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My Hero


WARNING: VERY LONG AND EMOTIONAL POST, KLEENEX MAY BE REQUIRED

He was called “Mahogany” by the humane society volunteers. The runt of his litter; he, his siblings and mother were found severely dehydrated and malnourished when brought into the shelter. 

He was two months old, when we first met him: completely black and when he cried, it wasn’t a “meow” but a soft and almost questioning “mew.”

My wife (MiLady) loved him the moment she saw his mugshot.  She showed it to me when I got home from work, then smiled like a wide-eyed five year old: “He’s so cute, can we rescue him? He can sit in my lap while I work at my desk … please?”

For those who don’t know me, I am not a kitty cat person; I’m a puppy dog person.  I tolerate cats far more than they can tolerate me.  I am also allergic to them, which doesn’t help. 

I looked at the picture on her iPhone. “Another bad boy?” I asked her.  “Bad boy” being my playful term for another black cat.

“Do we have to break him out of jail too?” was my second question.  She nodded timidly.

I decided to skip dinner in order to get there sooner; and within 45 minutes, MiLady was holding the little furball (that was no bigger than a dust bunny) as we waited two hours to process his adoption papers and exit medical exam.

He was so small! He was alone in his cage when we found him, with his three remaining siblings in the cage above him. They were almost twice his size.

When picked up, he curled in my wife’s arms under her chin.  He enjoyed the cuddles with her, while I began rubbing under his chin.  He held up his head, closed his eyes and began to voice his approval.

It was not the soothing purr typical of a little kitty, oh no, he was loud … like revving up a Harley motorcycle at a stoplight!  There was no mistaking that this little guy could be heard!!

When we finally saw the adoption clerk, she told us that he had had a rough life: underweight when found, constipated, etc, etc, etc. We agreed to get him seen by our veterinarian within the week, paid his “bail,” and left with our little juvenile delinquent.

The ride home was interesting – he tore his way out of the cardboard box before we left the parking lot. He stood in MiLady’s lap with his front paws on the dash, his head snapping back and forth like a ADHD metronome, taking in every sound, every blur of movement!

Once home, the next hurdle was getting him acquainted with Jasper (almost 1yr old orange tabby who thinks he’s a mountain lion, climbing up the furniture to the highest vantage point where he lies down and surveys his kingdom) and Kaneka (a 2.5yr old black female with a regal air about her; if she wants it, she wants it NOW, not when it’s convenient for you, servant.).

Jasper rough housed with the little guy, and the little one loved it; but within a fortnight (two weeks), Jasper was running way from “Boo” who had mastered “fighting dirty” far too quickly.

Kaneka on the other hand took a little longer to warm up to him, she hissed and swatted him and then sauntered off to somewhere quieter.

“Boo?”

Yes, we called him “Boo,” because he would pop out of nowhere and surprise you.  His favourite hiding places were under the Lazyboy loveseat, behind the bathroom door or between the shower curtains.  When underneath the Lazyboy, he’d crouch and peer out, patiently waiting … waiting … most of the time for me. I don’t know why.

Before I started getting too many evening shifts at work, I would sit down to watch the telly with my missus, and two little black paws would dart out from underneath, and “TAG!” my ankle.  The first few times it was a shock, but after a while it was his way of showing he wanted to play. 

When crouched behind the bathroom door, he waited for the first passerby and leapt out! If you were lucky enough to see him in midair, he was like the lead male dancer, gracefully floating with all limbs extended, thus ending his ballet performance by landing like a stone weight upon one of your feet just before scurrying off. (But, if it was a Royal Command performance of his “Ninja Ballet,” you would require treatment from our overstocked first aid kit.).

It was between the shower curtains that was the most startling, daring and memorable move he ever attempted though.

It quickly became routine for everyone who entered the bathroom, to check the tub and between the curtains before closing the door to use the facilities. (Except for when my MIL (Mother-In-Law) came to visit The New House. I was at work and MiLady claims to have forgotten to tell her …).

Yes, Boo was strange, cute, curious, brave, loyal and entertaining but strange. Sometimes, he acted like a puppy: he would run in circles trying to catch his tail; he’d chase a slotted ball with a bell in it, swat it around, then pick it up in his mouth when it got stuck and drop it in a more open area and continue swatting the ball until boredom set in — which some days/nights took a couple hours (usually when everyone else was asleep.).

A few times, he would play “Fetch!” I could toss a toy down the hall; he would chase after it, return, drop to the floor, crouch and wiggle his derriere, ready for me to do it again. The only thing was that he didn’t always bring back the original object I threw.

