Fred was the second-born of four; a sister (Gema) preceded him (she is still alive, and she is doing well in Mexico City).
Fred greeted me for the first time when he was three-and-a-half weeks old. He seemed to know that I was "in the market" for a male kitten, someone to accompany his grandmother Renata (Renata Valentina) while I traveled for work away from home (Mexico City) throughout Mexico on an average of five to six days out of 15. Fred's three siblings scattered away after only a few moments of playing with me, but Fred was a "keeper." He snuggled at my feet and then proceeded to climb into my lap and all the way up on to my shoulder, where I held him, and he commenced to purr, lick my neck, and then fall blissfully asleep. We spent the remainder of my visit that way.
When Fred was eight weeks old, I took him to live with Renata and me. When I came for Fred, he waited until I was seated before he approached me-tail up, held proudly, with the very tip bent/pointed forward, a stance that he always kept whenever he approached me throughout his life. At that moment, he looked a little scrawny, but he was so very determined! When he arrived home, Renata hissed at him, telling him that he was, for the time being, an uninvited and very unwelcome guest. She understood he was just a baby, and she never once tried to hurt him, but she did need to let him know, in no uncertain terms, that SHE had "eminent domain." After five days of hissing and back-turning during which time Fred found refuge at night snuggled next to me, Renata finally succumbed and decided that Fred was "HER baby." I came home one afternoon to find the two of them cuddled together on the sofa, and they were inseparable ever since.
Renata taught Fred to find the "special hole" she made for her kittens under the couch-her kittens (all 14 of them, three littersful) all hid "in the bowels" of the couch and "surprised" seated guests from time to time with a few not too friendly nips and swats. Fred proudly continued that surreptitious tradition, and whenever he heard Renata beckon to him with her special "mommy-to-kitten" call, he came out head first, inquisitive to the world, from beneath the couch, always a joyful surprise to whoever beheld him.
Renata taught Fred how to use the box, and Fred very wisely did not let on that he already knew all about the intricacies of proper box behavior. Renata led Fred to the food and water, allowing him to eat and drink first. To the very end, until Fred stopped eating on his own, he always followed Renata to his food and water, always exactly one-half cat-length behind Renata, always in lockstep with her-of course, as time went on, they each had their own food bowls, because they each had their own special food preferences.
Fred loved "charales"-little dried salted fish from Mexico (Renata turned her nose up at these; they were peasant food, not fit for a Siamese, but Fred, like his father before him, was one true mexicano). He'd tear the grocery bag open to get to his fish, and one day, he sneaked into the refrigerator to make sure he'd have a whole day's supply. Luckily, I heard Fred chowing down from behind refrigerator door just before I left for work. In later years, whenever I tried to trick him with the US equivalent sold in "mercados mexicanos" here in California, Fred always knew the difference, showing an obvious disdain for the definitely inferior US copycat product.
At one point, when he had a bad reaction to Clavamox (he tended to have anal gland ruptures, and we once tried to "cure" this with Clavamos), all Fred wanted to eat were his "charales"; what had been a staple food in Mexico was a "treat" here and, unfortunately, was rapidly becoming in scarce supply. Friends from Mexico City who were visiting Ensenada drove more than an hour to cross the border to Chula Vista to make sure to send Fred his "charales" by Priority Mail, and one friend drove from where she was visiting in Phoenix to Nogales (on the Mexican side) to make sure that Fred would get the "real stuff," also by Priority Mail. Fred's human Grand-mom always generously sent Fred his yearly supply of charales when she visited the States; Fred's (human) downstairs neighbors here in California made a big hit with him one Christmas when they brightly packaged up some really fine imitations they'd found in a Chinese market (Fred, you were fooled that time, but ONLY that one time).
Renata cared so much for Fred that when he first came to live with us and showed us how much he missed his mother that she "nursed" him as a kitten (even though she had already been spayed). I believe she truly considered Fred her baby, another one of her kittens, a very special kitten who would spend all his years with her. Even as an adult, Fred continued to burrow next to Renata to nurse with her, and she never once protested.
Throughout his adolescent stage, Fred seemed to take after his human Mom, whose big feet also grew before the rest of her did... His big paws were somewhat ungainly and didn't give him great jumping leverage or prowess, and for a while there, I honestly believed Fred had inherited his feline Dad's lack of jumping skills as well as his human Mom's permanent fixture big feet. Fred yearned to leap up to the sink, then climb onto the hot water heater, and then climb up to the highest of kitchen cabinets, just like Renata. The leap from the floor to the sink was the biggest challenge, so Fred was no fool. He would wait in hiding until his human Mom was at the sink washing the dishes, and he'd climb the length of her leg and back (ouch!) to circumvent that highest leap... the first time he leapt on his own, his look of disbelief was a Kodak moment that unfortunately never was immortalized. Fred became, from then on, the most graceful and daring of jumpers. It was merely weeks before he was diagnosed with CRF (in August 1999) that he ceased from leaping from my bed to my dresser top to the top of the standing closet, once there to pose motionlessly among two orange stylized papier-mâché cats from Guadalajara, one Egptian Bastet, one Cheshire cat from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and one glossy black statuette the size of a large kitten, a Christmas gift from a colleague in Mexico. After Renata, at age 15, stopped joining Fred up there, he was the sole Siamese among the "madding crowd."
