Thursday, February 27, 2014

In Memoriam: Bear-Bear

Bear-Bear died on 25th February, 2014. He was about eleven years old, very possibly older. He was my foster-cat; I never adopted him, which I regret now. But he didn’t know the difference, of course. After a while, I didn’t either. But I feel it now. This is his story, accompanied by photographs in no particular order or preference.

He came to me in April of 2013. He was found wandering around an apartment building, and was taken in by a couple who felt sure that he was lost and someone was searching for him. He was such a friendly fellow that he must have been missed. He was neutered, so someone had taken the trouble to see to that. He was healthy and strong, well-fed. Yet no one came forward in response to the couple’s search. Bear-Bear became another lost cat, and was taken in by a local rescue-group. This group’s headquarters suffered a terrible fire, of which I wrote at the time, and, after a while, Bear-Bear and a few other cats were transferred to the care of the Lethbridge PAW Society, the cat-rescue group with which I volunteer.

The BB soon went to live with a couple on a ‘trial-adoption’ for two months. Thereafter, he went overnight to a veterinary hospital for some more or less routine health-work; nothing serious. The couple could not be reached when it was time to collect Bear-Bear. That cat came to stay with me for a day or two. When his prospective people were reached, they stated that they had decided against adopting Bear-Bear, and no satisfactory explanation was ever given as to why. Bear-Bear was homeless again, and his two-day stay with me became longer - permanent, as it turned out.

What was Bear-Bear like? He loved people, first and foremost. He had lived, when first rescued, with several other cats in a temporary facility. He got along with all the cats there. He ignored them, really; people were his interest. He enjoyed talking to them, whether it was me or friends come to visit. “Raa,” he would say, or “rao”, with different inflections, depending upon the meaning. He would greet me at the door when I came home, usually trying to get there first, so that he didn’t have to wait behind the other beasts, and he sometimes would appear on the bed at night, trying to get as close as possible to my face. That would have been more endearing if he hadn’t also been suffering from a cold during many of his attempts.

He played when he first arrived at my house, chasing fuzzy mice I would throw him and trying to catch a toy on a string. He also liked 'Undercover Mouse'. But his health declined soon after, and playing slowed and disappeared. But he remained sociable to the end, ready to discuss things and events, even if his loquacity suffered.

The BB was not upset by much. He was very adaptable and would have done well if adopted into a new home. Novel situations did not faze him, and even a journey to the veterinarian did not worry this cat. He would lie in his carrier and speak to the people in the car with him. He never cried or sang; all his talk was conversational. They sounded like comments: “Look at how blue the sky is this afternoon; isn’t that nice?” or “Is this route different than last time?” and “I never noticed that Burger King before.”

He was patient, dignified. He endured medicine through most of our time together. First, I tried giving him pills. That would not do. Bear-Bear simply would not take them; too degrading, I suspect. So then I was given medicine to rub in his ear. This he took stoically. Later, the drugs were dispensed orally, but in liquid-form, and he acquiesced to this method, though he never liked it. This became worse when he stopped eating, and had to be fed by syringe. He never fought me. He was very helpful - and that was a favour to me but to show his disdain for the process, he would turn his head, or push away the syringe with his paw, but he accepted the food, though he couldn’t have guessed why I was tormenting him so.

Before he became sick, Bear-Bear enjoyed eating. He usually cleaned up his dish. I tried to interest him in good foods, but he preferred the less healthy ones. Eventually, just before he stopped eating, he seemed to like some better choices. In his heyday, he could eat a whole tin of his favourite food. I of course would give him as much as he wanted, as he was a biggish fellow and he was never as weighty as he should have been.

Bear-Bear was a long and lanky beast, tall, with a span from nose to tail’s tip like the spread of a hawk’s wings. He was light on his feet, considering his size, and I compared his gait to that of a deer’s, rather than Josie’s brontosaurus, or Tucker, who reminds me of a manatee with legs. The BB was graceful until a week or so before he died, when he mis-stepped from time to time. His footfalls were quiet, and unlike Renn’s heavy stumping, the first intimation that Bear-Bear was present was often a quite “rao rao”, when he wanted my attention.

But, oh, what an ugly fellow he was. I would tell him that, too. “An ugly brute,” I would call him, though he never took offence. His facial colouring reminded me of a drunken clown, too inebriated to apply his make-up straight, and his pink lips were spotted with black, making it look like the end of his tongue was lolling out. But his eyes were golden and bright, and full of enthusiasm and cheer.