I toss a slotted ball — he returns with a crumpled, ball-shaped piece of cellophane, wet from being crewed! I toss the cellophane – he returns with a sticky, Yellow Square (a bug trap for MiLady’s many plants) affixed to the back of one fore leg.

Then there were “the discoveries,” during that first week:

[1] Remembering to close all the windows before bedtime:

Because of the very hot summer nights, we never closed the windows before, because if there was a slight breeze we wanted to welcome it inside to alleviate the unbearable weather to make it easier to sleep.

The windows were left open from the day before. Jasper and Boo sat on the sash watching us like a couple of security guards, scrutinizing our every move.

We were moving into The New House and doing so involved leaving the doors open to shuttle in our furniture and boxed possessions inside, in a more convenient and speedier manner; but, this also invited the buzzing, flying pests into the house, so when the buggy fliers started bouncing about on the window screens, Jasper started jumping up to catch them. Boo made it a deut.

This is when we discovered that Jasper had taught Boo two things: “Pest Control” and a new game called “Velcro!”

Now, watching what happened from the driveway (about 12 feet away), was a curious sight to see a little black object spread-eagled and suspended in the center of the window screen, looking left and right with big hazel-yellow eyes and mewing!

Everyone laughed, except MiLady, who dashed inside in a concerned and panicked manner that only another mother could relate to. (She later confessed that she feared he would have fallen through the screen and hurt himself!).

[2] Close ALL the lids on the toilets:

It was Day Three in The New House and I was getting ready for work. It was about 5 o’clock in the morning. No one else was awake yet, just me and the three meowsers.

Kaneka sat in the doorway, watching me shave in the mirror.

Jasper sat on the counter, counting how much water went down the drain and how quickly it travelled. But, Boo couldn’t see from the doorway (Kaneka was still having issues and wouldn’t share her spot with him), and to jump up to the sink counter to sit with Jasper, just wasn’t possible yet. So, … yep

He thought he’d leap up onto the toilet and sit there to watch, but the lid was open!

Splish! Mew! Splash! MEW! Splish!

Secondary lesson: Do not attempt to remove a panicking, wet kitten from a toilet bowl without wearing industrial work gloves. They claw and thrash worse than a little Tasmanian Devil!

[3] When You Sleep, Don’t Move Anything Vital

This discovery came about after an unwise idea (from The Missus) backfired. Her intent was to play with Boo while making our bed in the morning. It seemed innocent enough, but snapping the sheets in the air and allowing them to float into place on the bed were just too tempting for this little guy. 

He’d run under and scurry across in the “hills” as the sheet fell, then stop.  MiLady would then gently poke, where she thought he had stopped, and Boo would attack through the sheet!

Somehow, this game mutated from daytime to bedtime.  Instead of Boo being under the sheets, MiLady would run her hand under them, back and forth quickly causing the sheet to “move.”  Boo would lie down like a little ebony sphinx, only his head moving as he followed his target.

One night, I spotted his “tell” …  his behind gave a little wiggle, as his back legs folded up under him … just … before he … POUNCED!

Now, I have to tell you this, before I forget: there is a big difference between “TAG” and “POUNCE.” Pounce involves long, fine-sharp needles digging into your fleshy parts (toes, ta-tas, hands, backsides, and other dangling bits) and holding on for dear life! Quickly followed by some equally needle-fine teeth sampling you! 

The biggest problem was whenever you slept; if you toss and turn like I do, you would be a target — I had to count my toes every morning when I got out of bed (and check for “my toolbox” from time to time).

Boo was a master of this nighttime recon-sport, because his victim would always wake up screaming, which of course, is a sign of weakness and surrender.

But, all that aside, he was also helpful:

