Almost fifteen years ago now I adopted a young cat from the local humane society. At the time I was knee deep into devouring Katsahira Otomo’s classic manga/graphic novel, Akira. I guess because of this I thought it would be cool to name my new cat Tetsuo Shima after one of the major characters in the story. Yes I am a nerd but not so snobbish that I wanted to be seen calling my cat Tetsuo Shima all the time. The fact I had no friends to see this did not factor into my thinking then. Therefore I simply called her Shima or Shims.
She was a special cat right from the start. She had a very serious infection with feline leukemia virus as a kitten and almost died. Only a major and apparently quite rare and expensive operation saved her life. When I got her half her body was still shaved and she had a long scar running down most of her midsection. Ironically I now carry a very similar scar from a serious disease that almost killed me two years ago. Funny that I had not made that connection until just now. Even half shaved and still in recovery she was an absolutely adorable little thing. Mostly Maine Coone so long hair (at least from what she still had) and a big fluffy tail. Her personality was outsized to say the least. Loved to be held and always wanted attention.
I had always intended to keep her as an indoor only cat. Most vets and responsible cat guardians accept this as the most humane for them and other wildlife, particularly birds. However on a lark one day I decided to buy a harness and leash. Like most cats when I first put the harness on her she promptly plopped down on the floor and gave me that look only cats can give. The one that says I hate you and are you fucking joking at the same time. I kept at it though and eventually she got ok with it. Then I decided to take her outside and everything changed.
It was if a bright light erupted in her mind and body. The look on her face, her posture, everything became fuller, more actualized is the best I can put it. She didn’t walk on the leash, she strutted. It was an amazing thing to see. I could feel her joy and happiness and it made me happy to see it. We started going for walks around the small city neighborhood where I lived. It was such a treat. When children saw us they always pointed and laughed and smiled and ran over to say hi to her. I was invisible to them. Adults too turned their heads and gaped. If a dog came along Shima lunged straight for them. Mostly they were scared shitless. Much like their owners they just couldn’t seem to process what they were seeing.
I took her to the park with me one day and fastened her leash to a tree while I ate. Never in my life have I seen more confused, bewildered, amazed, hysterical, and downright mystified people. They would walk past and jaws dropped or smiles beemed or laughter erupted. Usually a combination of the three. Some stopped to pet her. She freaking loved it. The attention, the spoiling. As usual I was mostly invisible but it didn’t bother me a bit. To see the joy she brought to people if only for a short moment. I have never been and doubt I will ever be as happy as I was that day.
Slowly I started letting her off leash to roam free. It scared the shit out of me to do it but I just could not justify keeping her from what she clearly loved so much. To assuage my fears somewhat I bought her a fancy collar with a cute little heart shaped name tag. Of course she hated it but dealt with it mostly because she realized when I put it on her it meant she was going to get to go outside. One day she came home to the backdoor and her collar was gone. I freaked out. Wagging my finger, raising my voice, telling her what a bad cat she was and how much I worried about her. Basically being a stupid human thinking some cat could understand anything I might say or think. She slunk inside and I calmed down a bit though kept her in the house for the next two days. When her crying and pawing at the door became too much to bear I broke down and let her out again.
There was a brick and stone pedestal in my backyard. She loved to lay and sleep on it. She would drape her (now) giant body across it and lounge for hours at a time. Dreaming her cat dreams. She was gone that entire first day I let her back out. This was a bit unusual for her as typically she only left for a few hours at a time. Of corse I began too worry. I went outside to look for her and what do I see? Her fucking collar is sitting smack dab in the center of her pedestal. Then she saunters up behind me, let’s out a little meww, rubs up against my leg, and starts to purr. It was the damdnest thing I have ever seen. I’m not one of these crazy cat people taken to over anthropomorphizing but I simply have no other explanation for what happened than she truly understood me when I bitched her out for losing that leash. She fucking brought it back. To this day I question if it really happened. It seems unbelievable yet I swear to God almighty it did. And no the collar was not there the previous two days before or all day that day.
Two weeks later she was hit by a car in a street near my house and died. I buried her under that pedestal. She will always be a cat on a pedestal me. Truly a special being. She was only three years old. I miss her dearly. My wife passed away in May of this year. I left her out of the story because it was painful enough already but they had a very special relationship too. I hope and believe they are together now waiting somewhere for me.