This week at the Center for Animal Rescue and Education a lioness passed away. She had been having mobility issues with her back legs and her care takers decided to put her to sleep instead of letting her suffer.
Her name was Tabula and despite never meeting her in person, I miss her dearly.
Tabula was one of the “celebri-kitties” in BigCatDerek’s Vines and webcasts. She was an old gal, hard of hearing and almost blind, and she had a larger than life personality. Miss Boo would be happy one minute, grouchy the next, and always had to have things her way.
I wasn’t quite sure how to feel when I first heard she had passed away. Like I said, I had never met Tabula in real life so did I have any right to actually miss her? Why did I miss her? Where did this weird sense of attachment over a lioness in Texas come from? Tabula wasn’t the first animal to pass away at CARE that I knew of, so why was she different?
Celebrity worship is not a rare thing in our culture. Everyone seems to have an actor or musician or artist they adore and would consider a dear friend if asked. It seems weird at first, very stalker-esque in my opinion, but when you think about how much movies, music, and art impact our lives it makes perfect sense. There’s power behind entertainment. Entertainment can evoke emotions like fear, happiness, or despair and entertainment can help pull us out of reality, helping us cope with the stress of real life. Considering how vital this can be to the human experience, it’s no surprise that sometimes people develop emotional attachments to their idols. These celebrities have affected our lives in very meaningful ways, despite never meeting us in real life.
For me the BigCatDerek webcasts are an escape from the stress of the day. The cats are so adorable and Derek is so funny and honest, it’s like visiting old friends during the day. Tabula was one of my favorite friends to visit. She was always a bit grouchy with this old lady smoker growl. She would get into fights with inanimate objects and lay on her back and paddle her feet through the air when she was feeling frisky. She reminded me of the old smoker aunt we all have who tells inappropriate stories at the dinner table and never gets married. Just old and loveable.
And now I won’t see another vine of Miss Tabula. I’ll never hear her roar again or see her do the classic Tabula “backstroke.” She helped me get through some stressful times. Tabula did more for me than she’ll ever realize. No wonder I miss her.
I think Tabula’s death hit me harder than I expected because it also took death out of the abstract for me. We all know we’re going to die, it’s inevitable, but I think very few of us realize how quickly things can take a turn for the worst. We keep the concept of death at arm’s length to survive. When I started watching BigCatDerek’s webcasts I knew animals had passed away, but they had passed away before I really became a part of the community. There deaths were abstract, singular instances that would never happen again anytime soon.
Then Tabula passed away. She was the first one of the CARE cats to pass away while I was part of the fandom. I couldn’t keep this at arm’s length. A creature that somehow became a big part of my life was gone and it had all happened in the span of a week. It was so real, so very quick, and it brought the idea of death back into focus. Death can happen at any time.
I will miss Tabula, despite being a lioness I never met. She was one of the stars of the BigCatDerek webcasts and it will be difficult watching without seeing her sprawled out on her back asleep or pushing around her favorite green ball. And you know what, that’s okay. I’m allowed to feel something for her, because it’s human to care, it’s human to grow attached, and it’s human to be afraid of death.
Goodbye Miss Tabula. I’ll miss you very, very much.