Over the past few weeks, my heart has been slowly breaking. It’s been trying, difficult and frustrating to wrap my fingers around the idea that a piece of my life is missing; there’s a definitive void – not just within me, but surrounding me. Words have failed me, and at every turn I feel like I’m going to crumble to the ground, overcome by emotion and struck by reality.
Back in college, I was going through a transitionary period. Becoming a fifth year senior isn’t usually commendable but at an institution like UCSB – it also wasn’t uncommon. It was the Summer of 2007 and I had just moved out of Isla Vista to the Mesa – a wonderful area near downtown Santa Barbara, surrounded by a stunning almost 360 view of the Pacific Ocean. My best friend at the time, a wonderful, warmhearted gal with an affinity for furry friends, moved in with me and between the five housemates we had two cats – Ssleman, a beautiful grey and white cat with a warm heart and a little black kitty that hid every chance it could; and then there was Roxy, a Golden Retriever / Yellow Lab puppy with more energy than I’d ever seen. After living there for a few months and going through a few mental moments of manifest destiny, I decided it was time – time for me to get a cat. I needed something to love beyond myself, to remind me that I was worthy of love; I needed to care about something to remind myself of the circular motion of life.
Arriving at the shelter, I gallivanted into the cat room and immediately felt at home. Throughout middle school and high school, I’d volunteered at cat shelters and there’s nothing like some kitty cuddles to brighten your mood and cultivate altruism. I glanced at an 8 month old Siamese that I immediately wanted to bring home, and a litter of orange tabby kittens not more than 2 weeks old. After getting to know me a bit, the young man working this room had a visceral lightbulb moment…“There’s a cat over here that I think will be perfect for you; he’s a little trickster and a lover.” As we walked over to the carrier, a beautiful blue-grey cat sat poised in the back of the cage. “No…” I mused “…what about the playful girl next to him?” The man smiled back “Why don’t you guys go into the play room, and if it’s not a good fit we can keep looking.”
As Maguro was plucked from his perching position and was handed to me, his front paws reached out around my neck and he looked at me like I was home. From the moment we were in the play area, he flopped and stretched ten ways to Sunday, purring, prancing and pawing at me. Looking up with a glimmer of gratitude in my eyes, I laughed “Ok, you guys got me…I’ll take him!”
As it turned out, I couldn’t bring him home immediately – upper respiratory infections are incredibly common in shelter cats and he’d just come down with one. Instead of bringing him home, I played with his sister – Saba – and it felt like she knew I was taking her brother away. I whispered that I would take good care of him and she purred in response.
Eight years later, I can say that without a doubt – he’s actually taken care of me. From Santa Barbara to now four different homes in Los Angeles, Sake has been my confidant, my best friend, my furry little man and the light of my life. He’s gotten me through heartbreak and deaths, losing friends and losing my mind.
My little Sake bomb. Sir Saks a Lot. He was the most playful, loving creature I’ve ever known. He would wake me up by pouncing on my chest and announcing his hunger with a miniature roar, he would zoom around the apartment with gusto and cuddle-hug you like he was a person. Sake converted friends that had sworn they were solely dog people, and made cat lovers rejoice. He was the best thing that has happened to me in my 30 years of existence. And now, he’s gone.
We only noticed the symptoms a few weeks ago and it wrenches my soul to think if we could’ve saved him. The last two weekends were full of friends that I consider family, doting their love and happiness on him and he loved back in kind – curling up and lapping up attention like it was his job. But in the back of my mind, I was scared, sad and confused. It felt like just yesterday, he was running around in the Santa Barbara sunshine, lounging in the flowers and running to my car from down the street whenever I returned from campus. And now, I was feeding him by hand, cradling him like he was my child, wishing for a better tomorrow. But that better tomorrow never came.
Yesterday, Sake lost his battle against lymphoma. The last thing he ever did in his life was jump into my arms, almost in parallel to the way he came in. We held his paws, wiped his eyes and sang with him until his final curtain call. I’ve never been so conflicted and overrun with emotion; I don’t know if I’ve even ever been this uncontrollably sad. I miss my dapper little man but I know he’s in a better place, cathartically chasing mice and lapping up love in the great beyond.
Because of Sake, I know what it means to love, to care, to be a friend and just listen; I know the true meaning of life, to love and be loved. When you get home tonight, hug your pets…hug your loved ones, life is too short to be anything but blissful. RIP Sake, I only hope that I can have half the effect on the world that you did.