Bacchus, my muse, has gone to college.
Some call it rainbow bridge, but we prefer to think that maybe, just maybe, he’ll come back to visit one day. Either way, we’re heartbroken because he was only a youthful and spirited 10 year old -60 in human years.
It was way too soon, and completely unfair on all accounts. We did all that we could to find an answer to Baccharoo’s auto immune deficiency and severe anemia. We had the best internists working on a relief to his plight and his little body fought so hard.
We want to take the time to thank Dr. Kevin Monce and his team for working every angle and overturning every rock to find a combination that worked best for Bacchus. I also want to thank our personal vet, Kate Bush, for her assistance through Bacchus’ life and college orientation.
Bacchus* the Purrminator
Bacchus was such a happy cat. Once he tumbled out of the crate with his brother at six weeks, he was delighted to have arrived.
“Ta-dah! I’m heeeeere!”
Bacchus began purring and didn’t stop until an hour before he got on the eight o’clock train for college. Kate was always trying to get him to stop as she’d pause the stethoscope on his chest. Running water or a tap on the nose, the cat would not stop purring. His beautiful terracotta nose outlined in black with strong white whiskers vibrated loudly. When hanging out in our bedroom, his purring under the bed would shake it fiercely. We joked that we didn’t need the quarter when we had a vibrating cat.
I want to write/illustrate a book titled, “Something Under the Bed is Purring.”
*Bacchus chose his name immediately by running over to Andrew’s wine rack and frolicking among the bottles.
As if driving paper bags across the wooden floor, chasing balls or humping his brother wasn’t enough, Bacchus became a thief. While we spent our first time in London together, the boyz as kittens spent a week at Gramma’s house; they had never visited the house before in their little lives. Bacchus promptly trotted back to Andrew’s old room, stole a long armed monkey from the bed and began dragging it through the house. Needless to say, this monkey came home with him.
Many times, I would awake in the middle of night to a sound I thought was an intruder with a bad walk dragging his leg through the house.
“What the hell is that?!” I’d whisper.
“Oh, that’s just Bacchus!” Andrew replied.
“Christ Cat!” I’d say between heart palpitations, dropping my head back on the pillow.
“Ka-thump!” Suddenly, there he was on the bed, with a mauled and mangey monkey. On the opposite end of his long arm, Monkey’s face had adopted a blank stare looking toward the ceiling, hoping the Tabby kitten would soon leave him to rest. Hauling him around the house like a security blanket, Bacchus had adopted Monkey as his buddy.
Mousies as Kittens
Eighteen months later, just one week after we were married to be exact, we rescued 4 kittens. Four week old choplickers that needed to be bottle fed and nurtured, Bacchus became a maternal figure. I knew Bacchus wanted a buddy because his brother had connected with Eros, leaving Bacchus alone. I thought these kittens would help Bacchus connect and we decided to keep two: Chardonnay and Pip.
Now with five adult cats in the house, Bacchus no longer had kittens to herd. So he decided to herd his soft faux-fur catnip mousies as his own. For the rest of his days, he could be heard throughout the house meowing with a mouse in his mouth like a mama kitty moving her babies. He’d drop the mousey and curl up around it. He’d never tear into it or kick it with his back feet as cats often do when they maul their prey. Bacchus would just hang near it and protect it. Naturally, we had to give Bacchus lots of lovin’ and tell him what a good boy he was when he had mousey.
One day, Bacchus was given a peacock feather as a gift. When we brought it home to him, he examined it and began making the same mamakitty sounds he made with mousies. With the snap of a finger, Bacchus broke feather and then, get this, began spinning around the room with it. Biting the naked end of the feather, he’d chase the feather end like a carrot on a stick.
Bacchus: Beyond Mimcry
Our handsome, meowthy spottylipped tabby cat was the most affable, sarcastic, talkative being known to us. His humor knew no bounds and his happiness immeasurable.
I’ve never known a cat (and I’ve had many) that had abstract thought beyond the typical human 18 month equivalent. Bacchus could tell time, instigate a practical joke, and bark at us when we didn’t laugh. He loved to tease and be teased in returned.
And yes, cats do bark. We nicknamed him ‘Barkus.’ I thought of opening a wine bar called the ‘Barking Bacchus.’
I love animals as much as people love babies. I respond the same way with the ohhs and ahhs. Kittens are not safe around me when it comes to passing out love. I’ll pick up a few of them, scratch them all over their little bodies and kiss their heads. Smooch! Smooch! Smooch!
Frequently, I told my cats that I would kiss the stuffing right out of them because they were to GD cute. Of course, they hate it. They’d get that expression like kids do on the playground when mom insists on giving them a peck goodbye. Smooch! Smooch! Smooch!
They would only want to play and I would only want to smooch. They scamper away and I’d run after them shouting, “Get back here! I want to love you!!”
Bacchus was different. He loved it. I smooched him so much as a kitten that one day, he returned the favor. One afternoon, Bacchus approached me when I was sitting and touched his mouth on my knee. He touched it again several times with a pecking motion then rubbed his face against it. This is similar to the way I’d kiss him on the cheek then give him a hug.
