I recently wrapped up the piece that I have been working on for quite some time now. It was one of those ones that I found hard to get into in the beginning, and then kept putting down for other things. In the end, though, I am really glad that I stuck with it as it turned out just how I had hoped that it would.
This was a pretty emotional piece for me. It is one that I have had in the back of my mind for a long time, but I just wasn’t ready to tackle it. It is based on a photo that my husband took of myself and my cat, Mowgli, about six years ago. A lot of people think that this image is one of contentment and happiness, a shared moment between a person and their pet. But in reality, this was a sad image because it was taken when I had recently found out that he was dying.
Flash back with me to 1997. I had moved away from a home a few months before and was living in a bachelor apartment in downtown Ottawa just off of Bronson Avenue (yes, the area was pretty seedy), near Carleton University where I had started my Master’s Degree. I had just said goodbye to my latest hamster, one in a string of hamsters over the years that I had loved but of course their life span is pretty short and fleeting. My then boyfriend (now husband) was visiting for the weekend and he suggested that we go and look at cats at the Humane Society. I had never had a cat before and wasn’t sure that they were for me. So I said that I would rather go to the university library and do some work. The library ended up being closed that day and so we headed to the Humane Society. Seems like fate to me.
I ended up falling in love with a large bundle of orange and white fur. I brought him home and named him Mowgli. We sure had some interesting times in that one room apartment. He used to climb on top of my fridge and sit watching me as I worked. He loved to curl up in the bathroom sink and sleep. And he used to attack my feet at night, which was a little creepy. Several times he ripped through the plastic bag and ate the loaf of bread I had on the counter. I started putting my bread away after that.
He was with me through the rest of that Master’s Degree, through Law School and the Bar Ad Exams. When, I got married he joined first one other cat and then in a moment of madness, we adopted two more cats. And then eventually we had a baby. Through it all, though, I began to notice that he retained a particular affinity to me. He was definitely “my cat.” He would follow me from room to room, and sit with me watching tv. At night he would jump up beside me in bed. He was loyal to me the same way that a dog would be. And I loved him best of all of course.
Later in his life he was diagnosed with diabetes. This brought about twice daily insulin shots and monitoring his blood sugar levels. Through it all he remained my best bud, despite the frustrations that came along with his disease such as his desire to pee on my daughter’s toys or down the heating vent.
And then one day we noticed that his blood sugar levels were bouncing all over the place and were no longer easy to manage. I took him to the vet and after some bloodwork received the devastating news that he probably had lymphoma. At this point he was about 15 years old so we knew there wasn’t much that we could do. We were told that as long as he was doing ok we didn’t have to make any hard decisions. So we decided to let him live as good a life as we could for as long as we could.
This photo was taken that first weekend. We didn’t know how long we had left with him or if we would suddenly have to take him in to have him put to sleep. It was all a little overwhelming and sad. We spent most of that weekend outside in the backyard with him. He wasn’t an outdoor cat, but he liked fresh air and at that point we knew he wasn’t well enough to run away so there wasn’t much risk involved. So during the day we let him sleep under the shade of a bush while we sat nearby to make sure that no other animals came and bothered him. At night we would set up a little bed in our room and I would sleep on the floor beside him. About a month later he died at home.
When I finished hooking this piece, my son looked at the photo and said “You look sad in the photo, but not in the rug.” He was right, the facial expression I had captured, whether intentionally or not, looked much more happy and contented. I told him that maybe I should fix it and he said “No I like it better happy.” And so do I. While I know that this is a piece that came from a place of sadness, I like that the image itself is more of a happy celebration of life. It reflects the happiness that we both felt whenever we were in each other’s company.
This piece is entitled “Saying Goodbye” and it measures 20″ x 17.5″ and was hooked using a variety of yarns on linen.