One of my best pals in this whole kaleidoscopic universe passed away this Wednesday at 2.20pm. Her name was Charlie but most fondly known as Choo. She entered my life when I was twenty-one and we shared thirteen chaotic anniversaries together. I chose her out of a sea of little orphans. She was wild, hard to handle but so beautiful. We became housemates; we lived in some downright dives, we lived with some absolute morons and boy, did she see me make some terrible choices in men, but Charlie always adapted, even with her lightning temper and odd habits.
Friends would ask, “How’s Choo? What’s the psychopath been up to this week? Why is she staring at that wall like it might transform? Why does she bite for no reason? Why does she stare into my soul? Why is she so fat? What’s the deal with brushing her with a Mason Pearson hairbrush? Does her meow still emulate a telephone?”
I left her with her three wicked stepsisters in the summer of 2011 to gallivant around Europe for two years. My mother thought she was going to die of a broken heart. Depressed, she channelled her anger at me by ripping up all of Mum’s expensive moss-green carpet. She had a way with feelings. When I moved back from OS it took a year of convincing Paul that Charlie would be an excellent housemate, I promised she would keep to herself and never bring guests home with her. He wasn’t convinced and hated her ‘type’ but gave in …after he had gone away to visit his family and came back to find that she had already moved in.
The sweetest thing to witness was the special bond that developed over the next four years between Paul and Choo. Although they would deny that they had feelings for each other, I saw it; the cosy winter nights on the couch, Choo sitting on Paul’s lap at breakfast time, hoping he’d share a piece of his vegemite toast, his encouragement of her to get outdoors even though she feared the elements. Charlie was the happiest she had ever been, we were settled and she was finally home.
When we bought our house in the country I thought we had hit new heights; fresh air, serenity and a real fire. Unfortunately this did not ring true for poor ol’ Choo, she seemed uncomfortable, something pained her and it wasn’t the fact that there was a new babe shacking up with us. Something was brewing inside of her but she was too afraid to tell us. So she tried her best to keep her feelings to herself, she would come out for a stroll in the garden some days, she would play games in the pen with the babe but other days she would hide from the world, too sluggish to get out of bed, she’d be retched sick and cry in pain. But she still purred her little heart out when it was just her and I again once the babe had gone to bed, she still demanded to sit in the middle of Paul and I on movie nights. No matter how many times we took her kicking and screaming to the vet, they just couldn’t put a finger on the issue…until presented itself in a bloated belly incased in skin and bones. Charlie Choo and I managed to have one more private moment together, twenty-four whole hours in fact. Paul had taken the babe down the coast so we hung out on the couch. We watched Singing in the Rain and A Chorus Line then I cried and cried into her little body and she took it, so gently as I drenched her beautiful fancy fur coat. We snuggled up in bed, I stroked her head and told her how much I loved her and she showed me in silence that she felt the same way. When I found out my best friend had a tumour in her stomach my world unravelled fast. I couldn’t comprehend how anyone could have missed the signs. For me this was the most devastating point….that and having to make the decision to say goodbye. One of the saddest moments for me was not being able to smell Charlie’s fur coat one last time because I was so sick with the flu that my sense of taste and smell had vanished. I was lucky enough to hold my darling friend in my arms as her spirit was whisked away to another dimension. After she had passed away she still looked so alive that it was hard to believe she was really gone.
We have lit a candle in front of her portrait every day since she left us and we wait for the day that we can pick up her ashes and have her home again. I keep telling myself that putting her to sleep was the right thing to do. I never thought that such a small creature could take up so much room in my heart and I hate that people think it’s weird to grieve so intensely for a pet. As the saying goes, “Don’t it always seem to go, you don’t know what you got til it’s gone”. I can’t stand Joni Mitchell but she had a point.