We adopted Tango on Thanksgiving day 2000. She picked us. As I knelt down at the glass door, she emerged from behind a cat tree. The SFSPCA has home-style habitats which makes life more normal for the residents.
At the time of her adoption she was nine months old. Someone had adopted her and returned her. Her name at the time was Marcia. The SPCA couldn’t tell us why she was returned, but as time went on we wondered why anyone would return such a sweet cat.
The first night we brought her home we set up residence in my office. We had family visiting and one other cat, Flash. We followed the standard instructions for acclimating new cats to the house. (for a day or two anyway) On that first night, I went into my office and sat on the floor, waiting for her to come out of hiding. She was very shy in those days. After a minute or two she came out from behind my desk and walked up to me. I pet her a few times, then she rubbed the side of her face to my cheek. It would be a decade or more before she let my face get that close to her head again.
In the beginning, she wouldn’t let any human stand up near her. Once I was on my feet, she would scoot off to a 3-4 foot distance. As soon as I would sit down she would come back and get into my lap as I played PS2 or watched movies late night. One day I heard her playing in the kitchen as she would make chirping noises while attacking the rug or various toys. Her claw got caught in this throw rug which probably outweighed her. She tried to run off dragging the rug with a now useless front leg. I sat on the floor and scooted closer to free her. She ran away.
At the time of her adoption we lived in a flat with a hallway that ran the length of 2/3s of the apartment. Our other cat, Flash, who had a limp from a car accident would race up and down the hallway. Tango was clearly faster than Flash, but always let him win as she would pull up before the end of the hall. Both Tango and Flash liked humans more than other cats and reached a mutual agreement to sit next to each other, but never touched. This agreement would define their relationship.
At one point she went missing for 18 months. She was found when her microchip was scanned at the SPCA in Redwood City. She had been gone so long we assumed her dead, especially after the conditions of her escape — stitches/head cone/cat tranquilizers — but she was a survivor. When she came home, Christina and I talked about how every single moment from that day on was a gift. I had actually mourned her passing and began to move on, though it was difficult at the time.
I foolishly believed now, seven or eight years later, and watching her get older and slow down a bit, that dealing with the inevitable would be easier. It is not. The time spent together merely strengthened our bond and made our relationship deeper, as it often does. As Tango got older, she became more tolerant of my attempts to give her a quick nuzzle to the top of her head, or would let me pick her up and carry her around. I could tell by her movement the moment before she wanted to get away and would put her down before she tried to escape. Each time I did this, she would ride a bit longer.
Evenings after Christina would go to bed that were spent working on writing, building a Lego project or just watching TV would include her. As Tango got older she would demand my attention more. Not content to dig her nose under my hand wherever it might be, she would tap my hand with her paw to remind me to scratch behind the ears. If I were typing I got a reminder every 20 minutes or so.
The sadness comes and goes. At times it is overwhelming and I don’t know what to do. Mostly just cry I guess. Grief is a bizarre emotion of paradox. It makes you feel so heavy and so empty at the same time. In theory, I should be able to get more done without all the distractions, but in reality, I just don’t.
The role he was born to play.