On my last night in San Fran, the housesitter rang me at 2 am and asked me when I was coming back home (never mind the detailed instructions I'd left). I told her and asked after the cats: the black one, she told me, had finally come out in her presence. The grey one had shat under the stairs. And the brown one 'won't leave me alone'.
'But they're all lovely,' she hastened to add.
Spoken like a true dog lover. The brown one -- huh. Lulu has a glorious tri-coloured coat (she isn't 'mottled' either).
I was relieved to find the household intact -- nay, cleaner probably than when I'd left. Truly, a 60-year-old housesitter is a better bet than a 20-year-old. But it was quieter, much quieter with three cats, and esp without a dominant male to pick fights and shove cats out of the way of their feed bowls. Lulu is a star act, to be sure, but Leonard was a very companionable cat. He followed me everywhere and invariably took an interest in what I was doing. He'd be waiting for me at the top of the stairs in the morning, and follow me into the bathroom, then downstairs into the kitchen. Lulu's quite flighty, by contrast; it's only when the interest takes her. And she's young, too -- there's always the outside world to take her interest.
The dynamics in the cattery have also shifted somewhat. This started before I left. When Leonard began sitting under the kitchen table of an evening (he was possibly feeling sick earlier than I realised), Otty began to sit on the couch with Lulu. Actually, there was a period when a truce was declared and all three of them sat together, but after a while, it became Lulu and Otty. They started washing and grooming each other, head-butting and nose-sniffing in greeting, and sleeping together. (When I worked at a youth refuge, we used to say 'massaging is the first sign'.) I began calling Lulu Otty's 'Promised'; she doesn't have the same scruples about octogenarians as her mother. Otty even sat on me; in the twelve years I've had him, he's always behind my head or beside me but never on me. I'm now thinking it might be because Leonard was no longer tending to dominate, and that he might have seen me as belonging to Leonard before.
A fine romance...Otty and his Promised take to the couch.
It took me till yesterday to retrieve Leonard from the vet's freezer. I hadn't really had a chance till then to dig a grave. The grave-digging became something of a work in progress, actually, which I occasionally chipped away at when I had a spare moment. I wanted to bury Leonard in the back courtyard, between the passionfruit vine and the pomegranate tree in a garden bed I'd had made by removing a strip of flagstones. I've thought, rather gloomily, that the whole strip might end up being a feline ossarium, given the relative age of my cats. I didn't know how difficult it would be to dig there, whether I'd meet with a lot of concrete or rocks lower down. It was surprising what I found down there: an old peg, a brick, some glass. I don't know how it ended up there, given the flagstones were probably laid in 1975. I also hit a water pipe about one and half feet down, so I had to dig a kind of cavern underneath it.
When I got Leonard from the vet's, he was in a plastic bag, an animal body bag I suppose, wrapped up in an old piece of towel. He was a bit squashed, I guess from being stacked in a fridge, and cold and heavy. He was curled up in a ball with his front paws crossed over his nose. I couldn't see his pretty face properly, but his expression seemed slightly anguished. His coat was still lustrous and his colours were bright; I'd expected him to look more moth-eaten. I placed an old collar around his neck (his hare krishna one), wrapped him in some kitchen towel and put him in the hole under the pipe.
Jessie was the only cat to take an interest in what was going on, sniffing her old antagonist and watching the burial. It's funny, because when Griffin, one of the cats we had in Brunswick, was hit by a car, she came into the kitchen and looked at his body with horror, then sat on top of his grave for a couple of hours after we buried him.
I wanted Leonard to have a Hispanic-style grave, as a sign of affection for him. I decorated his grave with a Nanki cat I bought in SF's Chinatown, a Latin American cross, a toy mouse and some votive candles. I would have liked to have spent more time with him, but I had to go out to dinner. I lit the candles and some incense and left them, thinking they would burn out pretty quickly, but when I came back several hours later, they were still burning.