Anyone who knows me well knows that I’m a sucker for rescuing pets. I have three dogs at home now, all rescues, & there were four others & one cat before them who have since passed on. Writing about dog rescue, pets & the process of losing a pet has been on my to-do list since it first happened to me, but it might be my most challenging assignment—it is so tough to convey the personal/universal in those situations without dipping too far into the sentimental, & I just haven’t yet taken the time to find the focus & craft it will take to do it right.
In the meantime, I share this here to preserve it, as another stone marker in the path that will lead me to that piece someday. I do not consider myself a cat person, but just after I moved to San Francisco in the late 90s, two “dumpster” kittens found their way home with me, thanks to a co-worker at the dot-com where I served my West Coast time as a writer & editor. They were brother & sister.
I was living with my best friend Rebecca at the time, who has also since passed on. It was the two of us, the two kittens, & two dogs—a kind of misfit sanctuary. We named the kittens after characters in two movies we watched over & over those years: Tyler Durden (Fight Club, of course) & Lelaina Pierce (Winona Ryder’s character in Reality Bites). Tyler died when he was about 7, from liver disease. That was tough, because whatever they were as single animals, they were more than double together.
Last night, at age 15, Lelaina Pierce drifted off in her sleep. So this is a tough one. She represents an extraordinary set of years for me. I moved through places & people & grad schools & jobs & lovers & friends in that time. When I got the kittens, I was writing, & for much of the time I had them I was not. When I got the kittens, I had Rebecca, & for much of the time I had them, she was gone. But she knew them, & knew them well, & they are a part of my memory of her as anything. They were. So in eulogizing Lelaina, my mind & heart & lungs find themselves eulogizing Rebecca all over again. That’s not a bad thing, but—especially in a week filled with turmoil, & a week filled with countless articles related to suicide & depression because of Robin Williams’ death—it’s a tough thing. And has left me a bit wrinkled. But still—let the songs play all the way through, & resist the fast-forward, is my lesson this week.
Lelaina Pierce, aka Bug, last of my San Francisco brood, the Martha Graham of cats, the definition of sleek. You were the one most like me, or who I thought I was–all eyes, all smirk, all independence: you made reticence a thing of beauty. You may even have been the one to warm up my dear dad to cats, & I loved that you loved the dogs more than anyone else. I’m lucky to have been the one to take care of you, from 6 weeks old to 15 years. Good night, sweet girl. My heart is cracked.