Yesterday my sweet Jax passed from us due to #bobcatfever, transmitted by ticks. He hadn’t quite made it to his 5th birthday, and while he had one of the best cat lives (or several of the best cat lives) a cat could want, it still just stings a little seeming just too premature.
This has driven even more climate change issues closer to home for me in a way that I wouldn’t have otherwise imagined. With warmer winters and generally warmer climates, ticks are given more time to flourish throughout the year, therefore greatly increasing their population and presence. I’ve known a number of other people who have been severely affected by Lyme disease here in Arkansas, and I can’t help but wonder about our human impact related to the flourish of these parasites.
This post however is more about the incredible gift that this cat was in my life. He is an inextricable part of my journey and the process of becoming a better person. Pets can have such an impact on our lives- believe it or not, I used to have much more cynical views about the role that we think pets serve in our lives. And yes, Jax had a massive role in changing that.
Jax just kind of happened at a peculiar time for me. I call him my child for good reason, not just because I adore him to a stupid degree. The previous year had been one of the most chaotic and terrifying years of my life, and for those of you that know me well, you know that’s saying a lot. It’s the sort of stuff that has made me believe somewhat in the whole wu wu “Saturn Return” theory.
I found Jax (*Jax found me) right around the time when, if nothing had saved me or interrupted nature’s course of things, I would have had the child of a man who was abusive to me in many ways. I would be bound to him for life. My child would be partially owned by a man that I couldn’t trust with myself. I was mortified at the thought that this man might have some say in what happened to my child.
I was far from my true self during those months, very confused and paralyzed by my fear of making him angry if I contradicted him or stood up for myself. I didn’t understand the vast ways that mental illness can show up in people, and not being aware of what was really going on with him led me into one awful situation after another where I constantly blamed myself and believed the mess of stories that came out of his mouth. No one saw or heard what happened at home when it was just us, so I always felt crazy. I was constantly in disbelief when he would treat me certain ways that just seem unfathomable to me now. They seemed unfathomable to me then. I became pregnant against my will, and sadly that baby never came. I was terrified for it if it did. This is information I have never shared with most of the world and even now I am not telling the full story- it’s a little much for a Facebook post. And I never thought that the death of my cat would be the occasion for doing this. But I promise there’s a point.
Thankfully, I got out of that relationship, but not until after things got really bad. I guess that’s what it took for me to see the situation for what it was and release my partner to his own path… and get back to myself. To recover myself. It was like waking up from a coma full of nightmares the day after leaving, and my body was physically wracked with pain- I could hardly walk that morning when trying to get out of bed. But I was free now.
I came home to Arkansas a few weeks afterward to watch my dad’s farm for him while he was out of town. That alone time for two weeks in the woods of Arkansas was healing and hard. It allowed me space to just let go of that whole past year. Not only had that relationship been a mind-fuck to the -inth degree, but the primary community I had been part of with him was also toxic as hell. I won’t get into those stories here. I took that time to let it all wash away and accept separating from that group, even though not all of it was bad.
It was my dance community. I loved dance with every cell of my being. Letting that community go felt like potentially letting my joy and hopes in dance fade away as well. But when I returned to Atlanta after that hiatus, I found the Zouk dance community, one of the many godsends during that time, and I fell head over heels for it, never looking back to the previous kind of dance I’d *thought* I loved more than anything. #deathrebirth #phoenix
During those same weeks of finding Zouk, I had gone to visit a woman who owned the farm I worked on when I first moved to Georgia a couple years prior. Her one cat she’d previously had when I lived there had turned into 9 cats. Naturally one of them ended upcoming home with me.
While I’d wanted a cat for some time, this was still kind of a surprise, and when I was only 15 minutes out from my house driving back that night from Augusta, GA, it hit me…
“What the heck have I gotten myself into…”
A mild panic ensued. I’d always been a pick-up-and-nomad kind of predisposed sort of girl. Never remain committed to something at the expense of your freedom and spontaneity. Was all of that freedom about to be severely limited? Was this the end of my independence??
