This wasn’t going to be my regularly scheduled post, but felt compelled to write a little something here. I wasn’t going to go on Facebook or Twitter and make the announcement, but I thought since I write a regular blog, I might as well do it here.
This was written yesterday after I had to say goodbye to a buddy of mine who’s been with me for 18 years. When I moved out of an apartment complex into an apartment house, I was allowed to own a pet. I went to the local animal shelter and found a cat that they figured was around a year and a half old. The shelter had named it Tom, so I formalized it to Thomas. He was a big cat and that was one of the reasons I was attracted to him. I had to wait a week for the shelter to confirm with my landlord that it was okay to have pets.
I remember he was so scared when I brought him home. He hid behind the couch for three hours, came out once for just a short while then returned to hide for another two hours.
He soon became acclimated to the apartment, running up and down the stairs, room to room, sliding across the linoleum to bang into some shelves (he did that only once). I lived on the second floor and there was a long stair well down to the door and outside, a balcony that had stairs to the ground. I found some bouncy-type balls and countless times we’d play at the bottom of the stair well. I’d toss up the ball and he’d bat it. I’d do that for a few times, then throw it up the stairs and he’d run after it. He loved toys, but he also loved simple things like paper balls. I remember one time I was in bed with a snack. I tore off the top part of the plastic package, rolled it up and threw it off the bed. He jumped off the bed, retrieved it and brought it back. We spent 20 minutes of my throwing it off and his bringing it back.
I had placed his food dish on top of a computer box and he’d jump up to get to it…until he became a bit older and didn’t feel like jumping that far.
He never liked a permanent collar. Six month’s into our time together, I tried a collar and discovered he’d tried to paw it off. Unfortunately, it hadn’t gotten stuck in his mouth. However, one of the great things we’d do is I’d put on the collar and hook up a leash and a long nylon rope and we’d sit outside. He’d go down the stairs and lay on the sidewalk or the grass. At first he was scared of the traffic and people but in time became used to everything. He even explored and became the mighty hunter by taking down his first and only bird from a bush.
Then we did something that we would continue for years after. We went for walks. At first around the house, always on the leash, then into neighboring blocks. Many times, it took some persuading, but he’d do all right. One of our favorite spots was up at the Oskaloosa town square and some of the offshoot streets. Mainly the square, though, once around the perimeter, then we’d sit on a bench for a while before returning home. All of this walking was done at night, because he was pretty scared of daylight activity. The square at night, though was quiet for the most part. Sometimes he was scared, but we always got through it.
In 2013, my job took me to southeast Iowa where I lived in a my sister’s camper trailer at a campground/permanent trailer park. Moving day was stressful and he didn’t like being in the carrier. When we were settled in to the trailer, he found a hiding space until he became acclimated to the trailer. After a time, we started our walks. A different environment than the city and only once did we travel any distance. For a three week period, I had to change to my parents’ trailer while my sister used hers. I was still working mostly the night shift, so there were many nights I was up till the early morning hours. I remember one night I was outside on the deck either reading or writing and I didn’t realize the screen door to the trailer was ajar. Thomas wandered out and away. At first I was upset and searched the entire area of the camping area. I couldn’t find him anywhere. Then I was scared because he had no concept of wild animals and was defenseless with no front claws. I fretted for about half an hour when he leapt back onto the deck fine as anything.
We moved to Carlisle in the fall of ‘13, and once again, he found a hiding place in the apartment until he was used to the new place. We continued our walks, usually uptown and some neighboring streets. He became more resistant to walking, but most of the time did all right. We fell into a routine where I’d park at the beginning of the block, we’d walk the length of the block, over to the alley, cut through a parking lot to the next street. At the ‘third’ corner of our route we’d take a break at the restaurant that left tables and chairs out on their patio. I remember one time a patrol officer came by and the female officer was amazed at how Thomas would go walking. After a ten minute break, we’d walk back to the car and go home.
This year, since I was forced to work at home, we spent a lot of time out on the front steps. We walked around the building and we did it so many times he knew the route and would even initiate the walk. After a while, I didn’t even bother with the leash.
Throughout the years he’d been sick a couple times. Once early on when I fed him some cheap food and he developed a urinary tract infection. Last November he had constipation which had us at an all night hospital at midnight. A few teeth pulled but annual checkups. He was due for one this July, but in May, I noticed him walking around like he was confused. And he’d walk in circles. And he had something wrong with his legs, that he was walking weird and standing in an awkward position. He’d want more attention from me. The vet worked him in and determined that there was some neurological issue affecting his brain that also affected his muscles. She gave me some medicine for arthritis which seemed to help and for a few weeks, he was almost back to normal. Then more problems manifested. His vision started failing and he wasn’t jumping on the couch like normal and he wasn’t realizing where he was walking sometimes. One time, as we were coming back inside, he got turned around, went between the rails and walked off the side of the steps. He wasn’t hurt, but I kept a better watch on him after that.
Well, the end came yesterday. And it came faster than I thought it would. Around 10, he walked over for some attention and I obliged for a bit. Then around 11, I was up making lunch and I came around the edge of the wall and saw him laying on the floor where he never rests and his abdomen was jerking like he had the hiccups. Turned out he was gasping for breath, that he wasn’t getting oxygen. The vet thought there might be a clot in his lungs, suggested an X-ray, but said sometimes that didn’t show anything. I could take him to a hospital where they could do some expensive procedures which might work.
I made the decided to end the suffering. I held him while the vet gave him a sedative to numb him. He was a little violent because the fluid hurt going in. He gave me some good bites, but after a bit, he was numb. I handed him over to the vet for the final procedure and went home.
No, I didn’t have a place for burial and I didn’t opt for the ashes.
I came home, emptied the litter box and put it in the tub to give a thorough cleaning, emptied and washed the food and water bowls, and picked up a couple of toys on the floor. I still have some canned food I bought last month and a new canister of litter.
I’m writing this hours afterward because I wanted to get something down so I’d have a record to go back to if I wanted to remember.
Thomas enjoyed a good brushing and a belly rub. He didn’t like baths and though resisted going outside, was pretty cool once we were out there and the walks helped. I think the extra activity was an aid to a longer life than normal. Just over 19-1/2 years.
I’m saddened, but the loss hasn’t really hit me, yet. Yes, I’ve lost pets before, but they were family pets. I remember Spot the dog and Tramp the dog. I was pretty young when I discovered Spot had died. Tramp was with us for a long time. I would never say they were less important, but Thomas was my pet, the one I cared for, loved, and was a buddy to. Friends helped during the times I was gone from home for more than a night and he took to them well.
No, I don’t like working from home, but with the onset of his condition in May, I’m glad I had the extra time to spend with him.
It’s too soon to think about getting another. I need time to think and be sad and remember. This hit so fast I haven’t been able to take it in what with needing to stay busy at work.
I know this isn’t the best blog writing I’ve done and it’s longer than normal, but I don’t care. As I mentioned earlier, I felt compelled to get down some highlights of the past 18 years.
I’ll miss my buddy. He was always a good cat.