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01 April 2013

the bones of Naanaa

Naanaa is my spectral loneliness, my black panther-kitty who would have lived if I'd had the money to save him.

He was two years old. A panther in miniature. Hunter extraordinaire and silent stalker of my face under the blankets. He only snuggled when I wasn't looking, but he watched out for his little brother, Muzi, and let my then-six-year-old son carry him around like a rag doll. His face was always haughty, even when he was purring. He purred loudly. There must have been a jet engine somewhere in all that muscle where his soul hid. He was a big cat, but lean and regal. You never knew his size until you tried to pick him up. Only two people could pick him up: my son and me. He was as loyal as the dogs he disdained. I used to have a picture of him as a kitten, sitting on an old high-back chair with Muzi, who at that age was more fluff than kitten. Muzi is spacing out, looking somewhere nobody else can see. Naanaa is sitting iron-rod straight, his eyes burning holes into the camera. He was always intense.

On Ostara, 2010, I was driving my son to the city pool. We didn't get far. I pulled over because I'd heard a noise that sounded almost like a tire catching a nail, loudly. I checked around the truck, but didn't see anything wrong. I started driving again. The noise came again, only twice, like two rounds from a rifle on automatic. Pop-pop, only softer. I pulled over again, and looked more carefully. This time, there was blood dripping down from somewhere in the engine area. A moment of confusion, then panic because Naanaa had been outside and out of sight when we left the house. And I hadn't called him when we went outside. He always came when I called, but I hadn't been worried about him and we were in a hurry to meet Bear's friend at the pool. Then I saw a flap of sleek black leg.

I told Bear there was something wrong with the truck. I didn't mention Naanaa. I called my friend, his friend's mom, and asked her to come pick him up. Said I'd explain when she got there. Didn't want Bear to hear me. She took the boys to the pool so I could deal with "some engine trouble."

Naanaa let me pull him down from the fan casing where he'd been lounging before the truck started. He was so docile. He was scared, but he stopped hissing when he heard me speaking to him. As I cradled him against my chest, he began to purr. I think he was in shock. I wrapped him up in my towel, not looking for what was broken or missing. His little face was so serious, so certain that I would make it all better.

Two other vehicles had stopped to help; one of them went back to their house for a cat carrier. I put Naanaa, blanket and all, into the carrier, and put the carrier on my passenger seat. I took the phone number of the person who'd loaned me the carrier, and I drove into town. It was a Sunday, so the first three veterinarians' offices I drove to were closed. I was a complete wreck long before I found the one that was open. Naanaa had started to cry, too.

His right hind leg was shattered. His left hind leg was gone. The vet the remaining hind leg might be salvageable, but it would take a lot of time and care - his words. I had time and care in spades.

At that point, the bill was already over $400. I had $48 between cash and my bank account. The vet wouldn't do anything else until I paid, and showed that I could pay for additional services.

I called my mother.
She said I had too many pets, and they were taking up too much of my money.

I begged the vet. I begged the vet's receptionist.
They lectured me on running up bills I couldn't pay.

With a show of see how generous I am, the vet euthanized my Naanaa, because I couldn't afford even that.
The bill was just above $500. I gave them the $40 I had in cash, and agreed to bring the rest when I got my paycheck. The receptionist was greatly displeased with me. The vet's assistant put Naanaa's still body in my arms, wrapped again in the towel, and looked at me sympathetically, silent. They wouldn't take his body. That would have added to my bill.

By the time I left, I was glad Naanaa was coming home with me.
I laid him on my altar that night.
The next day I cremated him in my fire pit. I had to light the fire several times. I didn't really know how to do what I was trying to do. He burned for three days. Finally, when there was nothing left but his skull, I stopped relighting the fire. I kept his skull and a few other bits of bones that had hidden in the ashes. At the time, I couldn't have told you why I kept them. Instinct told me to, and I did.

The fragile bones have crumbled into smaller pieces now, but I still have Naanaa's bones.
They're cradled in a green glass cat, that's curled in a sleeping pose and was probably intended to be a votive candle holder. Naanaa's bones live on my altar.

I began writing this post on 21 March 2013, the third anniversary of Naanaa's death. I had to write it just a little at a time. It still hurts that I couldn't save him. 


  1. My heart goes out to you. It is so clear how much love there was between you, your son, and Naanaa.

    I hope that you can find peace for yourself in the fullness of time.


  2. Oh sweetie, I wasn't there and I'm crying... I can only imagine how difficult this was. It will probably hurt for a long time, but I'm glad you have his bones. Picture him sleeping in a meadow of green glass grass, looking at you with intense eyes, telling you how happy he is to still be in your heart.

  3. Oh, losing your pet is excruciating, I'm so sorry. The mental image of his little skull among the ashes is heart breaking.

    I have lost two of my furry little babies to the road down the hill. They were both only around 1 year when they died. One blames oneself for everything in a situation like that. I just wanted to spit on the circle of life. We buried both our babies on the hill behind our house, overlooking their old hunting grounds. It's been 4 years since the last one died, but it still hurts to this day thinking about them.

    But my other two cats, 6 and 8 years old respectively, greet me with purrs and snuggles every day when I come home from work. And if everything turns out the way we've planned, we will be adding to our furry family soon :)