I didn’t even stay in that night at the house after dropping off the kitten. I texted my housemate on the way home to make sure she was cool with a new little housemate, and thankfully @dianabasneth was thrilled. Another blessing- I had another cat lady as a housemate. I went out to hang with friends- I think I came home that night, but I honestly don’t remember for sure. I was starved for vibrant social interaction after a year of constantly walking on eggshells when around my partner. I left Jax alone for most of his first night at a new place. Some piece of trash cat mom I was…
I wasn’t attached at the hip from the get go, to say the least. I mean, I was excited, but nervous as well. No living thing had had to depend on ME for its livelihood, ever. Pet sitting and having pets growing up didn’t count. Not like this. I probably couldn’t have done it nearly as well without Diana’s help. She quickly became Auntie Diana, the cool aunt that bought him all the neat flashy toys and maybe even a cute hat if my memory serves me.
It took a little time for Jax to become not just this exciting new addition to my life, but a Being that would melt my heart and surprise me over and over. He was a tiny, squeaky, clumsy, big-eared poop machine. I was surprised to realize that I didn’t utterly hate life after having to clean up yet another daily puddle of poo encrusted on the tiles behind my bed or the couch . Thank god that house had tile flooring. Jeezus.
It didn’t take long to realize that he was not any ordinary cat. This is little Jax, seen here hanging out in my jacket while me and @amitgarg went on a walk one afternoon. Yes, Jax was a talker, but how many cats actually run to greet you at the door when they hear your car pull into the driveway? Jax did. Diana would tell me that he didn’t do that when she’d turn her key in the door lock. He knew who mom was.
And that kind of hit me in the feels.
Jax was the goofiest. He was strong and agile, but also a klutz. I guess just more proof that he was my kid and no one else’s. ADHD Space cadet supremes with a little too much enthusiasm, we are. He did the weirdest unsuspected things, like crawling up into the windowsill like this one day…
Thank you so much Diana for those photos lol.
He garnered many nicknames- babo Jax, BeepBo, Bebelíto, Jacksón, Frito negrito, mí querído, Poopsmith, etc. x10.
That following Christmas, I desperately wanted to unplug again and go spend some time in the southwest, but I had this kitten now. I mustered up the idea to take him along. For a three-day road trip. One way.
I set up his litter box in the back of my truck and he came along for the ride, making little stoop spots for himself to nap or watch the world through the windows. But mostly he passed the drive cuddled up contently in my lap.
Here I am humbled beyond belief at how this little thing was bonded to me. It was during this trip that our relationship really solidified. He found a way to sit on my shoulder and use the seatbelt to hold him chin up. Physical contact with his “hooman” and a view out the window.
Best of both worlds.
Sunnin’ on the dashboard!
We arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico mid-morning after an overnighter in the truck I guess. There was snow on the ground, so I put Jax in his little harness and leash. He loved the cold wet white stuff all over this new territory with new smells! I was shocked, but he couldn’t get enough of it.
We stayed with some serendipitously new found friends in Santa Fe that night that I’d met at the Santa Fe Oxygen Bar. Jax got outside at night and ran around on his own, but still always knew to come back to where I was. It contradicted everything everyone had ever told me about the way cats are incurably wired. And everybody loved him…
…Except my two housemates that so graciously put up with him at the last house I lived at in Atlanta, haha. They definitely had some understandable “cat resistance” haha. I owe @andygasper and @atorolopez forever for letting Jax cohabitate with us at The Rock. @Ryan was also a great cat uncle to Jax there as well. During that summer, there was an encounter with some dogs that scared Jax away from the house one day. It seemed odd, but I didn’t let it worry me too much in the moment. He’d often spend the day outside, not coming back until the evening, but he didn’t come back that evening. Or the next. Or the night after that. 6 days passed before I accepted my deepest fear, that he’d gotten tangled up with coyotes or some other animal roaming the unincorporated Gresham Park area of Atlanta. I was devastated, unable to even talk about it. It was too hard thinking about what might have happened to him or thinking I should have tried harder to go after him when I first saw him running from the house in a panic.
@ebonie and I were cleaning up in the kitchen around 1AM that night after a regular social for Zouk. I had literally spent that morning gathering Jax’s toys, litter box, brushes and such to donate to a shelter because I thought there was no way after a week of him missing that there was any hope, not with coyotes and the like in our neighborhood. Suddenly though, we heard the faintest mew outside the house, and we both froze, our jaws dropped. I opened the back door and there was my little babo, but covered in blood and skinny as hell! He was meowing his head off, limping badly with his back foot tucked up and dragging behind him. I immediately started crying as I scooped him up- crying in relief, in disbelief, and in fear of what his state of health might really be.
