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FIRST CHECKUP
July 24, 2007
 
Now, how old is Kitten? the vet assistant asked.

Well, we don't know, really, I answered. Maybe eight weeks? He just showed up, maybe three weeks ago, so we don't really know his age.

That's okay. The doctor can tell by looking at his teeth. Did you bring a stool sample?

Um, no. This is the first time we've ever really caught him, except to see if he was a boy or a girl. So we don't really even know where he answers nature's call.

Oh, well. Try to get one for next time.


I said I would try.

Taking Kitten for his first vet visit was fun. Expensive fun, but enjoyable nonetheless. Catching him was fun, too: we lured him into the kitchen and then shut the door, leaving him to explore the downstairs on his own. Ben came in and out a few times to hiss at him.

I'd cool it if I were you, Ben, I said, shooing him out of the kitchen as Kitten watched. Very, very soon, he's going to grow into someone who's bigger and younger than you.

Kitten weighed in at a surprising 4.6 pounds and is twelve weeks old, not eight. Not surprisingly, he had fleas, ear mites and worms, and all these afflictions are now in his past. He discovered that being cuddled isn't nearly as bad as getting an injection, and stayed inside with us all night. He found the scratching post Ben has never bothered to explore and dragged it out from under the dresser. He stalked and captured one of Q's shoes. Towards morning, I heard him hiss back at Ben, who weighs three times what he does. At breakfast, Ben -- no doubt thinking ahead to his golden years -- walked away from his dish and let Kitten have his food. Now they are both outside, along with everybody else.

Do you miss Kate? I asked Q as we drove home. Still? Even with Kitten?

Yes,
he said immediately. He was Kate's great love, and she was his first cat, an amazing fact, considering that Q was 57 years old when they met.

Oh, cats! Kitten weighs about what dear old Kate weighed at the end of her life, when she dwindled to little more than fur and bones. Only Kitten is at the beginning, not the end; he will gain an ounce or two every day, will become strong and sinewy and fast -- he's already pretty fast, and surprisingly strong when we play with his favorite length of string and he tries to pull it from my hands.

It is not disloyal to the beloved dead to love those who come after them, and to find comfort and joy in them. They have taught us to love, those who have gone on before, and the memory of the joy we took in them makes us want that joy again. Even if the price of joy is high, as it always is -- we must always purchase it, at the end, with the pain of its loss.
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