Sunday, February 7, 2010

Original Cougar, geese, and strip pits...stated randomly

I often do posts from the strip pit area...this one among them. But in the end, there is a more intimate tale involved this time. First off, we drove around out there last night till the sun was setting...the first thing we noticed were the geese...they are back in larger numbers. The sound was incredible. I wondered aloud if I lived close, would I get tired of their incessant honking.
Even if you click and enlarge the above photo, it appears compressed. It just does not show how big the strip pit is, nor can you get the full impact of how many geese are there.

Below, is an image from google earth that shows the area out there. The strip pit above is is in the upper left-hand corner of the image. BTW, it is in Illinois. I really hope you will click on it at of these days I am going to think and see how long that strip pit is by hitting the odometer on the vehicle I am in. I am pretty sure it is at least half a mile long, and probably longer. Just east of the strip pit is the road we take about half of the time to enter the area.

We have been going out there for years, though originally, it was being mined so we only drove through it every now and then. If you will look in the lower righ-hand corner, I have a strip pit marked as where we got our original cat named Cougar. Before the mining stopped, we could get permits to fish that strip pit.... I have spent more happy hours fishing there than any place else on earth. I never once got to stay as long as I wanted to stay.
Anyway, that is one long strip doesn't show it here so much, but it was big and it was deep. Where the arrow is pointing, there was a pump house close to there. The part of the strip pit to the east of the arrow is where I fished the most....but I did fish on south also. Right where the arrow is was just a narrow strip of water leading from one part of the strip pit into the other. A boat could go through, but it would have been close for two boats to pass each other, though I am not sure they could have.

Anyway, one evening we were out there fishing and kept hearing this sound. Over and over. Right there where that arrow is. Well, we fished for quite a while, and before we left, for my sake Roger went across to find out what was over there. I think he could wade most of it chest deep, but had to swim a few strokes...
Anyway, he got over there and found it....a little tabby cat. Its voice was so hoarse from meowing so much. As he held it above the cattails for me to see, he said, "Do you want it?" Dumb question...I had never seen a cat I didn't want. Just some I didn't need.

Anyway, so the kitty went home with us, to become Cougar Lee. He was literally on the point of starvation...I have only seen one other animal in my life as bad off as he was. You could see almost every bone in his body. His backbone was just so prominent... And he was SO sick....congestion and his little eyes all matted.

There was never any doubt that he was my kitty...from day one. It was a weekend so no going to the vet....and besides that I don't know if we went right away or if we waited a few days. I do know that right away, I made warm salty water and wrung a washrag out in it and would wash his eyes 3 or 4 times a day. Salt water will do miracles for some things...and it did help.

But his cold/congestion was another story. I don't know how many times he was to the vet to get rid of it. It was over a period of a few weeks, and at one time he and I were on the same antibiotic....only his was just once a day and not as strong as mine. It was this antibiotic, ampicillin that finally cleared his congestion.

Cougar was sure an original...when he was little, if I was standing washing dishes or doing something in the kitchen, he would climb up my jeans to my waist and just hang there till I got to the point where I could stop and hold him a few minutes. He slept with us/me, at first he laid across my forehead and I wondered how in the world was I ever going to get used to that.

You would not believe how quickly I became accustomed to it, I would have to feel my head to see if he was there or not. As he got older, he gradually stopped doing that very much, but graduated to curling himself around my head, or somehow till his one paw would be across my neck. Honest to goodness. He had to be touching me.

What is so funny, he jumped on Roger when Roger was asleep and it startled Roger and made him really mad at Cougar. From that time on, Cougar never, ever touched Roger unless Roger was awake. He would sniff towards Roger and somehow or other could tell if Roger was awake. If Roger was awake, he would put a paw out and touch him.

As Cougar got older, he was neutered, of course. He loved to spend time outside in the summer...we always thought when he laid in the garden under the tomato plants, that he thought himself in the jungle. He was not much of a hunter...which was fine by me. He loved all of us, and was never afraid of strangers, but I was always his favorite. He could be sitting with anyone else, and all I had to do was say his name and he would come to me.

Cougar was the smartest cat I have ever known...though I am trying to think of examples and having a hard time. He did know his name...if he was out in the yard...all we had to do was open the door and call his name and he came. He knew what the word 'no' meant, also knew what we meant if we said 'get down.' I also think he showed how smart he was by not bothering Roger when Roger was asleep.

