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March 5, 2021

Saving and losing family pets once strays

More than 16 years ago, they arrived — first, two stray kittens; later, three dogs. I kept the two kittens, Amor, the male, and Cariño, the female, and Chico, a male dog. Mother kept the other two dogs — Chiquita, a female, and Chiquito, a male. All but Cariño have passed away.

Amor and Cariño adopted me, say my friends. One morning as I was driving the car out of the garage to go into work, there they were — meowing, making their sleepy way out from behind the side of the house. I looked for a mom cat, but found none. They looked so fragile; I was afraid they would be run over. 

I called my mother. “What should I do,” I asked. She suggested leaving them in a box where a family or mom cat looking for them might see them. I didn’t know anything about animals, having had no pets, other than a goldfish that didn’t live long after I bought it. Friends started calling me “Fish Killer,” later “Dr. Fish Killer,” because of my Ph.D.

I went back into the house and found a box and piece of cloth to keep the kittens warm. I put the kittens in the box and left it out for the forlorn child or mother cat that was surely missing them.  No one claimed them, but they claimed me. Thus, began our love story. 

Amor, the male cat, or Bonbon, the nickname I gave him because he was simply adorable, died in 2015. People often told me he had the cutest face, dark grey and rounded. He was not shy about posing for pictures, unlike his sister Cariño. No matter what mischief he got into — taking out dirty laundry from the basket, eating his sister’s portion, or “accidentally” urinating outside the litter box — I couldn’t get upset. How could I be stern when calling him “Amor, My Love.” Instead, the John Travolta “Saturday Night Fever” strut he had going made me burst into laughter. 

Amor died a tragic death. A stray cat pounced on him when Amor was sitting out on the porch, enjoying the night smells. Amor went into shock. There was nothing to be done, said the veterinarian. Making the decision to have Amor euthanized was the hardest, most painful that I have had to make. How I cried over his loss.

Chico, a black and white terrier pup, had arrived after the kittens. Since he was clean and friendly, at first, I thought that he had a family. One day I came home from work and soon after there was a knock at the door. It was an officer. Chico had hid in my backyard when an officer had chased him. The officer wanted to know if the dog was mine. A neighbor had reported the death of her cat killed by a pack of dogs. “He’s not mine,” I told the officer. 

The officer asked permission to retrieve Chico. Before taking Chico, the officer told me that he didn’t think that Chico had had anything to do with the cat’s death. Chico kept looking back as he was being taken away. I asked, “What’s going to happen to him?” The officer responded, “If he is not adopted within three days, he will be euthanized.” 

As the officer drove away, I started to cry. Three days later, Chico was legally mine. He became a good little guard dog, always eager to go for an afternoon walk, and quick to sit on command to get a “goodie.” He died of natural causes early this year. Like Amor, I had him cremated.

Chiquita, mixed terrier, and Chiquito, mixed Chihuahua, arrived a few months after Chico. Teasingly, Mother said it was because Chico had told them I took strays. Ironically, Mother, who took care of them while I tried to find them a home, kept them. Chiquita was an older dog, and she, too, seemed to have had a home at one time. We could not tell very much about Chiquito, other than he appeared to be younger than Chiquita. Mom says that Chiquita stole her heart the moment she ran to her and stood on her hinds, begging to be picked up. Chiquito was such a good natured dog, easy to love. Like Chico, Chiquita and Chiquito died of natural causes, but were buried instead.

Chiquita died a few years ago; Chiquito last Friday.

All were loved and are missed.

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