|Ding (August 2012-22 February 2017)|
In 2012 there still stood across the end of our short street a jackfruit tree, under which garbage were heaped for collectors to pick up. That's also where newborn kittens were thrown, their cries for hunger and warmth unheeded by commuters waiting for rides to work. One August morning, just after habagat Gener, the
non-typhoon which was almost as destructive as Ondoy, Leena heard such piercing cries emanating from one wet skin-and-bones creature in the trash pile, awaiting the garbage crew or sometime crawling out, to be crushed by the wheels of sporting jeepney drivers. Calling home, Leena asked Neneng to get the kitten and see what can be done. That was how Ding joined our family of many pets -- four dogs, a big aquarium full of fishes, one bird in a cage, and several Ragdolls, friendly Maine Coon Cordell, three Belgians, Persian MauMau, British Shorthair Ruby and kitten Silver, and uncountable rescue cats, strays and occasional visitors to our dirty kitchen, where food is always available for all.
Neneng wrapped the thin, wet and hungry kitten in a cloth to stop her shivering. The strong rain must have prevented the garbage crew from coming and throwing the cat into oblivion. We did not want to think how many days and nights the kitten was soaked, wailing in the night, and if he had siblings whose strength and cries were slowly muffled and finally silenced, their arrival unrecorded. Neneng took one of the small feeding bottles in the kitchen, filled it with lukewarm water and milk, and cradled the kitten while it eagerly sucked the lifegiving nourishment. We wondered, briefly, if the mother cat survived the strong monsoon rains; we let the thought pass: we can only do so much.
The naming ritual followed. Neneng usually took the convenient way of naming the rescued kittens by the months they joined the family, so we have April (female), May or Mimi, JunJun, July, Steve (for September). But that August the big event was the big monsoon rain that hit Luzon, so the new kid became Gener; but Melay remarked that Gener was sort of baduy, so the name was adjusted to Ding. By the manner the ginger-and-white kitten emptied the bottle, Ding
apparently was at the point of starvation, shown by the the ribs
sticking out of his frail body. Becoming a surrogate mother to a kitten is arduous: it entails bringing the baby bottle to the kitten every two hours, including getting up several times at night, until the day the little one can eat solid food. After a few weeks Ding's flesh rounded out; at
night he nestled on Neneng's neck for warmth and blissful sleep.
Kittens, or any other creatures for that matter, are good-natured and trusting at birth; their environment later would determine if they remain so. A cat, or a boy child, growing up in the street, fighting others for scraps of food, would become tough, sneaky, fleet, defensive and mistrustful. Theft becomes a mode of survival; so does the ability to dodge rocks aimed at them, to escape from boys, armed with pipes or slingshots, hunting them for fun. Cats have earned the undeserved reputation of being scratchers, but streetkids have the same disposition -- always ready for flight and, if necessary, for a fight with whatever weapon is at hand: an improvised knife (instead of claws), teeth, and agility to hit and run. Cats who grew up with people who invariably treated tham gently, gave them treats, delighted them with strokes and tickled their chins have learned to trust people, expecting the same treatments from visitors. And, as children do, they play a lot, unconcerned with breed, color of skin, gender or family background. Grownup humans have a lot to learn from children and other creatures we share this Earth with. Play consists of running, skipping, jumping, hiding, wrestling, light bites, playful exchange of punches -- all over the house. Since we started having cats, all vases, bottles and anything they can topple and break have become just memories. Our unfulfilled wish is that none in our menagerie becomes a memory.
As the days and years passed, Ding learned to roam with the other foundlings and strays throughout the neighborhood, coming home to eat for a while then jumping on the fence and did whatever cats do all afternoon. When the sun went down Neneng would go to the dirty kitchen and call the cats home -- Ding! JunJun! Pogi! Bai! Steve! Lord! Bas! (named after Leena's editor colleague). And the tin roofs all around would rumble with running feet headed for home. By the time the moon glowed big and silver, the cats settled in their appointed niche and slumbered while we humans read or watched TV. Early next morning Ding would softly stroll on the edge of the wall separating our house and the neighbor's and off he would go, scouring our neighborhood which cats know more than human residents do.
|Ding and Jango playing tag 2012|
Three weeks ago, Ding did not respond to Neneng's call, a deviation from routine, which puzzled her. Neneng searched for him next day, calling his name. Ding appeared, slipping under our neighbor's gate. He seemed all right -- no sign of injury, no limp, body sleek and clean. Neneng offered him food; she became slightly worried when Ding scarcely touched the kibbles and barely lapped the water in the bowl. The following day, when Ding stopped partaking food nor water, Neneng reported the problem to Leena. After having gone through many cases involving cats, Leena easily recognized trouble and immediately brought Ding to Animal House in Cubao. After examining Ding, the doctor confined him to bed, where an IV tube was inserted in Ding's vein so liquid food would sustain him. A catheter enabled Ding to expel the urine which his damaged kidney could no longer do. After four days the doctor gently told Leena that it would be better if she took Ding home; meaning, the doctor cannot operate on Ding because the cat, in his weakened state, would not survive the procedure. Ease Ding through his remaining days. And Ding returned home. Neneng and Manilyn together, thrice a day for three weeks more or less, forced him to take his hydrite and antibiotic with his food. It is relected on each of our pet's gentle and trusting nature the affection, patience, and care with which Neneng, Marilyn, Leena, and me (in my limited capacity) were able to extend to all. We all adjusted.
|Leena and Ding|
We were supposed to celebrate Manilyn's birthday on February 22; however, it's Neneng recollection of that day that remains vivid. "Parang hinintay lang ako ni Ding nung umaga," Neneng said. "Paglapit ko tumayo siya at nag-meow nang mahina at naupo siya. Tapos tumayo uli, pero maya-maya ay natumba na, at habol-hinga siya hanggang wala na." Neneng cried when she recalled the loss of her pet, her ward, her child. Ding was buried under the mango tree, where he keeps company with Rex, the Chow Chow patriarch, and so many kittens mourned and loved.
Here then is the record of Ding's short life, cushioned by food and play and some comfort, filled with Neneng's love and devotion. The earth abides. So do we.
|Ding at food bowl: all grown up|