He loved tomatoes or things cooked with tomatoes. If we had spaghetti, he literally came running. He always got a bite or two of it. He really didn't want much, but had to have a taste or if we had a pizza, he had to have a bite. If I cut a tomato in half and left it laying, he would lick the whole inside of it out. Even if it was a medium sized tomato.

If I was sick and sleeping on the couch, he watched over me...he would sleep on the back and talk to me if I was awake. Oh, that is the other thing. He would really try to carry on a conversation. Not the constant meowing that some cats do, but an exchange. We could say something and he would say something back...with what we called a meow-purr. Not loud and disturbing, more like, hey, what are you doing. And he would stop and wait for our reply.

He also was a guard cat...did not like other cats or dogs in our yard. Even though he was neutered, he would fight any cat that came in the yard. Yet if the kids brought one home, he wasn't jealous. And luckily, all the dogs he chased out were so surprised to have a cat come after them, that they ran.

During the last years of his life, he started to sleep under the cover...always against my side with his head resting over my arm. And always between us...never on the outside edge.

A couple times he almost died. One night he was fine, begging for hamburger. The next morn, I happened to be up and about to leave for work and went downstairs for something. Cougar was sitting down there...he never sits down there. Just never. I could tell he was dieing.

I called the vet, and got him in that evening. We never really knew what happened to him...the vet kept him a couple days and did find that he had inflammation but could not find what was causing it. He gave him a vitamin B shot, and that did the trick. That was the strangest thing...he was perfectly fine the night before and I am positive if I had not taken him to the vet the next day, he would have died. No doubt in my mind.

And we had a repeat of that episode the following spring. Went through basically the same scenario. Again, the vitamin B shot brought him out of it.

During the last few months of his life, he lost weight...and he never had any weight to lose. We always assumed it was from being almost starved to death in his youth. Cougar just stayed a long, lanky cat. So, with losing the weight, he really was skin and bones. I had him to the vet, and it was just basically old age.

I knew I needed to make the decision, but could not do it till one morn, I heard him hit the floor. I will not go into details, I will just say I promised him then he would not have to go through any more. When the vet opened, I called and made arrangements to take him to be put down once Roger got home from work....I dug his grave in the garden so he could have his final sleep where he had spent so many enjoyable hours.

For two or three years, I did not even want to pet a cat...just didn't even want to look at one really. His spirit stayed with us. In the two or three years between losing him and getting the kitties we have now, Roger and I both felt him. There were a couple times we both, at the same time, felt him jump up in bed with us, and we both moved apart and started to raise the cover for him to go under. This was not right after he died, but months later.

Another time I had one of those colds where I coughed and coughed and coughed, so was trying to sleep sitting up on the couch...Cougar was there with me. I heard him talking...and looked to talk to him before I thought. Even after I realized, I kept hearing him.

His spirit doesn't visit us any more, not since we got the cats we have. Except my new Cougar loves tomatoes...does anyone else have a cat that likes tomatoes? I have never heard of it I think it sort of strange that I have had two that likes them.

edited to add: I wanted to add that Cougar, the original, lived to be approximately 17 yrs. old


Lowell said...

Jesus, what a post! Send that to Reader's Digest!

Brought tears to my eyes!

don said...

A great shot of Cougar and a wonderful story of his time with you. Fine job of conveying the closeness he shared with your family.

Betsy Banks Adams said...

Oh---made me cry, Rose. You saved Cougar --and he gave you so much joy for so many years.

I know how hard it was to let him go.. But--you did, and can keep his memory alive with posts like this. What a precious kitty.

Thanks for sharing --and also showing more about the strip pits.

George said...

Thanks for telling us Cougar's story. He was as big a blessing to you as you were to him.
Thanks, too, for the Google Earth picture of the strip pits. It helps me visualize your trips there.

Lindy said...

What a really sweet remembrance of Cougar, the Original. He obviously was very grateful to you and Roger for rescuing him. I'm glad you had many years to enjoy each others' companionship.

Barb said...

Oh Rose, what a beautiful tribute to Cougar, he was blessed to have your love and care! I know that a kitty living at my house and nearly 18 years old, is experiencing some of the same difficulties, I watch her closely...and she still manages a *purr* when I pet her frail head! Thank you for your rescue, tribute and love for your Cougar...I will continue to love my kitty in honor of your posting of today!

Caron said...

What a touching story. I feel like I know Cougar now. I have had dogs that liked tomatoes, but not cats. My Lily likes corn, though. I am so glad you wrote this, Rose.

Ida said...

That was wonderful. I think that God knows when to send just the right animal into our lives. Cougar sounds like an awesome cat. I'm so glad you rescued him and gave him a forever home.