost no sense of coordination, is nearing the end og her time as well. She’s 4 months shy of her 14th year. But despite a now grey muzzle, arthritis in her old bones (she’s on meds too – we’ve taken to calling our home the furry geriatric ward, lol – and a touch of dementia (gets lost easily), she is still a happy girl that has no idea she’s technically a senior.

    Our other kitty, also a Siamese mix with a tuxedo fur coat, rotund fellow (despite a lifetime of fighting the battle of the buldge), is much like your Sparky, He recently turned 14, but aside from slowing down a bit the last couple years, is still the family host and supervisor. Nothing may be done unless He personally checks it out, often offering a helping paw or two, and no-one is permitted to enter or leave without first paying him homage. He’s chatty too.

    Anyway, sorry to have blathered on about my furry family. Just got carried away! Again tough, I realize this is an older post but I’m very happy to have come across it. It is a beautiful tribute to a gorgeous kitty that sounds like he must have had a great catitude! Thank you so much for sharing. Sparky would be proud! :)

    Wordsgood

    p.s. You just gained a new follower. :D

    • Hi Wordsgood! Thanks for your comment, I think it’s good that people can learn from each other’s pet experiences. We all go through the same pleasure and pain with our animals, and it helps to know that we are not alone. It sounds like you have a good strong family of characters there, and all you can do is love every second you spend with them. And make silly movies! My Sparky video is a cherished memory, and I can watch it now with a smile on my face. health and happiness to you and your furry friends, M.

  24. Thanks for the post, brought some tears to my eyes. I have an aged cat at some 19 years old called Angel. She was found as a stray by a friend of mine who has since passed away from complications related to AIDS. I also had a cat I adored named Sid who passed several years ago. Right now I am having trouble deciding what to do with Angel as her needs and my disabilities make it hard to care for her. I needed a reminder of cats importance in our lives.

    • Hi Jerbear, thanks for posting. The most difficult thing for me was to be selfless and put the welfare of my cat before my own heartbreak. It would have been easier to levitate! So I totally understand what you’re going through and it brings back some painful memories. My heart goes out to you, and I hope you find a resolution that is good for you and Angel. Until then, as I always say, love every moment you have with them. Wishing you good health and happiness, M.

      • Thanks for your kind reply. Felines are special and we are lucky to have them in our lives for however long our time together is.

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