Our Sweet Buddy Dylan – June, 1999 to July 8th, 2019
A Tribute to a Friend by Niagara At Large reporter and publisher Doug Draper
Posted Monday, July 8th, 2019 on Niagara At Large
As I write this, I am feeling empty. And I’m feeling a little afraid that I am going to key in some words that are way too maudlin and trite for a cat who seemed so wise and who composed himself with such quiet dignity.
I woke up at about 7 a.m. this Monday (July 8th) morning and there was Dylan’s head, resting in the usual place, on the pillow right next to me with one difference. This time, he did not make a move to get up as he also always did when he saw me stir, to lead me to the place where I would fill his bowl with food.
Dylan had just turned 20 this June and he was getting pretty slow, as old guys do, and this Monday morning that beautiful heart of his just decided to give out.
I have been through this dreaded experience before with beloved cats in our home. Woody was about 13 or 14 years old when he died more than a decade ago and his sister, Jessica, lived a few years longer.
It probably sounds a little selfish to say something I have found myself saying when my wife and daughter and I lose a beloved cat or one of our friends loses a much loved cat or dog – that the only problem with these wonderful characters is that they don’t live long enough, as if they should always be there for us.
Yet here I was this morning, saying it again even though we were fortunate to have Dylan make it to 20, roughly five years longer than the life expectancy of the average domestic cat.
The extra few years doesn’t offer much in the way of consolation though, at least not right now while Dylan’s passing is so raw.
Anyone who has been fortunate enough to have a cat in their lives knows how attached they become (the “aloof” business only counts when you are a stranger) and how smart they are when it comes to understanding so much of what the significant humans around them do and say.
There are studies that show that with time, a domestic cat can come to understand at least a few hundred words in the vocabulary of whatever language their humans are speaking, and can comprehend whole sentences if they hear them long enough.
Well before Dylan turned 20, I am sure that “the white guy,” as we sometimes fondly called him, understood just about every word and sentence we spoke that mattered. And in my case, since I am the one he became most glued to during the last half of his life, he got to know my movements so well that I am almost certain that he knew what I was going to do next before I decided to do it.
Dylan was one cat who believed in meeting you right in the eyes and when you looked at him, he always looked so interested and wise. So much so that if I were thinking out loud while working on a story or a column, I might look over at him and say; “So what do you think, buddy? Do you think that will work?”
Our daughter Sarah, now in her late 20s, was still in grade school when she decided we should have another cat and adopted Dylan from a young woman with some kittens to give away in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
So we have been through so much in our lives with Dylan in our home, job-wise, school-wise and otherwise, and through all the ups and downs, he was always there with his unqualified love and friendship.
And now, suddenly, everything but the warm feelings and memories is gone, and I get back to the feeling of emptiness I woke up to this Monday before I started writing this.
An hour or so after I got up this morning and things began to sink in, I walked on the patio and looked up at the sky through the branches of a maple tree in our backyard.
This may sound a little trite, but there was an old wooden bird feeder hanging from one of the branches in that tree and Dylan, who was mostly an indoor cat who never was a trained hunter, would sometimes sit on the green grass right under that feeder waiting for birds.
Being as white as he was, he would shine down on the ground like a beacon, and my father, who died a few years ago, would chuckle at this while it looked like Dylan was trying to figure out what happened to the birds he could always see flocking to the feeder when he was inside the house, watching through a window.
“Maybe he is hoping a bird will fly right down into his mouth,” my father would say.
Of course, the birds were perched in higher branches of the trees, waiting for Dylan to go away.
The birds won’t have to wait for Dylan to leave any longer.
Goodbye buddy. We sure are going to miss you.
Doug Draper, Niagara At Large
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