A long weekend

So I’m finally going to write a fairly personal entry here, because it’s relevant.

This last weekend has been tough, and in a way it isn’t over.

We returned from a couple of years in Seattle in 1987. My wife, Vicki, had been in a car wreck while up there, and was still in constant pain, having trouble thinking and driving. One day in late ’87, she backed into the garage door and made a hole.

Into that gap, in the depths of winter, stole a tiny tabby cat. She’d probably been living in the relative warmth for quite some time when we discovered her, and of course we couldn’t turn her out then. So she became Mokey, a character from Jim Henson’s Fraggle Rock – still one of my favorite series, and my all-time favorite children’s show. (Nothing else Jim Henson did – as brilliant as it was – came close to Fraggle Rock, in my opinion.)

Well, as soon as we decided to keep her, and before we had chance to get her to the vet, she ran back out and got pregnant. Cats tend to do that. The result was a gorgeous mixed litter of tabbies and what were obviously siamese-mix kittens.

We gave away all but one. The kitten we kept had siamese points, tabby stripes in seal-point colors, and bright blue eyes. He liked to lie on clothes in the laundry basket, so we called him Boober, after the Fraggle who loved laundry.

He was a menace, as kittens are. In the middle of the night, he’d sneak up between Vicki and me, then reach out and stick all of his claws into my back. Several nights he’d make me wake up yelling. I’ve no idea why he singled me out for this treatment, but I’d always find it funny – after I’d calmed down from the shock.

Our house in Flower Mound had a vaulted ceiling, and a brick fireplace, with an inside brick chimney that ran all the way up – probably to twelve feet or so. One day, Boober climbed up that vertical chimney, just by clawing the bare brick. He got to higher than I could reach – we have a photo of him somewhere – and I have no recollection of how we got him down.

We had him declawed. I’ll never do that again to a cat, furniture notwithstanding, and I’ve always wished I had made that decision before we did it to Boober, because his claws were such a central part of his life.

After neutering, he got fat. He was never a huge cat, maybe fourteen pounds, but the pudgy flaps in front of his back legs would sway as he walked. So we called him “blubber” and plenty of other variants.

One day – we were living in Richardson at the time, so he’d probably have been about five – he followed Vicki out into the front yard. (We always keep our cats indoors, which is why we’d had him declawed.) There was a hawk on a telegraph pole.

Boober saw the hawk catch a squirrel, and was terrified. He slunk back into the house and hid.

Another time, he decided to try exploring our artificial Christmas tree. It couldn’t support his weight. The stand collapsed, showering the floor with ornaments, tinsel, and a very unhappy cat. He was quite disoriented. Eventually he staggered through to the bedroom and sat on the bed, still looking very dizzy.

Our siamese, Pepper, who was always a temperamental, jealous sort, started sniffing around and yowling at him. This is the only time I’ve ever seen Boober do anything of the kind, he’s always been such a gentle cat, but you could see the look in his eyes: “I’ve had enough of this shit.” He reached out a paw and smacked Pepper hard across the face. Bam.

He also earned the label “chicken”, though with his size we’d sometimes decide he was a turkey. He was terrified of thunderstorms. If there was one in the area, he’d find a hiding spot. Sometimes he’d bury himself under the blankets on the bed, and at other times he’d find a hiding place. We don’t even know where all of his hideouts were. He’d just vanish.

So we’d try to predict thunderstorms, and be sure he was penned up in our room if we heard one coming in. That way he’d make a nice warm furry footwarmer under the blankets.

He was our storm cat.

He hasn’t been bothered by thunderstorms in a few years. Maybe he’s gotten brave, or maybe deaf or lazy. I’d suspect lazy.

Ever since Pepper died, Boober has prowled the house at night yowling. There was never any real doubt about his siamese heritage, but the yowls are as clear evidence as any. He and Pepper never seemed especially close, but he started stalking around the house, apparently looking for her, and crying like only a Siamese can.

It’s been several years since Pepper made that final trip to the vet, but he’s never quit. Sometimes he yowls because he’s out of food or water, but mostly it seems to have no cause.

And that’s especially unfortunate, because he’s been yowling so much in the last few weeks, and I just ignored it. But this time I think he had something to cry about. We finally noticed last week how little he has been eating. By the weekend he wouldn’t touch his food at all. Vicki couldn’t even tempt him with cat treats, which until only a couple of weeks ago he would gobble up.

Last week he peed on the floor in the utility room. He’s always been picky about the litter box, but this time it was clean.

So on Saturday, I took him to the vet. He has a heart problem. It sounds quite serious. The vet opened a can of food, and he ate – but since then, he only took a couple of mouthfuls on Saturday, and none since. On Sunday the vet called with the results of lab work – his kidneys are failing.

It isn’t surprising. He’s a very old cat, now. Much older than Pepper was when her kidneys gave out. But, damn, he’s been part of the family so long. Elliot hadn’t turned four when we got him, and he’d have been eight, already middle-aged, when Simon was born. I’m not ready to let him go.

In a few weeks he’d turn nineteen, but right now I doubt he’ll make it until Vicki gets back from Oklahoma on Thursday.

This is the part I hate about having pets. I know that afterwards I’ll look back and feel that it was all worthwhile, and we’ve had a great nineteen years with him, but right now – I hate it. I’m fifty, and I keep crying over one silly old mog.

It didn’t help that on Saturday, after taking Boober to the vet, I watched the end of a truly tear-jerking anime. Yes, they do exist, and no, I wasn’t expecting this to be one, or there’s no way I’d have watched it then.

And on Friday, of course, I found that twist to the story I’ve been working on that gives the potential for a tragic interpretation of events. When the story demands that your characters suffer, and it usually does, you let them suffer, but at the same time you’ve grown close to them, and their pain is upsetting.

So much so that it has been very hard to make revisions this weekend.

With those three things, but most especially the decline of our once fun-loving cat, this has been a very long and upsetting weekend, and the prospects for the rest of the week don’t look much better.