I began cleaning him up and sterilizing the wound across the back of his body, and he lapped up water incessantly. After taking care of basic needs I knew I needed to watch the wound for further signs of infection, and I treated it with some equivalent of Neosporin. Jax basically slept for a full 24 hour period and hardly moved, but slowly began to show signs of his old reckless and playful self in the days to follow. I was so shocked and relieved. I knew I didn’t have the money at the time to pay the vet bills if he didn’t recover on his own.
I moved all my stuff out of Atlanta and back to Arkansas a few months after that, and yes, Jax came in tow in my beater (by that point) of a cantankerous SUV, packed to its literal brim. The back glass on the tailgate was busted out and my truck had a problem of not starting up after turning it off. I was terrified of getting stuck in the middle of nowhere Mississippi with everything I owned, a pilates machine sticking out the back of my janky truck, and a cat running around in what little space was left in this vehicle that wasn’t actually enclosed. That was one of the less fun trips we took together. The glasses on my face were even being held together with putty essentially. It was some desperate times I’d created for myself, but having Jax alongside kept me from sinking into too deep of a depression. If there wasn’t enough money for food, I would have made sure he had something to eat before I did. I couldn’t have lived with myself otherwise.
There were some trips where I did have to leave him behind due to unfavorable temperatures for leaving a cat in the car or because of uncertain travel details. But after the second time of having to leave him behind I decided it was too much, and he had to come with me next time. “Next time” ended up being a month in New Jersey for a freelance in-home vegan cheffing job I had set up. Looking back I can’t imagine spending that amount of time in NJ without Jax. 😅 He kept me sane. He even stayed with me at my Uncle’s in Washington DC, where we snuck him into the condo literally in a drawstring bag. I shoved him in and just prayed that he didn’t meow in the elevator or that nobody saw him wiggling around in there.
Us in NJ, a different kind of quarantine life. Me, attempting to workout.
Jax, attempting to always interrupt.
Jax being snuck into my Uncle’s place in DC.
Cat’s not out of the bag here and the secret was safe!
Jax with cabin fever in NJ, when temps were constantly in the single digits…
Shortly after that trip though, I had decided I was going out to Santa Barbara, CA to learn a form of bodywork. I had no idea how long I was going to be there, but I did know I’d be living in my SUV full-time, at least for a few months. As much as I wanted Jax with me, I knew there was no way for him to be with me for this part of the journey, so I decided to leave him with my dad. The mice had come back at dad’s house since he’d been without a cat for a couple years, so things worked out. Dad’s mouse problem would be solved, and Jax would have 40 acres of land to explore and hunt on everyday. I knew it was best for him, but I cried uncontrollably for a whole day around leaving him. It felt terrible, like leaving your kid behind, I imagine. Obviously different. But similar in its own right.
Even though Jax has lived with my dad the past couple years, I always felt his absence, especially when times got rough, and couldn’t wait to see him whenever I was coming home to visit. I had never felt so much love for a thing, and committing to him helped me work through my commitment issues that had developed after several relationships imploding in ways that had scarred me. He was the biggest constant in my life during some of the years where I was taking one “road less traveled” after another.
I am sad that now as I have moved back home to Arkansas finally, that I don’t get to finally be with him more of the time. I am sad that he was so young when he died due to things that were essentially out of our control. “Crushed” is probably more accurate word than “sad.” Writing about it is easier than talking about it… I’m not passed the point where I don’t burst into tears just trying to talk about it.
People talk about the bond with dogs being unmatchable, that you could never have a comparable relationship with a cat. I beg to differ, but don’t need to argue with anyone to prove that. They mean to you what they mean to you.
My heart goes out to anyone having to endure any additional hardships during a time when we are instructed to be more alone than normal. There’s been a whole host of other tragic events recently in my circles that are not even related to this Covid crap, but are complicated because of it. I’ve learned a lot about grieving and loss this past year, and I’d like to offer a listening ear to anyone who feels crippled by the isolation they experience while having to process grief and loss. Feel free to reach out if you need. Nobody should have to feel alone in that.
To my family and all of you who helped me take care of Jax when I was on trips or whatever, I am so grateful. It takes a village. I hope I am a better person for it. I don’t think I need a bunch of messages to console me, I just needed to do something to help me accept and acknowledge the end of this, a place to express how dear he was to me. He signifies the time of my life of letting go of things that were harmful to me and entering a season of reclaiming my own power, as well as healing wounds from experiences that can skew one’s perspective of life.
The last time I saw Jax.
Love you forever, babo.