Friday, December 7, 2012


 I lost a good friend today.
He has been my friend, one of my best friends – maybe my best friend ever – for fifteen years. He never lied to me. He was never disloyal. He never disrespected me – except when joking or playing, and even then, he knew the limits. He didn't have a mean bone in his body and showed compassion to many, including his sisters, of whom he felt protective.
He was a black male and I named him Kuma, Japanese for Bear (). Kuma was a felis silvestri catus linnaeus, a domestic short-haired cat. (To those who might note Kuma's inability to lie due to his inability to speak our language, I would ask: Because we have the ability to lie, does that imply that it is mandatory, or excusable?)
Kuma first came into our lives when my wife and I adopted him from the local humane society in January of 1998. At roughly six weeks of age, he exhibited a willful determination to escape the cage in which he and his three siblings were housed. At every opportunity, during feeding, changing litter, visits by potential families, he would escape and run under or around the surrounding cages to defiantly display his freedom to all, human and feline alike.

We wanted to adopt a kitten to keep company with Maggie, our young female who had recently lost her adopted brother, Rocky, after a two-year battle against diabetes and associated organ failure. Given Kuma's estimated age and the timing, we assigned Kuma the nominal, yet roughly, if not entirely, accurate birth date of Rocky's death, December 9, 1997.
Kuma was not a hunter by nature. When outside – always under our supervision – he usually preferred to smell the flowers or sit on the bench under a pergola and watch the woods or the traffic, or perhaps  contemplate life – or his navel, whatever. He was free to do whatever he wanted, except to play in traffic.

When his human sister, Sami, came along in October, 2011, Kuma's hunting nature surfaced. On many occasions, we found huge wolf spiders, dead and dismembered, in the hallway or in the guest room adjacent to Sami's bedroom. Kuma was protecting Sami from the spiders, shown by the spider parts that he regurgitated after they gave him an upset stomach. To that point, he had never hunted or killed insects; he left that to his hunter-sister, Michi, a young female.
He lived a full life of play when wanted, rest when needed, cuddling with his parents when desired, food, double-filtered water, toys, understanding, and love. He was as civil – and civilized – as any human I've ever known.

Kuma died today of a malignant tumor on one of his kidneys, the cells of which had metastasized to two other areas of his gentle body, one between his left lung and his beautiful heart and the other on the right side of his abdomen. He finally escaped the cage of his childhood – forever. We will miss him terribly but remember him fondly, the greatest legacy that anyone, humans included, can hope for.
I lost a good friend today.