It was discovered that Bear-Bear had anaemia when he went for a dental operation to fight his mild gingivitis. He couldn’t take the anaesthetic, so the gingivitis stayed. It gave him bad breath. Now, I had an ugly, smelly foster-cat. Strangely, it didn’t bother me much. I probably was ugly and smelly to him; he liked me anyway. More worrying was the low number of blood cells in his body. The doctor concluded that it was either a case of his body mistakenly killing off its own blood cells, or cancer.

A long course of Prednisone initially helped raise his cell-count, but that didn’t last. We think now it was cancer. The BB retained his appetite for quite a while, though he continued to lose weight. Then he refused food except at breakfast, so I plied him with as much of whatever he would consume at that early meal. Then, he stopped eating even then. I had to feed him by syringe, something we both detested. His deterioration thereafter was rapid. He grew weak. I came home one day to find that he had pooped on the floor and wet in a cat-bed: he didn’t feel that he could manage the stairs to where the litter-boxes were kept. I moved a box upstairs, and once again, his hygiene was good. He was always conscientious about that. But he ceased grooming himself eventually.

Bear-Bear’s life in his last two weeks was confined to his heated cat-bed, with periodic trips a few feet away to the litter-box. He even stopped drinking water, which had lasted longer than his desire to eat. But he still was able to find me to tell me he wanted to sit on my lap, and at those moments, it was as if he were healthy again, so bright and glad were the sounds he made.

He died a few minutes before six o’clock, 25th February, 2014. I and a friend from the PAW Society took him to the veterinary hospital at five. First, Bear-Bear had a catheter inserted in an artery of his leg, and we spent some time with him before a tranquilizer was administered to knock him out. He was a tough one, even at this stage, because he had to have a second dose: he just wouldn’t go to sleep. When doesn’t a cat want to sleep? There were too many things left for him to do, he probably thought. He wanted on my lap. I stroked his fur, which was still smooth, and talked to him as he, eventually, abandoned consciousness. I wanted me to be the last thing he felt and heard, so that he would know I was still with him.

The lethal dose was then given. The end came very quickly after that, and he was gone. He was very limp, not at all as though he were sleeping, and his pupils had dilated to fill his eyes, making them black. His soul had departed.

I had taken pictures of him the previous weekend, the last photographs of my long-cat. He looked ravaged. I’ll never show those images to anyone. I present to you instead pictures of Bear-Bear in the glow of life. He was, perhaps, already dying, a cancer growing within him. But you wouldn’t know it. He was a happy, cheerful cat, ready each morning for a full day of eating, sleeping and gazing at the wide world. I miss him, and will until I myself die.

I can’t say farewell to Bear-Bear, because he will never leave me. His memory will remain, a little less clear each day, but always present. He is a part of my life, and will stay far more than the ten months which God kindly gave me to know him. He is a fixture in my heart.

As the BB himself would say, “Raa.”


  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. They leave such a hole in your heart when they leave us. God bless him and may he rest in peace. Hugs, Deb

  2. You've written a wonderful tribute for Bear-Bear, though I disagree with your calling him ugly. I actually think he was quite handsome, with such an endearing face. I'm glad he found his way to your home and that his last 10 months were spent with such love and care.

  3. what a wonderful tribute. please know that it isn't about the paperwork - he was your boy and he knew it. while my heart breaks for you loss, please know that there is joy too know that he found his way to you and knew a wonderful love.

  4. I'm so sorry to hear about Bear-Bear. I'm really charmed by his beauty, and I'm sure he must have been a very sweet cat as well. You were so very brave to stay with him when he had to go.

    1. I'm sorry but I can't reply to your comment on your site. In any case, I wanted to thank you for your thoughts on Bear-Bear. I wasn't brave staying with him; I wanted to, and needed to. I could not have sent him away without being there for him and with him. He was my friend.

  5. So very sorry about Bear-Bear crossing the Rainbow Bridge. What a beautiful tribute to a beautiful kitty...I love all the photos, wonderful memories...we are sending our thoughts your way.

  6. That was a most touching and loving tribute to Bear-Bear, we felt as if we really knew him. Yes, he will live in your heart forever. Hugs from all of us.

  7. Oh, Bellen and dear Bear-Bear-what a close bond you had with each other and will continue to have. Bless you for all you did for him when he needed you and all the love you will continue to share. So sorry for your loss. xx

    I also want to add that this is one of the most beautifully-written posts of a departed little loved one that I have ever read. Thank you for sharing your lives together.

    Sending our love,
    Julie, Tinker, Chopin and Anastasia

  8. What a sweet tribute. He was a special guy, and his tenth life is all of your memories of him. That will last forever.

