Goodbye to Grub

I was in Laos, visiting a place called 4000 Islands, when I got the news by email: “Grub is not doing well.” My big boy Grub, the fattest cat in town, had not eaten for four days and was in the kitty hospital.
As a youngster, he loved to eat, probably because he was a starving kitten when rescued. He was also white, with blue eyes. The name “Grub,” then, was a natural. Over years of limitless food, he ballooned to 26 pounds at his heaviest. He was a favorite at the vet’s office, and rivaled the size of the vet’s cat, Bubba, who was a mere 21 pounds.
The only other pet I’d had was Pal, the Airedale terrier that was the family dog when I was a girl. And then later there was my crustacean Hermy, the hermit crab that lived in a giant brandy snifter.
But Grub was my first real pet. He had a sparkling personality, huge paws with sturdy claws, and a grand purr. He was inseparable from my son. In his younger years, Grub chased Dylan, taking him down as a lion would, just for fun. He slept next to and on top of Dylan, edging him out of the bed. When Dylan’s dad play-fought with Dylan, Grub joined the battle, protecting his boy and batting at his dad. KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA
Aside from his boy, Blackie the cat puppet was Grub’s favorite plaything—he’d drag it around, fall to the ground and rip at its head, overcome with a weird sort of bliss. Sometimes he played like a dog, fetching a rolled-up pipe cleaner I tossed for him.
In the mornings he joined me in the bathroom, where he hopped on the sink and drank directly out of the faucet. Then when I tapped my shoulder he put his front paws on me, and I carried him to the living room and plopped him on the couch, where he would spend the next 20 minutes. When he got too bulky to be very active, he sat outside underneath the bird feeder, and looked up at the birds now and then, never making a move to grab one.
So here I was, traveling with a friend in this distant land, far from my cuddly monster Grub. When I got the disturbing news, I recalled the morning I left my house about six weeks earlier. It was 6:00 AM, and Grub was sitting next to his empty food bowl. He looked at me with his regal blue eyes, begging for food. But he was on a very strict diet to help him lose weight, so I declined to give him any, even a snack. Instead I gave him a scratch, and said, “You’re going to be here when I get back, aren’t you?” He just looked at me.
The updates indicated that my 13-year old cat was very sick, but he was receiving lots of tests, antibiotics, an IV, and lots of attention. My hopes were high that he would pull through. I looked at his photo on my I-Pad, and sent him lots of love and good wishes. I really wanted to be by his side, but thinking about him was the best I could do.
In the evening I sat in the open-air restaurant, by the river there in Laos, listening to the water and thinking about Grub. Suddenly the head of a scruffy dog pressed on my lap; his eyes looked up into mine. I was so surprised, I almost shooed him away. His rank odor made me pull back, and here I was getting ready to eat. But instead, I reached down and scratched him behind the ears, and whispered, “good doggie” to him, and kept scratching. His eyes bore into mine. I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude from this dog, as though it was the first time he had ever been scratched behind the ears. I thought about Grub, who often heaved his bulk into my lap like this, looking for a little attention. And I’d scratch him and whisper endearments to him, just as I was doing right then.
After a few minutes, the dog lay down at my feet, and I ate dinner.
The next morning I got the dreaded message. Grub died in the kitty hospital. Taking into account the 13-hour time difference, he passed right about the time the dog planted his furry head in my lap.
Through my tears, I told my companions. The Laos guide’s eyes widened when she heard my story. She spoke with the restaurant hosts, who told her they had been very surprised the evening before when the dog put his head in my lap. That dog was usually afraid of people, they said, and never behaved with people as he had with me.
My sweet Grub came halfway around the world to say thank you and goodbye. I’ve never grieved so much for the passing of an animal as I did for Grub.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

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