It’s tough losing a friend. It’s even tougher losing a good friend in a tragic manner. I’ve shed many tears this week. I’ve also been very ineffective at work.
I took this picture of my cat M this past Sunday evening. He was laying on the bed when we went to straighten it up before Tara was going to bed for the night. This was right after we had pulled the sheet and blanket to. I pulled the corner back so M could have fresh air and move if he wanted. It wasn’t the best picture in the world, so I played with some filters and effects. I then commented to Tara how this looked like news print. When I came to bed a couple of hours later, he was laying on the end table by my side of the bed. Once I laid down, I reached over and rubbed his shoulders and the back of his neck for a minute before closing my eyes. And that’s the last time I saw him alive.
Both M and iCat would often go outside between 4 and 5 am. So when I got up, I went in my office for a little while. Then when Tara woke up, I looked out the back door for the kitties to let them in for breakfast. No kitties. I went to the front door and iCat came slinking around the corner and inside. That’s not unusual, but the way he carried himself was. However, no sign of M. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, because it’s not the first time iCat showed up for breakfast without M.
However, as I am sitting there watching a little bit of TV in the living room, I didn’t realize Tara had walked outside. But there was a banging at the front door, followed by the door opening and Tara was bawling. I went to check and see the cause, and she couldn’t get a word out. But she pointed off to the side of the house. When I looked, immediately I knew that it was M that I saw there, nearly in two pieces.
I didn’t have time to react. Tara was in tears, and I had one hour until I needed to be to work. I just tried to focus on cleaning up the scene and trying to calm my wife.
Before cleaning everything up, I had to take a picture of him. No, I didn’t take a picture of EVERYTHING. I just took a picture of his face. His normally grey nose was dull, and it was like someone had flipped the light switch off for his eyes. I had to take it. I needed something to put in front of me to really show me he was gone. So the last picture I have of him alive, the picture from the night before that looks like news print? Fatefully enough, it was his obituary picture.
M was born June of 2011 as a member of a litter of four to Spaz, our semi-feral cat whom adopted us back in Hereford. There were 3 boys and 1 girl. Tara called the girl “The Little Girl”. We both named one of the boys “Loudmouth” because he wouldn’t shut up. I named the kitten that looked like “The Little Girl”. The name? “Cyclops”. For the longest time, he only had one eye open. M never got a name at that time. He was the most unassuming of them all.
We were taking a trip shortly after the litter was born, and we had to leave them all outside because we didn’t have permission from our landlord to officially have a pet. Half way through that trip, we looked at the temperatures back at home, and they were pretty stinkin’ hot. So we called a friend to ask if she could check on the bunch. When she did, Cyclops was dead, and the rest of them were nowhere to be seen. After getting back, Spaz showed up. Eventually she brought The Little Girl, who did not make it. Later, she brought M. We eventually found a half-eaten Loudmouth under the shed in the backyard.
M was tiny. He fit in my palm. Turned out he had some kind of worm. We took him to the vet. We got permission from the landlord to keep him. We took him to the band hall once summer band started. He was a great kitten, and still very unassuming.
When I moved to take my current job, friend and former colleague of Tara, Mike Bryant, helped us get me moved. We stopped for a few minutes at the Continental Divide. The sign there on I-40 indicated where the water would flow depending on what side. When he saw that, Mike decided to crack a joke. He said “let’s throw this cat over the side and see whether he flows the Atlantic or the Pacific”.
I got the chance to travel back to Hereford to see Tara twice between September and Thanksgiving. However, M was the one who was at the house at the end of each day. He helped see me through that time. I know Tara understands, because that’s why she got iCat.
Tara brought iCat out to Arizona over Thanksgiving. M and iCat became instant friends, but M had forgotten about Tara and reacted very poorly to her. That finally corrected with time.
M had an odd tick. He laid on things. Yeah, yeah, cats always lay on things. But really, he liked to lay on thresholds for instance. Even when there was a level change, he would lay there. It just didn’t phase him. When Tara would go to the bathroom in the morning, he would follow her in there, and then lay down half across the threshold. There’s even a small saguaro that Tara planted outside our front window that she caught him laying on one day. It didn’t phase him.
In the week since M was killed, it’s been really weird in my head. There are a lot of things I’ve thought about, talked with Tara on, and experienced that would probably be considered supernatural at many levels. Familiar spirits and animal hauntings. I know it is in my head, but I can understand a little where people would come up with these ideas. I also know it is not likely that will go away anytime soon.
I’ve done two things since M left us to try and help. One, I just did yesterday. There was a toy that M would always bring to us, but he never wanted to play with it. We finally figured out that it was his way of bringing us his “dead bird”. He was trying to impress and show off. That toy has been retired with two toys that belonged to the blonde Lab Taz (a story which I will tell at another time).
The other is a bit more out there, and I know there are some people who wouldn’t agree with this. However, it made sense for me. I went to the humane society that evening and came home with a new 6-month old kitten. I just couldn’t stand the thought of going home and M not being there. So I asked to leave work early, stopped by and picked Tara up from the house, and went straight to a specific location for a kitten that I knew was the right one. Something about him just spoke to me when I found his profile on the humane society website. I called about him, and basically said that I would be there to get him before the day was over. I’ll introduce him in another post. He doesn’t replace the fat cat, but he sure does fill up a big hole in our hearts. Was it still tough coming home that night? Yes. But not quite as much as it could have been.
Before I get done writing this and trying to put a bookend on the fat cat’s era…
I’ve always been a person to try and have an explanation for everything. Why? Because there is always an explanation. Did I have one Monday morning? No. I tried to make my wife feel better by making jokes. We had just been talking about how courteous M had become the night before. So I remarked “he was so courteous that he made sure to get killed in the yard so we didn’t worry”. Lead balloon. “Babe, at least he was courteous enough to get killed on a trash day.” Tara actually cracked a smile on that one. I also at one point said “at least he finally found a diet plan that worked”. Tara laughed about that one a couple of days later.
I sang “Circle of Life” in my head all day Monday, and still am thinking about it now.
Since then we’ve talked more about it. Ironic, considering my last blog was about living in the wild… We don’t know if M escaped 10 other situations like this before and then number 11 was unlucky. But even in the bigger picture, it’s amazing that M survived past his first few weeks. He by all rights shouldn’t have made it, but he did. Maybe he was supposed to make it to help break us in to this new adventure in Arizona. If I never got the interview, could he have possibly died as a kitten? These are answers I may never know. However, if the movie “All Dogs Go To Heaven” holds true for cats, too, then M is running around and playing with his litter mates right now.
Gone, but not forgotten. RIP my good buddy. You are terribly missed.