Tangerine and Bear

 Tangerine and Bear

   A very small, thin, orange tiger striped kitten named Tangerine lies curled in a coconut basket,
as her sister Bear looks down upon her.

   My neighbor moved to the other side of the island leaving four cats, two of them pregnant females.
As I have an eight month old kitten of my own, and they were all friends, they began coming over here for food.
Believing in proper pre-natal care, being a life long cat lover and proud owner of a 5o pound bag of cat food,
I of course fed them all, taking special care of the pregnant mom.
When one of the mothers had her kittens somewhere, she continued to come twice a day,
then walking off to the east when she finished eating.

  Having not seen brand new kittens for many years, one day I followed her through the jungle to a nearby abandoned shed.
There on a blanket behind an old washing machine was the mother and three very cute kittens.
She let met pick each of them up in turn, giving them their first contact with a human.

  I pause this narrative to laugh. It seems that Bear the kitten had fallen asleep sitting up on top of the stereo
next to me, and then was rudely awakened as gravity and the slight tilt of the top of the machine led to a 5 week old
kitten somersaulting 6 inches to the plywood floor with a loud thump. Sleeping kittens do not land on their feet.
I pick her up and pet her sympathetically, letting her know that what happened was funny, not that I was laughing at her.
(Cats hate that.)
After a minute of consolation, I set her down where upon she immediately jumped back up on the stereo and settled
in a little more securely to continue her kitten nap dreams.
  Last week the mother stopped coming over for food.At first I thought that perhaps she was surviving by hunting
and was teaching the kittens to hunt.  After she did not show up for 2 days, worry or intuition led me to go check the shed
and alas, there were only two crying kittens and no mother. 

  So I picked up the kittens who were to become known to me as Tangerine and Bear and brought them back to my house.

  My theory about the disappearance of the other kitten and the mother is that the other kitten was the bravest one,
went adventuring and ran into a rat or a mongoose, screamed, the mother went out to defend her young and both were killed.
There are a lot of mongooses and a lot of big rats here in the rainforest.

  While Bear was hungry and immediately started chowing down the kitten food I had, Tangerine was obviously
the runt of the litter, and would not eat anything.  I got 50 cents worth of milk from the coffee shop creamer,
dipped a piece of paper towel into it and dripped it into her mouth. She squirmed, resisted opening her mouth a
and when I finally pried her mouth open and dripped the milk into it she did not want to swallow it!

  I felt like I was waterboarding a kitten.

  I persisted, squeezing drop after drop into her mouth.  The next morning I hitched to town and bought a pint of half and half,
and continued feeding her as much as I could every couple hours. The next day Linda brought me a plastic medicine dropper.
That helped the procedure a lot, with less of the milk landing outside of her mouth. I brought her with me to work that day,
held and petted her a lot and massaged her butt to make her poop.
Still she resisted swallowing the milk, growing weaker each day.

   On the third night she was barely able to stand and I felt her energy fading and knew the end was near.
I cradled her in my hand, talked to her gently, prayed for her sweet spirit and petted her gently while her sister looked on.
After a couple of hours, she mewed a few times and then her breathing became even slower and more labored,
her heartbeat pulsing ever so softly in the palm of my hand. A few twitches, a short sigh and the life passed out of her. 

   Bear seemed to understand and came over and laid her head on her belly as I held her in the palm of my hand.
The two of us shared the last of her bodily warmth for a while, and then I picked out a nice basket,
curled her body into it and set it on my special things shelf.  I cried for a while, feeling not only the grief for her
but also the memory of the 25+ friends and relatives, pets and wild animals I have lost in the last few years.

  The next morning, just as the sun was rising, I dug a small hole in the rocky earth of the front yard,
and as the dawning light turned golden and bright, I laid her and the basket down in the hole,
placed a couple ferns and a big leaf on top and filled in the hole, placing four of the big rocks on the top as a marker.

Bearying Tangerine

   A very small, thin, orange tiger striped kitten named Tangerine lies curled in a coconut basket,
as her sister Bear looks down upon her.

   Aloha Tangerine, I can only hope that I pass from this world as bravely and gently as you did,
with as much love and tenderness being shown to me as was shown to you in your short life among the humans.
Mahalo for the lessons I learned from you.