Guest Star Cat: Dukey

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Hi everyone,

Please find below a guest story by York Lee:

Yuan fen(縁份) is the Chinese term for preordained relationship.  How Dukey came into my life could only be yuan fen.

Eleven years ago, I had my heart set on adopting a female cat since all my previous ones were males from owners who no longer could care for them.  When a local animal shelter posted on-line the pictures of a litter of Siamese kittens for adoption, I mentally picked Empress.  So on the day when the kittens became available, I arrived before the shelter opened and was first in the cat adoption line.

When I and a lady with 2 small children were led into the cat room, I asked for Empress.  The children were crestfallen for they also wanted to adopt Empress.  I held Empress in my arms and she was sweet.  But seeing the disappointments in the children, I asked to also hold Empress’ sibling Duke before deciding.  As soon as Duke was in my arms, he dug his tiny claws into my shirt and hung on for dear life.

That was it. Duke had picked me. 

On the drive home, Duke was letting his displeasure of being confined inside a pet carrier known by meowing – loudly and persistently.  My soothing talk did not pacify him, neither did the soft classical music from the radio.  I knew Siamese are talkative from research.  But this?  What had I gotten myself into?

But as soon as he was let out of the carrier when we arrived home, his meows were replaced by cautious sniffing and exploring.  Once satisfied, his royal highness looked straight at me and gave a baby meow as an approval.

Deeming Duke as a rather pompous name for a bouncy little fur ball with disproportionally large ears that gave him a somewhat comical appearance, I decided to give him a similar sounding name of Dooky so he would easily recognize it, also as a nod to the goofy side of him. He quickly learned his new name and wasn’t the least bit miffed by the stripping of his royal title.  

When I took him to the vet for his exam and shots, the receptionist asked for his name and I replied Dooky.  But she misunderstood and wrote down Dukey instead.  Realizing Dukey is a better name, I decided not to correct her.  And thus Duke became Dukey.

Dukey grew quickly, doubtlessly due to his hearty appetite.  A seal point with vivid blue eyes and dark mask, Dukey was indeed strikingly handsome.  But it was his affectionate nature that endeared him to everyone.  He craved companionship and contact – any holding or petting elicited instant loud purrs. 

Most evenings we spent together with him on my lap.  But as soon as I put down whatever I was reading, he knew I was about to get up and would either hop off or move over a spot on the sofa where he would purr softly before drifting off to sleep.

On rare occasions when he was not around me and I asked where is that darn cat? Dukey would come out of his hiding place, tail raised high, little legs moving rapidly towards me, meowing to announce “here I am.”  At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but he did that seemingly every time I asked that question.  He understood me!

Dukey’s high intelligence was evidenced by his quick learning and willing compliance with many commands without any training.

How would one describe an affectionate and intelligent cat that loved to be around me, often came when called, often waited by the door when I came home; a cat that did not scratch furniture, climb drapes, jump onto dining table or kitchen counter; a cat so sweet that he had never once hissed in his life? Best cat ever?

People often asked if Dukey was talkative and I would reply, with a smile, only when he wants to be fed.

That day, when he did not meow for his meal during feeding time, I was concerned.  When he barely touched his lunch and did not eat his dinner, I became worried.  The next day, I opened a can of tuna – his favorite food – as his lunch.  Normally, whenever Dukey heard the sound of a can opener, he would hop onto a chair, place his paw on my forearm and stare at me with pleading eyes to hurry up.  But he was nowhere to be found.

I immediately called emergency pet hospital and was told to bring him in around 6 pm.  Due to Covid protocol, I was not allowed into the hospital.  I waited two hours in the parking lot for the diagnosis before the vet assistant said I should go home and wait for the test results.  Around 11 pm the vet called to say Dukey was anemic and had an enlarged pancreas.  She suspected cancer and suggested a biopsy in addition to the blood test, MRI and X-ray already performed.  I agreed and hoped for the best.

The next day, I took Dukey home and waited for the biopsy result.  He was weak and had no appetite.  So I used a straw to feed him some liquid food and water every several hours.

When the vet phoned to say the biopsy was negative for pancreatic cancer, she suggested Dukey be brought in for more tests and more biopsies for other types of cancer.  By that time, Dukey was very weak.  The thought of him dying while locked inside a cage, all alone, thinking that I had abandoned him was unbearable.  So I made the agonizing decision to try to nurse him back to health at home.

Dukey did not seem to be in pain.  He was resting/sleeping peacefully at his favorite spots.  I checked on him several times that night.  But his condition was not improving.  With tears running down my face, I gently stroked him and told him in a quivering voice how much I love him, and that he is the best cat ever.  Dukey weakly lifted his head and looked intently into my eyes for some time. I truly believed he understood what I was saying. I placed my fleece jacket next to him so my scent would assure him that I was nearby.

The next day I found his lifeless body lying near the litter box.  I lifted to hold him gently in my arms, whispered his name while fighting back tears. Glancing over to his litter box, I noticed a small piece of stool and some blood on the floor.  It struck me then: Dukey had used his very last bit of energy to use the litter box to avoid soiling the floor. I broke down and began to sob uncontrollably.

Dukey had given me his all.  For eleven years, his love and companionship had enriched my life incalculably.

But at the end of yuan fen – however desperate were our attempts to hang on – we have to bid final goodbye.  

Yet along with the tears, there will be the memories of joy and laughter forever held preciously in our hearts. And it is precisely our memories what give life its meaning. 

Someday when I cross the rainbow bridge myself and ask aloud where is that darn cat? I know my Dukey will quickly come, tail raised high, little legs moving rapidly, meowing to announce “here I am.”

“But at the end of yuan fen – however desperate were our attempts to hang on, however anguishing the dreaded moment would be – we have to bid final goodbye.”

York Lee

Piedmont, CA

USA 

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