Losing Tiki

We found Tiki in the street twice.  The first time was when we rescued him from the engine of an old van, where he and four of his baby brothers and sisters had been abandoned.  The second time was on Thursday morning, when I found him lying dead in the gutter. The car didn’t stop. There was nothing anyone could do.  We didn’t get to say goodbye. How could he be taken away from us so suddenly, so tragically, so young? 

We had just moved in to our new apartment. We had been so careful about choosing a place that was cat friendly. The neighbors all had cats. There was a back yard where they could bask in the sun. Our old boy Django was happy to have a small area to enjoy. But little Tiki was adventurous. He just had to go exploring. Onto the roof and over the gate. Tiki wasn’t afraid of anything. Tiki loved being a cat and we just couldn’t keep him indoors. 

That morning, I woke up and noticed Tiki hadn’t come in. And Django, who always appeared like clockwork for his morning treat, was instead perched at the front window, staring out. As I walked out the front door, I gave him a quick blink and promised I’d back soon. Nothing could have prepared me for what I was about to see.  My little Tiki, stretched out on the pavement.  At first, I thought he was rolling in the dirt, and I even called out to him. “Tiki, get out of that street,” I said. Tiki didn’t move.

I kept thinking that this was all a bad dream and I would wake up, with Tiki nestled in his usual spot, nestled snugly against my legs. But the nightmare had only just begun.  I touched his body and it was rigid.  His tiger tail was puffy. The street was red with his blood. His collar lay nearby, crushed, and his little tinkle bell was gone. I fell to the ground. Our neighbors, people we hadn’t even met yet, rushed outside at the sounds of my screams, over and over, “no, No, NO! Not Tiki. Not my Tiki.”

Reality was beginning to sink in. Neighbors took to the task of lifting him out of the street and placing him in a cardboard box. I couldn’t move. I couldn’t think. I heard a high pitched tone go off in my left ear. I think it must have been the sound of my heart breaking. Someone called Steve for me, and I called out of work. When Steve arrived, I could see my pain reflected in his face. He held me up while we wept. 

We took his body to Bodhi Animal Hospital. They were very sympathetic. We decided to have him cremated. The veterinarian left us alone in the room to say our goodbyes. I lay my hand on the towel covering his body. I told him I was sorry. I told him I loved him. I said goodbye to my baby.

Later on, the anger came. I cursed the driver who hit him and drove off. I cursed myself for not being more careful with him. And I cursed God. What God? 

Like his departure, Tiki came to us at a sad time as well. We were still mourning the loss of our first pregnancy and I was depressed. The world had lost its color. Life had no meaning. And then I found Tiki. 

Covered with grease and crawling with fleas, starved and frightened, he needed me. And I needed him. Tiki was full of all the life and color that I had been missing. Tiki made me laugh when everything else was making me cry.

Tiki lived to play. He tore around the house chasing ghosts. He dug up the fig tree and ravaged paper bags. He tormented old Django with stealth attacks and surprise ambushes. He clawed our hands, our feet, and our furniture in play, and we loved him all the more for it. We called him the Tiki Monster, because when his devil ears went back and his eyes got wide, you knew all hell was about to break loose. 

But the moment you picked him up, his purr machine revved and he instantly became a furry ball of mush in your arms. He was sweet to the core, and good. He played hard and purred even harder. I loved him more than words can tell.

On the way home from the vet, I bought some flowers and placed them in front of our house. Neighbors came and left more flowers. I lit a candle and we had a small memorial out front for a few days. I stayed inside and cried. I listened as people walked by and read the sign. They said, “Poor Tiki” and, “That’s so sad”. I bawled even harder. 

The house was quiet now, except for Django, pacing the floors and gazing out the window for his pesky little brother who would never come home. Does he understand what happened? I think he does. At 13 years old, Django can sense trouble. He understands. 

Two weeks later, we got Tiki’s ashes back from the vet. I fell apart again, carrying my boy home in a box. Inside were his remains, not ashy, but granular. Little white stones. Pure and simple. That was Tiki.

There was also a little bag with a clipping of his fur, which I immediately opened and inhaled, hoping his scent was still there. It was. They also included a clay imprint of his paw, which I could barely see through my tears. 
I added to the box his collar, his favorite toy, and a little gold kitty charm that was left at his memorial by a neighbor. Tiki had a heart of gold. For now, the box sits on the hallway counter, surrounded by pictures of him. Maybe one day, when we have a home of our own, we’ll bury him under a fig tree. He would like that.

Rest in Peace, Tiki. You were loved and you will be missed.

My two favorite Copycats, Tiki and Django

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