Panda S’mores 2006–2022
Panda came to our family in 2006, when I was a sophomore in high school. He, along with Trekker and Fargo, were the first mammalian pets we had in a decade. In the mid 90s, our cat Shadsy had a painful battle with cancer that made it nigh impossible for my mother, my father, sister and myself to bond tany pets, aside from the occasional fish.
Throughout high school, college and my young adult life, I counted on Panda to be hardcore chilling at all parts of the day or night. His chill nature inspired me to create a little backstory, in which he was a salesman at his shop “Panda’s Tuxedo Emporium.” Not a high pressure sales guy by any means. You’re gonna like the way you look in one of Panda’s suits. He gives the meow and headbutt seal of approval.
It was especially amusing to watch Panda sleep through extremely loud noises in his periphery or right in his face. I recall Bowser and Scrappy wrestling next to him on the floor on countless instances. Our glorious, puffy chested tuxedo cat rarely indicated he even noticed the scuffle, engaged in feline dreams about tuna, wet food and exploring the outdoors.
Ah, the outdoors. Out of reflex, I still shut the front and back doors of my house as fast as I can because of Panda’s tendency to shoot out of them faster than the Flash. He loved to sniff and explore underneath the house, trash cans, neighbors’ gardens, and so on. Thinking about my father and I holding our flashlights, patrolling the neighborhood for any sign of him, makes me smile. So much fretting each time and Panda would wander back, howling at the door, impatient with my response. What a G.
As you can imagine, I cannot put into words all of Panda’s eccentricities and personality. As with all of your pets, the full array can only be experienced directly. I will picture him kneading the couch and my bed and headbutting anyone who would approach for some time to come.
I struggled for quite some time on how to approach the loss of yet another companion. Of the original feline trio, only Fargo is still prancing and meowing. For those who read this blog or keep in touch with me, you already know that Scrappy and Bowser, two decade long canine mainstays of the McCorkle household, passed away earlier this year. They were followed by Trekker the cat, Link the cockatiel and several others.
The earlier losses had made me a bit numb. Not that Panda’s wasn’t as painful, but rather I realized that the crop of pets from my teenage years was reaching the end of their road. I never thought about not having them because they had been around for so long- in some cases, half my existence on Earth.
I thought my poems to Scrappy and Bowser managed to summarize and tribute simultaneously. Initially, my gut told me to write a poem about Panda.
But I wanted to do something else. I feel Panda was not a huge poetry guy. (For some reason, my hunch is that Bowser was surprisingly into all sorts of literary works. The jury is out on Scrappy.) Looking back, Panda’s adoption was a impactful transition on me. In the decade after Shadsy’s death, I appreciated animals, but at a distance, in a more analytical, dispassionate way. My father often watched nature specials and I was fascinated by the different ecosystems and creatures featured within them, although I could not get myself to feel connected like I would to a household companion.
Panda was the first to break down the barrier post-Shadsy, allowing me to live again with some furry friends. He helped me balance my intense interests in the social sciences, literature and language, matters of human society, with nature and the environment. His loud meows and paw in my face were a constant reminder that creatures aside from humans exist, and their needs and concerns are valid, regardless of what advantage they provide homo sapiens.
I’d give a lot to see ya prowl, watch you knead and hear you meow in 2023, my friend. I hope you’re selling lots of suits at your Panda’s Tuxedo Emporium with Scrappy, Bowser, Trekker, Link and all our furry and non-furry friends who have left our home.
Someday, we may meet again. The door’s always open.
I wish you’d escape through it, just like old times.