Thursday, August 4, 2011

My buddy Mitri has disappeared

I just got the news that my buddy and companion of almost 19 years, Mitri, disappeared a week ago. He had his breakfast and went out for his morning walk, as usual, but never came back.

He was very old, probably 20 or 21, and had gotten quite weak in the last few months. So most likely he went out for his walk and his nap in his favorite shady spot, then decided it was time to go for good. Some cats know when it's time and know how to go gracefully. I think he was one of those.

Mitri appeared in our backyard for the first time in 1993, just after my mother and I moved to Concord. He was full grown but young. He was born back there somewhere and his world was the group of backyards that butted up against ours. There were lots of trees and bushes, lots of fences to climb and houses to explore.

There were also a few other cats that were very aggressive and it was a hard to world for a homeless cat.

Mom took to inviting him into the house. He would climb up onto the table, right at the level of the stereo speakers and stretch out, facing the speakers. Mom would put some music on and he would fixate on it until he fell asleep. Then he would let out all his pent up tension and shiver and shake to his dreams. The music, the safety of the house, these were his release. His response to the music won Mom over completely.
(Mitri takes a nap)
One day she opened up the piano, all the way, and started playing it. He went mad. He loved it! He wanted to get inside it. He actually climbed up and inside the case so that he could be right up against the strings of the piano.

Mom chose the name "Mitri" which means "friend" in Sanskrit.

He was a very big cat, almost 19 pounds at his heaviest, but he was very gentle and not at all aggressive. The other cats, Alice in particular, would pester and annoy him to no end. He would put up with a lot. But there were a few occasions when enough was enough. I remember a couple of times when he just walked up over Alice and sat down right on top of her. That put her in her place, for a little while anyway.

One of the things he loved to do with his weight was to give a good massage. When he was younger he'd climb up on my back and make me lie down, then he'd massage my back for a good 10-15 minutes. Later, when he got older he preferred to do the tummy massage instead. He was definitely a healer. He'd put all his energy into it. I'd find myself really sleepy after one of his massages.

By the time my mother got sick, he was already showing signs of old age. He was losing interest in going outside and preferred to enjoy the indoors. When Mom was confined to the sofa in the living room, Mitri made his place on the chair just opposite. The two of them would lie around there all day, watching movies, taking naps, reading (in Mom's case, more naps in Mitri's case). He kept an eye on her the whole time.

After she died the house was chaos. Mitri, Bailey and Taffy were all real troopers through it though. They saw she wasn't coming back. Piece by piece the house got emptied out. All their familiar furniture disappeared. Mitri's calm example helped keep Bailey and Taffy from stressing out too much.

On a few occasions, in an attempt to keep something normal in my life, I got my string quartet together at the house, so we could make some music and have some companionship. Ayako took these 2 photos of Mitri, trying to figure out how to get comfortable on my lap while we played. He still loved music as much as ever.

Finally the house was totally empty and it was time to move. Valentina helped me. We filled a rented minivan with stuff to take up to Portland. We gave the 3 cats a sedative from the vet, put each of them in a carrier, and one cold clear morning last February we went on the road. Taffy and Bailey were definitely nervous and scared. But Mitri was perfectly calm, though very curious. He just knew, if I was doing this then it must be alright. He had complete trust in me.

On the drive up we made a couple of brief rest stops. The others stayed in their carriers. But Mitri wanted to join me. I took him out of the car and we walked around together at the rest stops. He'd sniff around at all the interesting smells. Then he'd have a snack. We'd get back in the car and keep on driving.

When we arrived in Portland he understood in minutes this was his new home. He immediately found the most impressive and cushiest chair and got comfortable in it. From then on he was king of that house, just as he had been in Concord.

By the time of the move to Portland it was clear he was aging quickly. He found it hard to climb the stairs and preferred to stay on the ground floor. But right up to the end he was in control of his life and his world. Right up to that last morning when he decided not to come home from his walk.

I hope he found a cool, quiet, peaceful place to take his nap. I have a feeling his head was full of beautiful music as he dozed off.


  1. I was lucky enough to get the tummy massage on a daily basis!

  2. He always seemed like a really mellow guy. Music is good for the soul. You gave him a good life, and I am sure he knew it.

  3. I didn't read this story until today. Mitri was a beautiful cat, I remember him sleeping on the chair in front of your mother.

  4. Yes, Aline, he was a great companion. I will go on missing him for a long time, even though I thought this might happen while I was gone. He was definitely feeling old and tired when I left the USA.