Was this mimcry or was it a display of affection?
Songwriting and Singing
Bacchus loved it when I sang to him songs crafted specially for him. Silly of course, based on tunes we all know. Bolding purring, he’d roll over on his back exposing his white belly and curl his head under while smiling and reaching out with one paw.
Bah-ka-lock-a-ding-dong Song (Based on Going to the Chapel of Love)
Bah-ka-lock-a-ding-dong Hey Yay, Hey Yay
In the Tabby Cat way-hey.
You are my ding dong Baby,
And I don’t mean maybe.
You are my ding dong Kitty,
And you must stay hey yay yay
Tabby Cat (Based on Lollipop)
Tabby Cat, Tabby Cat,
You are my Tabby Cat
Tabby Cat! (add mouth pop at the end)
Bacchus: Quality Control
When we’d make architectural design changes to the house, he’d critique them –almost harshly– as though we had intentionally not given him an opportunity to give us input on the design. When I decided my home office needed to be upgraded, we sequestered the cats, including Bacchus, in a separate room to keep them free from harm as we were installing the cabinets. Walking across the new horse-shoe counter, he’d look around, pause, and bark. He’d turn to us in disgust and bark. He showed us his irritation like a disenfranchised engineer when ever he wasn’t included. Bark. Bark. Bark.
Bacchus grew to love the new office space. We all realized that he grew within the confines of any space, like carp do, and would seize it at any opportunity. The well-worn phrase turned from Carpe Diem to Carp-a-Diem (seize the space), and he did.
Bacchus the Assistant
Today, I half expect Bacchus to jump up and interrupt my thoughts and typing, but he doesn’t. Bacchus has always known me to work from home and he was never left alone; he never left me alone either. Bacchus was definitely ‘mama’s boy’ and shadowed me constantly in my daily work as an artist and designer.
Truthfully, he was a major distraction and he knew it. He insisted on being with me, finding a spot on my journal and papers next to my keyboard, his big eyes looking up at me as his head rested on my working hand, purring and kneading the air. When I’d vacate my chair, he was there. When I’d vacate my drawing table, he was sprawled across my projects. Nothing in my studio was sacred.
We nicknamed him ‘El Destructo.’
In the evenings, he’d take turns on our laps, purring and smiling as we watched TV. He’d help me clumsily poor wine into glasses by nudging the bottle with his nose. Often I’d hear myself saying, “No Bacchus, please don’t help.”
Suddenly, a party foul ensued with wine all over the end table and he wouldn’t leave my lap. It’s as though he weighted his center like a fuzzy anvil daring me to clean the mess while being saddled with him as an imposition. Andrew knew to keep extra towels on his side so that he could hand them to me as I balanced a cat, a dripping bottle, and an expense wine glass over his fuzzy, fat head.
The entire time, Bacchus is purring and barking whilst I clean. I swear he was laughing at us.
Bacchus the Insistent
When the day retired into evening, Bacchus would stir and begin pestering me in the studio at 4:30. He knew I had the habit of saying, “One more line of code to fix,” or “let me paint just this last section,” so he got wise and began pestering me earlier to make the 6 o’clock Splash Time.**
Pacing back and forth from my studio to the kitchen and back. Jumping up on my keyboard, walking back and forth in front of the monitor on my drawing tablet, sitting on my desk, pawing at my shoulder and getting a nail stuck in my sweater. I’d start with, “Bacchus, stop!” and continue with, “Andrew! Call Bacchus.” I’d hear Andrew in the living room, “Bacchus! Come leave mama alone.” Bacchus wouldn’t budge. He’d look at me and say “Meh!” in the cutest possible way. Each “Meh!” melted my heart.
As we chose our wine for the evening, we’d have him approve it. He was the namesake to the Roman God of wine, afterall. Upon opening the bottle and raising our glass for the evening toast, Bacchus would position himself behind me on the counter and tap my shoulder. Turning around to acknowledge him, he’d respond with, “Meh! Meh!” It’s almost sounded like he was saying, “Me! Me!”
When we’d leave the house to run an errand around 6, he’d get peeved. I swear he’d look at the clock, watch us putting on our coats and bark in disgust, “Don’t you know what time it is? It’s Splash Time!!” As we walked out the door, he’d jump up on the round grass ottoman, lay down with great reluctance with facial expression that read, “Damn humans.”
**Splash Time was initiated many years ago when Eros, our late cat had to eat wet food to keep his weight up. When one cat eats, they all eat!
Bacchus: the Fat Kid on the Playground
Squat & Gobble
Andrew says the silly alpha was like the fat kid on playground: Gobble his lunch at breakfast then shoulder his way through the lunchroom eating everyone else’s sandwiches.
I remember one day when we had pizza delivered from Lilly’s in Raleigh. The girl who approached the open door as Bacchus walked by exclaimed, “Oh yah! You’re the house with the giant cat!” Our response? “Nice, Bacchus. What a great legacy to leave!”
