|Tangerine Baker Dunham|
Ten years ago, in August, I walked out of City Market and leaned over a cardboard box. Inside were three little kittens. A pair of gray longhairs, and scruffy ball of orange fur.The gray kittens were beautiful, but there was something special about the orange boy. He had so much trust in his steady golden gaze, even though his tail was broken, probably by the kids who had handled him too roughly.
He was too small to be away from his mama, and he never did get too big.
One look in his golden eyes, and I was in love. I’ve never met an animal who would look you in the eye the way he did. I would look at him as I talked, and he would gaze steadily back into my eyes.
When I said, I love you, he would blink three times. It wasn’t a fluke…he did it over and over. Every single time.
He slept at the foot of my bed…until he got too weak to climb up there, when I didn’t lift him for fear he would get injured if I rolled over on him. He snored like a diesel engine.
If I was home, we shared lunch. If I was having it, he wanted it. His favorite was spaghetti and salad with ranch dressing. His only dislike was toast. He didn’t care for it. Too dry, I guess.
He loved car rides and sunshine. And his lady friend, PK. He liked to take a bath—a real bath, not a cat spit bath. Afterward, when he was blow dried, he glowed like a sunset.
He was my lap-sitter. I told him about every story I wrote. I cried on his fur when I got rejection after rejection. I danced with him when I got published.
Right after Christmas, he began to lose massive amounts of weight. No matter how much pasta he ate, he continued to lose. Alarmed, my daughter and I took him to the vet. He had diabetes. For the last few months, he has endured insulin shots twice a day without complaint. He was the gentlest creature I ever met. Not once in his lifetime did he scratch me or anyone else.
My boy had the knack of making each member of this family believing they were his most special. My husband has been gone all winter, working out of state. I believe my precious boy held on long enough to see him again— to remind this man how to love unconditionally. To my daughter, he was “Baby Brother”, a job he took seriously. To me, he was family. More than “just a cat.” He was love in an orange fur coat.
Two days ago, he slipped in and out of consciousness. I had to do what was right, even though I thought my heart was ripping from my chest. I had to say goodbye. I held his hand as the vet injected him, and he quietly slipped away.
I love you, Tangerine Baker.