This week Neil Gaiman has been blogging about his cat, Zoe. I have been noticing that through the use of words he manages to invoke images and scenes (even in retelling of actual events) that makes you feel as if you were there. He impressed upon me and others how incredibly special Zoe was to him and to Olga. For those of you not familiar with the story, you should pop over to Neil Gaiman’s page and follow it. It is touching. Painfully real, but touching at the same time.
This brought me back to thinking about the last cat I owned. I mentioned it in a couple of spots in the 50 Facts About Zombies post. I guess it was about 20 years ago that we brought this black cat home to live with us. My stepdaughter had wanted a tiger-striped one, but they had another couple of weeks before they could be weaned. I went back and we did get a tiger-striped one as well. And yes, my stepson did name him Tiger. But this is about our black cat – as he is the one that stayed with us after the kids left.
The strongest memory I had of going to pick him up was the day. I walked into the pet store the afternoon of Friday the 13th to bring home our black cat. I know, I’m a rebel. I never was superstitious – besides, how could anyone assume anything ill from such a small little furball? I also knew what my stepchildren could be like, so I arranged for Mrs. Zombie to take them out for some play time while I let the kitten get used to the new surroundings. At this point, the black kitten was the only cat I have ever had to deal with. For the record, I am a dog person and allergic to cats.
All went well, and the cat bonded to me a bit since I was home mornings (I worked from Noon to 9ish at a book store in the mall and stocked groceries until 8 in the morning back then). While we were deciding what to name him, was the event that happened that I mentioned in the 50 Facts blog. I was sleeping on the couch on a Saturday morning. The cat had curled up around my neck (must have been the beard). My in-laws came in to visit with their hyperactive white ball of fluff puppy. To this day I don’t understand how my wife thought this was a good plan.
So the kitten wakes up with the snuffling, wet nose of a hyperactive puppy who is so white he was practically glowing like a brand from hell. His hackles raised, he hissed, but most importantly he dug his claws in. Y’all remember where he was sleeping? So I woke (obviously), stood (with the kitten still attached to my chest), and walked up the stairs. I instructed my wife I would need her assistance. Once upstairs I managed to get him to retract the small scalpels from my chest muscles and dropped him in our bedroom where he could hide.
It was at that point that I really wanted to name him Peloquin. For those of you not a fan of Clive Barker, in the book Cabal (or the movie Nightbreed) Peloquin is the character that turns Boone into a monster by biting him on the shoulder before he is gunned down. Although I was not gunned down after the meet and greet with the puppy, I thought the name was fitting. I was overruled on two counts. My wife thought it was too weird of a name, and the puppy’s name was Quinn (likely what the kids would call him).
They named him Licorice. You got it, a tiger-striped cat named Tiger and a black cat named Licorice. We were thrill-seekers.
As I said above, Licorice stayed with us. He was even around when we brought Aladdin into the family. And if you are keeping count, twice I have gotten a dog that was already named and twice I was vetoed on naming a cat. I remember how Aladdin would walk up the window where he was laying, put his mouth around his hind leg as if to say, “I could do it, you know.” Licorice would look at him, bat him in the nose with a clawless paw as if to answer, “Yeah, sure you could.” They were like the way it was with most of my family. They belonged.
Once Licorice was around 15 years old or so, we found out he was in poor health. He was diabetic. So, we were purchasing insulin from the pharmacy (same you give to humans just in much smaller doses) and giving him daily injections. The vet told us that the combination of that and the special older breed cat food would allow him to live on just fine. And he did for over a year or so.
Towards the end he was getting sick more often. He refused to sit still for his shots (although he took them). He also was having problems eating. At well over 16 years old the vet told us he looked like there was something in his throat causing problems with eating and that whatever infection it was giving him was filling up his lungs. We knew what had to be done.
Now my wife had never had to deal with putting a pet down. They had always “run away.” I had once. I knew it was hard, but knew it was something I had to do. I brought him into the family, I needed to be there when he left us. We brought him in and prepaid at the counter so we would not have to deal with it when we left. As we sat there, Licorice sat on the table straight backed with his head held up. He didn’t cough at all. His eyes were bright, and he nuzzled and headbutted my wife. He was our cat again.
While the vet was in the office with us I asked him to check him out again. He was not looking sick to me at all. I told him I did not want him put down unless it was best for him. He agreed it was not the same cat he saw before. He said it would come – it could be in a couple days, it could be several months, but as long as he was not in pain we could have more time with him. He agreed at that point there was no reason to put him down.
We joked on the way home that he knew what we were doing, so that motivated him to get better fast. I wonder just how off I was. But when the end for him did come (and we did get a few more months with him) he did look like he was ready. His breathing was getting painful, his lungs were filling and he could not eat. He didn’t complain at all while we drove to and walked in the vet’s office. He left our family the way he entered it, sleeping peacefully next to me.