This weekend has been solemn around here. Nittany, one of our cats, passed away peacefully Saturday afternoon.
Nittany was one of two cats that we had throughout our kids growing up years. The other cat was Sara, who came first, and passed away two years ago from what we suspect was ingesting rat poison used by a neighbor in his tool shed, on one of her escapes from the house. Along the way, we took on a third cat, Odie, who was a stray and shared four years with us before disappearing.
Kath brought Sara home from the Acme grocery store– a young girl was giving away a weaned litter of orange tabbies outside the exit doors to any takers. Kath was a taker! I named Sara originally as short for Syracuse, a favorite college basketball team. After about six months, we thought it would be best if Sara had a playmate, and the whole family headed to the animal shelter in Cape May to pick out a buddy.
For some reason, that trip still is pretty vivid and detailed in my memory. We had no idea where the shelter was, and it took forever to find it. It was at the end of a crumbly asphalt lane that ended at the Cape May canal. The shelter building was old and in poor, but sufficient, repair. Cats and dogs were in all kinds of cages and outside sheds and makeshift shelters...I was having a bit of trouble taking it all in, and while the kids and Kath went to look at the kittens, I took a walk out to the canal and watched the boats until I was called in to see the cat they had picked out. There he was - a ball of grey fur that we came to call Nittany, after a certain college that I had graduated from.
(If you have come to think that I name all the animals, you are mistaken. Odie was really Ude, named by my wife after her college, University of Delaware. Kath also named Snoopie, and other animals we’ve had and have! And our daughter named our dog Nana, and also several chickens. Allen named his duck... )
Both Sara and Nittany were “inside cats”, or house cats. Both were very different in personality. Sara didn’t like to be petted – one or two strokes and then she’d bite! Nittany liked to be petted – for hours at a time. Sara liked wet food; Nittany liked dry. Sara bonded with Kath; Nittany bonded with Steph. Sara was over active; Nittany was content to sleep all day (and night). Sara would play with toys; Nittany could not be bothered most times. Sara would sit on the window sill watching birds; Nittany would sleep on the couch. Sara was skin and bones; Nittany was what you might call plunp. Sara didn’t like the in-laws, especially a certain aunt; Nittany couldn’t be bothered to have an opinion. Both extremes are what made them special.
Losing Nittany this weekend was as if an era had passed away with him – the kids growing up. Now both are off to college and beginning new lives in new places. It brings back the memory of when I went away from home; I left behind my childhood dog, Sarge, who also passed away along with my childhood, but who is still a part of me today in daily memory. Just as I had Sarge, Kath grew up with a big lab named Rufus, who never left her heart, no matter how many animals and pets came after.
Like Sarge and Rufus were to Kath and I, these cats were just as much or more a part of my kids childhoods as their friends, soccer, karate, and high school plays. They were that extra brother and sister that they could always count on to be there, waiting, and listening...and they will be missed very much. They shared a very important time in our kids lives.
Sara and Nittany … we love you, and always will.