Fred, along with Renata, survived the big Mexico City earthquake (September 19, 1985); they both scurried about in disbelief as the apartment rocked from side to side and the two orange cats from Guadalajara finally sailed through the air and swatted them! (Sweet revenge...)
We almost lost Fred a few days before we left Mexico City. I very foolishly did not place him in the bathroom behind closed door when some pieces of furniture were being removed from my apartment. Fred ran out the door in fear, hiding in the downstairs neighbor's patio, but always answering me when I called. We waited until the neighbor returned with the key, a seemingly eternal eight-hour stretch, and then, with no prodding at all, Fred leapt into my arms. Throughout his life, Fred always answered my call-three "Fred's" often coupled with one or more of his many nicknames, and he'd vocally reveal his hiding place.
Fred did not appreciate changes in circumstance and surroundings. A strange person would come for a visit, and Fred would scurry away to hide. Fred left the task of territorial defense to Renata, who would "court" all guests and strangers with her usual guile; everyone to whom Renata curried favor was absolutely convinced that Renata was the friendliest, the most playful, of cats. Fred and I, however, shared Renata's secret-she was merely doing her bests to protect "her baby." If she DIDN'T court you, she instinctively knew she could trust you with Fred.
As Fred came to know others, he'd show his affection by rubbing against and wrapping his tail around their legs. He never sat in anyone's lap or next to them on the sofa; that was a privilege he reserved solely for his human Mom (me!). I'd call Fred three times, and if the coast was clear (which it usually was), he came running like a dog, then stopped about three to four feet from me, suddenly remembered that he was a cat!, stretched like the beautiful Siamese he was, and regally walked over to me, his tail held proudly high. Most of the time, after circling my legs a few times, he'd end up on my lap. We wrote many an e-mail message together and joined in many a work-related teleconference call from home; Fred was an active, although merely honorary and non-voting, member of the company's style committee.
Fred was a truly regal gentleman. His Mexican vet thought he was so beautiful that he almost refused to have Fred neutered.
Fred also had the kindest soul. When we lived in New York, my downstairs neighbors used to keep their dog and cat in their large bathroom during the day. The bathroom door opened into a commonly shared hallway. Renata was totally adverse to hobnobbing with these undesirables, once engaging in a true Mexican standoff with the dog (a sharp command in Spanish brought her rushing up the stairs-each was at the opposite end of the hallways-the dog's tail was wagging, and he was about to run and kiss what he thought was a nice feline companion, and Renata's tail was fanned out, and her ears were pulled back; they brushed past each other in a flurry when Renata understood the threat behind my words and made a mad dash toward me). Fred... now his was another story! Fred used to spend hours in the hallway just outside their bathroom door and twitch his tail and meow softly to the occupants inside. He never had a bad word for any feline or canine. Fred also exhibited the same kindness to all the neighborhood cats who would rest in the sun on my doormat outside the front door here in California. Nonetheless, he oftentimes let his not too kindly feelings be known to a few chosen people (read below*).
When I had the first of two serious ocular problems and was deeply depressed, Fred crawled up to where I was lying in my bed and spent more than an hour at a time rubbing his little head against my neck and shoulder. He knew; he understood; he always knew and understood. He never left my side through any illness. He'd always find me and jump or climb into my lap and place one paw on my shoulder and look deeply into my eyes with his luminous wide blue gaze. I used to jokingly tell him that even though he wasn't born on the day of San Federico, he was truly "Saint Fred."
Fred never failed to cheer me on whenever I answered a particularly difficult Jeopardy question correctly (punctuated with "Hey, Fred, I got that one!"), and he carried on the tradition with "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" He was my greatest fan!
Fred was a brave and mighty hunter. His little nose would twitch eagerly as he tracked the birds from his window perch here in California, but it was in Mexico City and New York that he showed us the kind of stuff he was really made of, his true mettle. In Mexico, a flying creature would enter Fred's living space, and that flying creature was "dead meat." Fred once killed me a hornet (not that I knew what a hornet was in English; to us, it was an "avispón", a hideous triangular bee-striped flying beastie that loomed enormous to me). I ran into the bathroom, crying out for Fred. An eternity later I emerged, and no avispón in sight. By the next morning, when I discovered it, Fred had already strategically placed the carcass in full view.