We learned we had to feed him his wet food in a bowl as it would take him longer than cleaning a plate –imagine that! Kate recommended that we scatter his dry food across a long platter to make him work for it and keep him from mowing through it. He went from a hefty 22 pounds to a healthy 16 pounds with that technique.
After accidentally dropping an ice cube on the floor, Bacchus immediately jumped on the opportunity to investigate. Goofy cat. We found that he loved ice cubes and were taught that ice cubes in any glass were not safe. We could no longer enjoy drinks in pretty glasses, we had to adopt covered sippy cups to prevent Bacchus from helping himself and breaking our expensive tumblers.
As soon as he heard an ice cube drop to the kitchen floor, Bacchus appeared out from no where. He’d run to the big silver box in the kitchen when he heard the ice maker being pushed. Since, we had to obey his command and fill a bowl of ice cubes just for him.
Bacchus: the Old Soul
I believe pets are a direct link to humanism. Often I’d ask our cats if they knew how lucky they had it? I’d tell them that I wished all kitties and dogs had the same life we had because they were all special and deserved to be loved well.
I believe the universe has souls match up to enjoy life and each other until they have to part.
Because Pablo and Clawed died (just weeks before Bacchus was born) prematurely from Feleuk and didn’t have a chance to enjoy life as well as they could have, I wonder if they bundled their souls into Bacchus, creating a new evolved life that became my muse?
If so, Bacchus knew and was simply happy to be alive.
Back on a warm evening in May, Andrew and I were cuddled up watching a movie with the lights on low. The cats were scuffling behind us and I got up to check on them; Andrew remained on the loveseat. I turned my back and one of our wooden dowls that we use to clean out toys from under the armoire, fell. Just fell.
For some silly reason, Andrew claimed no one was around it and it wasn’t his fault. We never talk about ‘whose fault it is’ in this house. Like a frying pan against the head, I realized that it was a sign: Someone very close to use was going to die within six months.
In my family, when a stick falls, someone dies. I told him and he while he remained quiet, I could sense his disbelief as he shifted his body to comprehend the news. Like the animated town cryer in Corpse Bride, I felt compelled to share the message, as devastating as it may be.
“I don’t know when, but we’re gonna get a phone call.”
After Bacchus had endured bone marrow removal from both shoulders in September, we began treatment for his anemia. A few weeks into the treatment, October arrived and I found myself delivering grave news to Andrew over the phone, “Bacchus just died.”
It was a dream of course. In many cases, dreams truncate and cull the extraneous news into simple, iconic messages. One sunny morning, I found myself calling Andrew at work from the dry bar with the crushing news. I usually make calls from within my studio. The dream continues as I turn around, the sun is streaming through the window and Chardonnay is resting on the back of the loveseat. Moments like this are rare.
Tuesday, when I called Andrew at work to tell him the latest results of Bacchus’ CBC reading, I turned just as I had in my dream. Reality had just swept through with a crushing blow. There was nothing more that we could do. This was the end of Bacchus’ era. Tears streamed and I began wailing like a lost orphan.
Bacchus was irresistible, courageous, and soulful. I will be forever changed.
Good Night, Sweet Prince
Now that Bacchus’ little body has passed, I know he’ll find me again. I’ll get to pick him up, carry him around my shoulder, squeeze his little teddy body tight and run my fingers through his fur, and… he will purr once more.
Dearest Raucous Bacchus,
No matter how much weight you gained or lost, you were always a beautiful cat. No matter how much weight I gained or lost, you still showed me undying affection. You taught me that regardless of health issues, lost partnerships, a bad economy, or bad hair days, I could always count on enjoying simple moments with you.
Your feline elegance continues as a legacy and I hope my calligraphic interpretation does justice to your beauty. As my muse, I hope that together we can continue to bring warmth and joy to all pets and humans for the rest of our days.
May your life be filled with wine bottles to play among, a never-ending supply of catnip on newsprint, ice cubes overflowing in every bowl, stuffed animals to drag around, peacock feathers to spin, break, and bring onto the bed, and feet to rub your sharp toothies against.
Now that you have found a permanent place in my soul, and I can’t wait to meet you again one day.
Good Night, Sweet Prince.
Mama loves you.
We loved him well.
You Had Me at Meow
It’s going to be a tough week.
The house is quiet and still.
Both Cheshire and Chardonnay each claim their sunny spot during the day that unfortunately, is not with me in my studio. Splash Time is completely underwhelming as the two arrive quietly into the kitchen. Silence breaks only for a brief moment with an occasional hiss I hear coming from Chardonnay. They’ve never been friends. I doubt that will change even with my Alpha Cat gone.
Chardonnay is a wicked smart cat and our security guard, who insists on herding Cheshire. I feel woefully sad for Cheshire. While he and Bacchus grew apart, he remains the last of the 3WiseCats, and a soul that’s never been a cat before. He’s going to need a tremendous amount of TLC (we both will) and perhaps -I hope- he’ll claim my lap in the evenings.
Bear Hugs to All Your Furry Family Members,
Lisa and Andrew