  9. Raaa to you Bear Bear as you speed to The Bridge. What a handsome and loving boy you were. Me and The Ape are sorry that you have gone, but you couldn't have found a better home to spend this last year. This is a wonderful tribute to such a special fella.

    Sending love and purrs to all left behind

    Mungo & The Ape xx

  10. Bear-Bear was beautiful deep in his soul. You can see it shining in those eyes.
    the kitty brats send their gentlest head nudges

  11. What a lovely tribute to your Raa Bear Bear. I can feel the immense love for your BB come through all of your heart felt words. You so wisely know that he is still with you in the love you both share and how very special that he had you. You said he was lost but no he was found, by you, and your comfort,care and love sustained him when it mattered the most and carried him over to the RB where like my Abby and Gracie they play now healthy and whole in fields of catnip and chase butterflies and roam free until we can hold them again. God Speed Bear Bear, God Speed.

  12. I am so very sorry for your loss and feel your pain. You gave that sweet boy a loving home and he loved you in return. Run free sweet one. Your tribute is lovely x

  13. I came back to check because I had the feeling my comment had disappeared yesterday when I published it.
    This is a beautiful and loving tribute to Bear Bear. He may have been with you for less than a year, but that time was filled with comfort and love and he knew that he was loved and he will be missed.
    You call him ugly but I disagree. He has a handsome face full of character. My thoughts are with you in your sad loss.

  14. "rao rao" back to you, Bear-Bear. May you run free and happy at The Bridge.

  15. Such a moving tribute. Bear Bear struck oil when he came to live his last months with you. Thank you for sharing his story. Caro x

  16. To me precious boy Bear Bear was truly a handsome ManCat and his face had character just as several others said. God speed dear boy and I know you were grateful for the care and home you had and you rewarded your foster mother each day with your love.

  17. We are so, so sorry for your loss of your precious Bear Bear. Sending you our gentlest purrs. This is such a touching post and tribute and the love you had for each other is so evident through it. Thank you for sharing such a special story.

    Be Well Sweet Bear Bear

  18. Beautiful tribute for your lovely boy!

  19. I am so sorry to hear about dear Bear Bear. You gave Bear Bear much love and kindness and he went to the Bridge knowing that he was loved and cherished. A lovely tribute to a beautiful soul. We miss you Bear Bear, Eileen and Jessica the cat.

  20. I am so sorry to hear Bear-Bear has run for the Bridge. I had hoped you would have him with you for awhile longer. Even if he was never formally adopted, he had obviously adopted you.

    Such a lovely tribute to such a sweet boy. Sending thoughts of comfort your way.

    Eileen, Sasha, Sami, & Saku

  21. How wonderful Bear-Bear had you for his final human. He was let down by at least two previous owners, but you loved and appreciated him to the last - and now he's missed. The adoption might not have been formal, but he was still your cat. Hugs

  22. We came wif de mom ofur de weekend to read your Beautiful tribute to Bear Bear, but de mom got so leaky eyed we had to leave wifowt saying anythin...... ^..^ being dat 2 ov owr family went to de Bridge in less dan a year , we know how you all are feelin :(

    Your Bear Bear waz such a Beautiful & Smart boy! when de mom waz reading about how he would talk it reminded us ov Sunny, az Sunny also had quite de vocabulary! ^.,^ He had so many different inflecshunz, de mom used to *secretly* call him Mr.Tinkle Tonez! He would be horrified to hear de mom say dis publickly! ^..^

    Your Bear Bear waz such a Special boy! We are so glad you were his Special Angel and luved him so much, cauze we know he luved you furry much!
    He waz so at Peace to know he waz in your loving arms az he went to sleep......

    God Bess you ~

    Soft Purrz & {{Hugs}} frum de mom :'( ♥♥♥♥♥

  23. A wonderful story of a wonderful cat whose kind heart shone throughout. It is amazing that anyone would abandon one such as he but, the truth is, he was a gift that they may not have deserved for one reason or another. That there is pain in your heart from his illness and passing that will fade quickly and his love and character will last the long days.

    We have been reading of this fellow since he came to you and our lives are so much richer for knowing Bear Bear. Thank you for sharing your boy with us. We send prayers and purrs of support.

    Until we all meet again in the land of endless sun to play under. Where we are all forever young and in our prime. We shall see you there Bear Bear.
    Dad Pete, Timmy and Family

  24. A beautifully worded, touching tribute to Bear-Bear. You have remembered him as he should be remembered. Well done, old friend.

  25. I am so, so sorry... he sounds like a wonderful guy.