Tico was killed by a coyote last week. Even as I type this I have to hold back the tears of a pet remembered. When I explain to my friends that my cat was killed; the words don’t capture the depth of pain and love I have for that particular cat named Tico. I want to find that perfect explanation to convey just what type of cat Tico was and why I miss him so. Ultimately the explanation is in the experience and not in the word. But I will try to explicate the experience. What follows is a cathartic reminiscing of black on white to help you understand that Tico was an original, not easily duplicated; and maybe, glean some theological, metaphysical and anthropological significance along the way.
Tico was not an outdoor cat, his idiosyncrasies would not allow that. An 11-13 lb. Himalayan who was occasionally confused for a raccoon in dim light. He couldn’t run fast or far, he had a high jump of 4.2 feet. He had no interest in objects that crawl, slither or scurry, and if you placed him among the bears on my bed you’d be hard pressed to distinguish between fabricated and factual. I would tell Cathy that we could leave him at the San Diego Zoo, placard an exotic feline name for him on his enclosure, and he would pass as one of those rare cats found somewhere in the Amazonian jungle. When Tico would jump that 4.2 vertical feet he wouldn’t arch his body up and over the obstacle and land like a butterfly lighting on a twig. He would first hit the side of the object, front two paws grasping at the edge desperately trying to sustain his sizable girth from plummeting off the edge, and use his popeye forearms to haul himself, rear paws scrambling forth, up and over the edge of said obstacle. IF he made it he would then have to rest a moment to continue on wherever he thought he should be. There was a time when we were over at my parent’s home when Tico executed this maneuver onto a low antique hutch. The resulting crash against the hutch effected a rush of adrenaline within my father causing him to bolt out of his semi-slumber in a hurried rush to get to the door because surely the house must be collapsing.
Tico was amenable. You could place him in a tub, wash him, clip his nails and brush his hair with no fear of being scratched or bitten and hardly a peep of objection apart from one or two throaty, warbly, blue eyed meows. Unbelievably, you could tell him to stay in the tub when you needed to get something and he would stay. And … he was fearless, which may have been what did him in. Nothing scared him, dogs, other cats, people. He would just saunter through circumstances, disinterest evident in his eyes and his posture, like a king being carried above his people. He didn’t like milk, he didn’t like tuna, he didn’t like chicken, he didn’t like wet food at all; he liked IAMS small chunk for less active cats. For the most part he didn’t cuddle except when we went on car trips, which was frequent. On trips his preferred spot was on the driver’s lap away from the riff-raff in the back otherwise known as dogs. Oh yeah, he would also walk on a leash with one of our parrots perched on his back although he didn’t like that either. He didn’t like toys except a 6 inch rubber strip affectionately named “Mr. Thingie”. He did like “Mr. Thingie” but most of all he liked to sit and watch stuff. The world go by, that is what Tico liked, “the world go by.” He was an observer not a participant.
car.jpgThat same week I purchased a new-used car. A Scion Xb , “the box”, “the toaster”, “the microwave” named “Nanobus”. He’s a swell little car, leather interior, cool lights, sunroof, shiny wheels, DVD player, and I’d like to think a “chick magnet” if I wasn’t married. Maybe not a chick magnet but I do get noticed in it. Maybe a “chick curiosity”. And that’s about it. Nanobus has no real personality, he has no idiosyncrasies that a replacement part couldn’t fix, he has no desires, no needs, no interests, no concerns, no personality apart from what I anthropomorphize. In fact he is not a he at all. He is an it. And it cost a lot more than Tico did. Nanobus neither observes nor participates, it just is.
Nanobus could be cloned. He’s fairly extra-ordinary, but not one of a kind unique. If I had the money I could purchase an exact replica of Nanobus right down to the scratch in his left rear door-well. Therefore we would have Nanobus 1 and Nanobus 2.
Tico could also be cloned through Genetic Savings and Clone based in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The details are not of interest yet but suffice it to say in both our cases we could have a clone either of a cat or a car, but what would the difference be in the nature of the two? I think it could be agreed upon by most that if Tico was cloned the resulting cat is not Tico, he has a twin and a twin is not a Tico as Nanobus 2 is not Nanobus 1. But what is the difference?
If you answered “Life”, I would then ask, “What is life?”, since this answer still leaves the question to be begged. To help think about this a bit more clearly we can ask ourselves another question. What is required for a thing to be an observer, or rather more accurately, what is required for a thing to have awareness? I am interested in your answers before I offer my answer; so here is where I take advantage of the interactive nature of this medium called the Internet. Please email your responses to tom AT kaleochurch DOT com. (Remove the AT and DOT and replace both with an @ and a period, respectively.)
Please limit your answers to a few sentences, no more than a paragraph long, and include what you think your presuppositions or bias’ are in answering the question. Address the subject line as “Tico”. I will post and comment on those answers that I think may be helpful or add clarity, including those I disagree with. My responses and answer will be posted next month.
The answer to this question will help explain why it can be right and proper to cry for an animal and why it is cracked and fatuous to weep at the loss of a car.