As for creepy crawlies, Fred was the master "exterminating angel." In one place where I lived in New York, Fred would make sure that I would praise him for the day's kill, always placed both at the front door and at the foot of my bed. In another New York residence (the one where Fred spent hours communicating with the neighbor's dog and cat), I once had the rare opportunity to watch Fred and Renata "tell a large roach just where it could go"; Fred found the bug first-he hockey-maneuvered it to Renata, and they each scored a few points before that nasty "water beetle" flipped right-side-up and scurried out under the door to warn its friends that the occupants upstairs were NEVER to be called upon again.
Another of Fred's accomplishments was his ability to greet people on the phone. As soon as I'd answer a call or get ready to dial, Fred was at my side. If he knew and liked the person on the other end, he'd jump into my lap and meow loudly into the phone, punctuating my remarks. If he wasn't sure of the person on the other end of the line, he'd very nicely watch my lips form, "Say hello, Fred," (or its equivalent in Spanish-Fred and Renata each was/is bilingual) and join in the conversation. *If he didn't like you (he recognized everyone's voice!), he would let you know from a distance what he thought of you. I don't know if Fred really disliked the vet tech who cared for him or if he simply associated the tech with needles, sub-q's, and meds. Just a few weeks ago, when I phoned the tech, Fred was on his way to the litter box. He left the bathroom, cocked his head, glared at me, and then indicated his extreme displeasure twice there and once more near my bed in a most ungentleman-like manner that I had to clean up very quickly thereafter. Both the vet tech and I had a good laugh and agreed that Fred was still in "top Fred form."
When Fred was at the vet's under IV treatment for the first bout of pancreatitis (March 19-21), the techs in the treatment area did not want to believe that he spoke on the phone. I took out my cell phone, and although Fred had never used a cell phone before, he instinctively grasped that it was merely another variation of the "same old" instrument. He left a punctuated meowy message on my home voice mail when I formed the words, "say hello to Renata." (Renata knew who it was when I played the message back to her, and it will always be saved in my voice mail.) At that point, Fred had the techs in stitches! The vet came into that treatment area to find out what was going on, and while I was explaining to the vet that Fred had just left a message on my cell phone, Fred walked brazenly to the edge of the cage, grabbed at the cell phone I was still holding, and headbutted the phone repeatedly. The vet remarked that it was obvious that Fred was about ready to tap the buttons himself because he still had something to say, so we decided to call the tech who cared for him. Unfortunately, the tech didn't answer the call. I had to preface the remarks that Fred then proceeded to leave on the tech's voice mail with "I don't know if he's telling you off, or if he's saying 'you thank you for saving my life,' but here's someone who has something to say to you." The morning before, the tech had come to my place to rush Fred to the vet-I could not fail to show up at work that day, as I had to give a presentation. Fred might not have made it through the day had it not been for the tech! The joke thereafter was that if I were ever to board Fred at the vet I was to make sure to give him his own cell phone with which to call home or answer his own personal calls.
Fred seemed like a shy guy to most folks who didn't bother to take the time to get to know him (they are the real losers for having formed a rash judgment and not having given Fred the chance he deserved). But he was infinitely brave and equally strong-he never once behaved viciously to anyone, vet or tech, who tried to help him (they all called him one of their best, most stoic patients). And although he occasionally squirmed and protested with a "dirty look," he nearly always bore his sub-q's, pillings, insertions of catheters, and at the end, Epogen injections, and even dental surgery, with infinite dignity (even though most of the time when the tech-the one who taught me everything I knew about sub-q's and injections-who always treated him in my absence came looking for Fred, Fred invariably found unique places in which to hide from the tech).
Fred, we toasted you as the living spirit and namesake of Gene Allen's Fred when the ball hit bottom on January 1, 2000.
To quote Cleveland Amory, Fred, you were simply "the best cat ever." Fred, I'm so angry with you that you didn't get up and "kick ass" at the very end, like your regular vet said you had to, to survive. But, Fred, you did fight so long and hard, and Renata (who yelled and jumped down to take long sips out of YOUR water dish near the bed just to get you fighting mad) and I only wish you still had it in you to fight on; we wanted so much to fight your battle for you-why didn't you let us? Fred, you are so loved, Fred, you are so missed, there will never be another Fred, Dee-fee, Dee-boy, Fredy, Federico Luis, Federico Luis Fernando! You blessed us all with your very presence, with your loving, gentle, and noble spirit.
Que descanses en paz, nuestro Federico querido.