I wrote this a few weeks ago in the wake of the passing of my pet loves. At the surface, it has little to do with food or cooking, but in many ways it does. Cooking, for me, is a way of nurturing and offering love. These sweet friends gave it to me freely and continuously every day for many years. I hope in some small way it will help those dealing with grief in the loss of someone loved, pet or human. Much love, Holly
Like all great love stories, this one has elements of beauty, joy and tragedy. It is the tale of a precious dog and a cat. As their Momma, I had the pleasure of watching their story unfold for the decade it lasted.
It begins with Tann Mann. A native of Fayetteville, NC, he came home to me and Charleston at five months of age. A handsome cocker spaniel sporting a velveteen, chocolate coat and amber eyes, both playful and wise, his early years were spent sashaying around the peninsula greeting his buddies. There were many: Angus MacGregor, Scarlett, Rex, Rebel, Sister, Blue, Ivy, Bucky, Houston, Daisy, Apple, and Scout, to name a few.
By the time he was two, he spent his Friday mornings at The Ralph Johnson VA on the fourth floor with retired vets in the nursing home there. He was good at it. Patient and calm, he would sit quietly while the patients petted him, always eager to offer his signature high five. At home, most days were spent watching me cook, or very close by my side, at all times. Doggie ice cream treats and loving petting was abundant. Life was good; very good, indeed.
Enter Chutney Cat, about the time Tann Mann was in his prime at age seven. We first saw her on one of our countless walks, crouching and scared behind a bush by an old Victorian on lower Rutledge Avenue. I talked to her gently but she would not approach and scattered when I reached out to her. Two days later, she showed up in my back garden, partially hidden by an azalea. I sat on the stoop for a long time, talking with her. Finally, a can of tuna did the trick and because she didn’t have any owners I could find, she became a part of our household.
The beginning was rocky, and Chutney Cat played very hard to get with Tann Mann. She wanted very little to do with him or anyone, for that matter. Whatever trauma she had experienced, it took her six months to “come out” and really join the family. At first, for the grey, white and apricot Tortoiseshell beauty, Tann Mann was an afterthought, a pest really. There was a whole lot of swatting and hissing going on. Tann Mann would take it and just sally forth, his pride a little worse for the wear.
But, little by little, the bond formed. I’d find them rubbing noses, exchanging long glances, climbing the stairs together, sleeping back to back on my bed. We spent ten years in that house and by the time we left, Tann Mann and Chutney Cat were approaching their twilight years.
I retired Tann Mann from the VA because it was becoming too physically demanding for him and we all moved to a house in the country on James Island. Chutney Cat especially embraced her new abode, relishing the lower, broader window sills which afforded easy access garden viewing. She relinquished her former huntress ways, and instead preferred sunning and frolicking inside the screened in back porch. She loved to stare into the new gas fireplace and Tann Mann the forest view from the front door. Their pace became slower, their snoring louder, and their back-to- back sleeping pose longer. They both loved to watch me cook, Tann Mann from under the coffee table and Chutney Cat from her favorite sofa perch, Tann Mann’s chocolate button nose often sniffing to inhale the aromas.
These were such happy days. It seemed like they would last forever. But sadly, they came to an end, or at least a new kind of beginning. Now fourteen and a half years old, Tann Mann got sick over the course of a few weeks and when he was finally diagnosed, I had to release him to death. He died in my arms with a cascade of love surrounding him. The goodbye was intensely difficult for me, as Tann Mann was my soul mate dog. I returned home to Chutney Cat, hoping we would enjoy many more days together where I could spoil her with one-on-one love.
But, this was not to be, either. Starting the very first day Tann Mann did not come home, Chutney Cat started slipping away. First, sleeping in his bed or other new places that he favored, increasing her sleeping time to practically full time and by the sixth day she stopped eating, which was one of her favorite things. Even tuna fish wouldn’t do the trick. At first I thought she was grieving, but a trip to the vet proved that sixteen year-old Chutney Cat was also terminally ill with a cancer that couldn’t be fixed. She died in my arms, her sweet head on my right forearm, eyes closed, purring and almost relieved.
While she and I were grieving together, I observed Chutney Cat a lot. Her eyes would open wide at times, as if she was seeing or sensing something I couldn’t. Maybe it was Tann Mann, maybe it was pain, or maybe just a broken heart.
While my heart remains broken for my departed and cherished loved ones, it gives me joy that they found true love not only on this earth, but also in Heaven. True loves, even or especially when shared between animals, is everlasting. They taught me that, perhaps their greatest gift of all.
Thank you, my darlings and sweet, sweet dreams. God bless.
Tann Mann December 24, 2002 – April 5, 2016
Chutney Cat birthdate unknown, 2000 – April 12, 2016
Much gratitude to the love, compassion and care provided by the staff at Ohlandt Veterinary Clinic and Charleston Veterinary Referral Clinic (West Ashley).