Sunday, February 1, 2009

Call me sentimental

After Hazle the cat died, I wrote up some of my memories of him and was surprised at how many thing I had forgotten, or hadn't thought about in years. With some trepidation, fully acknowledging that this makes me look slightly obsessive, I'm going to post them here. He was a funny cat! He had loads of personality. I never actually finished the notes, so they stop kind of abruptly. I'm not sure if I ever will finish them or not. But I hope you enjoy.

Hazle was born in the spring of 1991 and spent his early days at the Wells household, just around the corner from our house. While he was there, he was known as Dusty Rusty

He became a member of our household during May of 1991. I had just turned eight and had been begging my parents for a kitten probably sicne I could talk. The succession of stuffed cats that I’d been given just weren’t cutting it. So when Mom and Dad heard that there were kittens at the Wells’ house, Mom bravely decided to grant me my wish. We walked over to the Wells’ and looked at their kittens.

I don’t remember much about the other kittens there, except that Hazle stood out to me as far superior to the rest. We were given a litter box to go with him and walked home, Mom carrying the litter box and me carrying the cat. He struggled on the way, and we thought that maybe he wanted to go back to his family. But as it turend out, he was just anxious to use his litter box, which we found out as soon as we set him down in the backyard at our house.

I was so excited! However, my enthusiasm was tempered a little the next day when I broke my finger playing on our swingset in the back yard. It was a little harder to take care of a rambunctious kitten with one hand temporarily out of commission. But at the same time, this became my first experience with Hazle giving me comfort when I wasn’t feeling well.

Somehow, the cat went from being known as Rusty Dusty to being known as Hazle. We didn’t bother to check the sex of the cat before we brought it home, and I assumed it was female. Even if I hadn’t assumed it was a girl cat, I didn’t even know that “Hazel” was a name, so that wouldn’t have affected my choice of name much. To be honest, I can’t quite remember how I picked the name, but once I had decided, that was that. A couple of years later, we found out that Hazle was male, and Grandma Clark was quite concerned that we had a male cat named Hazle. She tried to convince me to change his name to Hazleton, but I was rather offended that she thought my name was inappropriate. Hazle he remained.

Hazle came straight into a household full of young children. I was eight, Tim was six, Mark was three, and Laura was just a year old. From the start, he was a very patient pet. Laura loved him a lot and showed her love by laying on top of him, petting him vigorously, and pulling his ears. Mark wasn’t much better. However, Hazle put up with all the attention in a very admirable way and only scratched if he was really being tortured- like tail pulling or eye poking. In return, he figured that he could sleep in all the cozy places we had laid out for babies—in the crib, on blankets on the floor. His favorite was the bouncy baby chair that Mom kept in the kitchen that was the perfect size for him to curl up in. Mom thought differently however, and chased him out of it many times.

To be honest, when I first got Hazle and he and I were very young, I wasn’t much better than the babies. I thought it was great fun to dress him up in doll clothes, wrap him up in blankets, and pop him in a doll stroller. Much of this he put up with quite patiently too, although he probably would have run away many times if he could have.

Also when he was a young thing, he had a hard time keeping his beautiful long fur clean. He would go running through the orchard and come back with burrs embedded in his fur. We gave him several baths and recruited Curtis to cut burrs out of his fur whenever Curtis came for a visit. This was back when Curtis was single, so he came down fairly often, especially during volleyball season. We appreciated what he did for the cat, but Hazle did not. For a while, he would run away at the sight of Curtis.

Hazle quickly developed a strong personality that was very tender and very sweet, but also had an aspect of defiance. He knew that he wasn’t allowed in the living room or on the counters, but that didn’t always prevent him from going those places. However, huntil he became a crotchety old cat, he would look guilty and jump down or run away when he was discovered.
When he was young, he would periodically go wild, especially if you fed him catnip, toyed a string in front of him, or lay down on the ground with your head next to his paws. Mark was laying next to him once while he turned wild and he latched on to Mark’s head with all fours with his claws.

He also went through a stage where he would catch and kill birds and mice and leave them in the backyard. I learned the hard way that you could never be sure where he would leave them when I stepped on a mouse in my bare feet and felt its guts squeeze up between my toes. There was also an unfortunate episode where he caught a wild mouse and brought it inside, where it escaped.

Hazle hated cars in his youth. Once, Mom got in the family van and started driving off on some errands when a tornado broke loose in the van. It turned out that someone had left a window open and Hazle had crawled inside and fallen asleep in a blanket he found there. He must have been pretty concerned when he woke up and found himself in a moving vehicle. Mom tried to talked to him gently to keep him calm while she turned around and took him home.

Hazle has been taken to school for show and tell a couple of times, too. He escaped in the school parking lot once, and Mark and I spent several minutes trying to coax him out from under the car and hoping that he wouldn’t run off.

During the summers, Hazle found a lot of entertainment from passing cars. On warm evenings, he would sit in the middle of the road, staring haughtily at anyone who walked by. Should a car chance to drive by, he would stare it down. The car would start going slower and slower, and since the cat wouldn’t move, eventually the car would come to a complete stop. Then the driver would often honk, and sometimes even get out of the car to physically move him. At this point, he would calmly and deliberately get up and walk slowly away, moving to a new spot in the road where he could wait for another car to come by.

Hazle has always been a good comfort cat. If anyone was every feeling sick or sad, before long, he would wander over to them and sit down on their lap. It’s possible that he was mostly interested in being held and getting petted, but he was also great for a lot of kids. Especially me. He got me through a lot of melancholy days in my teenagehood.

He was a tough cat, especially considering how little medical attention he received in his life. He got sick three times during the last seven years of his life that required veterinary attention, but he never got taken in for preventative care, and he never complained when he was sick, he just looked all droopy and stopped eating. But no caterwauling!


Matt said...

Great life sketch!

laura marie said...

Yay! I still love the story of when Mark thought he was stuck up a tree so he climbed up after the cat, but the cat jumped down and Mark ended up stuck in the tree...