We have been blessed with a number of fabulous cats in this lifetime together – Robin Goodfellow, Pandora, Bela, Ram, Cleo-catra, Nefferkitty, Magic, Esmeralda Pananoia, and my darling Lyra Deara. All wonderful and special and deserving of a novel enumerating their personal and fascinating feline tales.
We still tear up remembering Bela’s too early demise under a speeding car and Rammy’s sweet brrrrp’s and the way he lined up the tails and feet of dusky footed wood rats as an offering each day. And Esme’s gentleness and unrequited love for her magnificent brother, Magic, who was the Prince. And Lyra, our alien child, who came to us with her little nose pressed against the door pane, twerping with angst and delight at finally finding humans who would rescue her from the cruel outer world.
But none were like Cosmo who, for almost twenty years, was one of “the three of us.”
I’ve written about him in the past. Of how, as a kitten, when I waded up a small piece of paper and threw it in the hopes that he would amuse himself while I read my book, he flew after it, only to bring it immediately back and drop it at my feet. Waiting to have it thrown again. And again. And again. And frequently throughout his lifetime.
How, up into his elder years he loved to play tag – hiding behind furniture and running out to swat me with a paw. Running back to hide and waiting until I snuck up and swatted back. And on and on.
How he understood the English language so that we would spell out words like t-r-e-a-t in case he heard.
How he immediately came running when you called his name, even when engaged with a bit of tomfoolery two blocks away. And liked to ride in the car on errands.
How he slept snuggled against my chest with his head tucked under my chin.
When he had a stroke at 19, flailing and crying out, we panicked. And when his kidneys began to fail a week later, we knew what we had to do. We sat with him as the doctor stuck in the fatal injection and he collapsed, frantically confused and gone in too much hurry and disarray.
I need not describe the sorrow and grief that followed.
But in time, T.M. (“That Man,” known as Bob in Minnesota) began to talk of another cat. I resisted and changed the subject. He persisted and I countered. Now we could take little trips. No one could replace Cosmo. We would always be comparing. It wouldn’t be fair to the newcomer.
Finally, he made the definitive argument. He needed a cat in his life. Given that he had turned 80 this year, and given that the life of a cat should coincide now with his, it might be the last one. Whether you called it blackmail or a dying wish, I had met my match.
And so he began to scan the inter-net for candidates. We agreed that it must not be a Burmese (too close for comparison purposes) but we both preferred the “meeses” – the siams, the tonkas, the burmas – and we would like to adopt and not purchase an expensive fancy breed that was bred but not raised by caged parents. The kitten must be highly socialized and we must immediately a-tune to his special-ness. A thoughtful and time-consuming procedure it must be. And I relaxed. And occasionally checked-in and commented.
The day Major Bud’s photo appeared on a rescue/foster cat site, I gave him more than a casual glance. “All right, all right,” I conceded. “We can go look at him. But we absolutely must both have an undeniable feeling of connection. He must seem special in the way that when all the litter came running into the room, we instantly knew that Cosmo was ‘the one.’ We can’t just decide that because we drove all that way (two hours) that we shouldn’t go home empty handed. Promise?”
Major Bud and his brother Captain Winky had been dropped at the end of a farm road and rescued by the veterinarian who started an organization named PAWS, short for Pets Abandoned Wanting Support. Winky had lost one eye (hence the name) and was awaiting reconstructive surgery, but they were both highly socialized, living uncaged at the veterinarian/home with three other foster cats and five permanent residents, running free among the comings and goings of other cats and dogs and people. The brothers were part Russian Blue with just a trace of tabby markings showing through their tail fur. They were adorable.
Years before I had planned to name my Lyra Loki, after the Norse trickster, before I discovered she was a girl. Now the name would be perfect, I thought, for a young male who was wonderfully naughty and sweetly self-confident. Until everyone we told about the christening decision mentioned a brother or a friend or a neighbor with a cat named Loki. What was going on, I thought? Is it a Minnesotan, we’re all Norwegian and barely three degrees away from Asgaard sort of thing? But, no. I Googled it and discovered that Loki is now one of the favorite cat names in the country and it’s all because of that Action Adventure TV phenomenon “Thor” – Loki, of course, being a major player. And never wanting to be a copy-cat, or own one, I knew that would never do.
And so the search began. And I was now the one scanning the inter-net by the hour, for I truly believe in the significance and magic of names. Think of Runplestiltskin. Or the ancient belief that the name of God is so potent it must not be spoken aloud. Or that children should be baptized quickly so that fairies aren’t free to steal them and replace them with foundling babies.
To name something is to give it power and to imbrue it with an essential and specific quality. Plus the name must roll off the tongue in a pleasing manner.
I began with angels because I discovered that Russian Blues were originally called Archangel cats. But Raphael, Gabriel, Urial were a bit too serious and formal. And although T.M. liked Ariel and pointed out that it wasn’t especially a girl’s name in antiquity, and actually represented Prospero’s male spirit in “The Tempest,” I not only thought it sounded feminine, but it was now horribly tied into a popular, post Uncle Walt, Disney movie which stupidly tied a mermaid with a name that didn’t sound like the sea! Not to mention that it also was a Cartoon Action Adventure phenomenon.
Despite needing to circumvent Loki, I next moved onto Nordic names after discovering that the Russian Blue provenance was just as much associated with Finland as Russia. But after considering Asbjorn, Baldur, Snorri, and Finngad, I decided to move on again. We could do better. (No offense Oh Great and Noble Odin.)
At this point we decided to simply call him Buddy for the time being. It was a sweet name, it rolled off the tongue, and it was a diminutive of his listed foster name – Major Bud. To make it more interesting I tried Buddy Blue. Not bad. Buddy Boy. Ugh. No, we said, let’s sleep on it. It will come. But I am impatient and still I scanned the inter-net – foxes (which his face somewhat resembled) in literature, mystical names, elf names, Shakespearean names. Peaseblossom? Cobweb!
One morning, as I chided him for being a “Monkey Button” (the epithet my grandmother had given to naughty children) it occurred to me that most of our cat names had included that modifier, as in Cosmo Button, Magic Button, Esme Button. And, as he might be the last in the lineage, he could be “the” Button. And for his formal name, he would be Button-Bright, for the boy in the Oz books who had many adventures, including at one point having his head changed into that of a fox.
We tried it out. And for whatever reason, it worked. And like the boy who had many adventures, I suspect that Button Bright has only just begun.