  • I didn’t need an alarm clock. He would wake me EVERY morning between 4 and 4:30am with his “Harley” roaring in my good ear, his nose against my chin and his front paws resting upon my Adam’s apple, with the innocent look: “Oh, good, you’re up now!” when I sputtered awake;
  • he “helped” me clean the cat litter box. He would swat the sifted grains ensuring that they were evenly spread throughout the box. Either my technique was lacking or I was taking too long to do it;
  • he “helped” change the water dish.  If the water was too low, (or Jasper washed his feet in it again), Boo would grip the lip of the steel bowl and tip it, emptying its contents on the floor;
  • he was an Apprentice Plumber. He would jump into the tub after someone’s bath or shower and attack the water, making certain it went down the drain. Then he would dry off by scurrying through the house.  We quickly figured out someone either had a shower/bath, or left the toilet seat up from the amount of water tracked up and down the staircase;
  • he was a Tech Support Specialist. He insisted that MiLady’s internet connection wasn’t good enough, as he kept pulling (chewing) on her cable lines; but he was particularly fond of cellphone and iPod charging cables;
  • he was my proofreader and publicist. If he didn’t like what I was typing, he would step across the keyboard. Didn’t matter what key(s) he stepped on, he deleted everything. (Allegedly, all of my writings were not fit to print these last few months – I sincerely hope that this one is);
  • he was an escape artist. We must have gone through four or five collars before we found one that he couldn’t slip out of! Never did figure out how he got them off though;
  • he was my hero.  Last week, I was in the backyard with “Chef”, leveling patio stones when I came inside for a cold drink. Boo was on the window sill watching me, when something caught his eye. He sprang into the window, swatting the screen and mewing.  It was a bee! MiLady came running, and I hid in the bathroom as instructed, because I am deathly allergic (anaphylactic) to bee stings! He saved my life that day.
  • he was the closest thing I had to a puppy: empty paper (or plastic) bags made interesting crunchy noises when pounced on; empty toilet paper rolls made an okay substitute ball for a nice game of “SWAT” down the hallway; emptying the toilet paper roll hanging in the bathroom for a game of “SWAT”;” 
  • he was a thief. He stole the rubber stopper from the upstairs bathtub and used it as a chew toy under the dining room table; 

When we got him, we didn’t know that he had a birth defect (the easiest way to explain it) in his pelvic bone area. It was improperly formed and “pinched” his colon causing problems using the litterbox.  He was trying to pass a watermelon through a straw is the best example I can think of to explain his problem.

We took him to our vet as scheduled a week after we adopted him. Dr. “C” took x-rays and confirmed what his problem was.  She said it was NOT normal in little kitties; but in much older cats.  Surgery (removal of some of the colon) could correct it in older cats, but not kittens because the little ones are still growing.

With the doctor’s approval, we decided to try altering his diet. We changed it to very wet cat-food — very wet meaning three (3) times the amount of water in the food than normal, in order to use the litter-box like a normal cat.  

Two weeks went by, and we worried. An appointment was scheduled, but the day before that horrid event … he made a massive deposit! MiLady called the vet and cancelled the appointment explaining why.  Tears of Joy flowed from both sides of the conversation.

We were thankful we would keep our littlest family member.

A month passed.

All was well until last week, when Boo discovered that he liked dry cat-food better!  Soft food to him was now a treat, he would eat it occasionally. No matter what we tried, he wouldn’t eat it unless he felt like it.

MiLady and I were in trouble — what do we do now?  Another call to the vet …

At 1:30pm on July 25th, I would lose my hero; he was just under four (4) months old.

A verse was painted upon the largest wall of the room that we were not completely ready to grieve in:

I loved you yesterday

I love you still

Always have

Always will

Before the doctor came in, I removed Boo’s collar and crammed it in my shirt pocket. A nurse dressed in light pink came in and took him to prep him.  He came back with a “port” in his right foreleg, held in place by a bandage.

We were told that he would be given a sedative to calm him “and take the edge off,” because he was a little too hyper with all the female attention at the clinic. (I personally believe that the doctor and staff were also a bit emotional preparing a young and cute little kitty for what was going to happen.).

Before leaving, the nurse instructed that when we were ready to say goodbye, to open the door and the doctor would join us.

Boo was groggy and favoured his leg. He didn’t want to stand on it. MiLady held him in her arms like a baby, as I cradled his head in my hands stroking his cheeks and chin. He settled in her calming embrace and began his Harley.

We knew he was ready, but were we? I looked at my wife and she sadly nodded.

I opened the door and rushed back to Boo’s bedside.

Dr “C” entered and forewarned us that he might jerk once or twice during the injection, but would then go calmly to sleep without any more pain or discomfort.

My missus looked away, while I focused on my hero. Through my tears, I locked eyes with him and mouthed the words: “Goodbye, Buddy. Thank you!”

Then the injection started and he mewed loud and sharply, his head jerking back to find MiLady. I reassured him as he turned back to me.

“It’s okay, my Boo Bear. It’s okay,” MiLady whispered, kissing his head. 

“The dosage is based upon his bodyweight, right?” I asked concerned, my eyes never leaving my four-legged son.

“Yes,” Dr C replied quietly.

He mewed again, looking back a second time for his Mama.  He could hear her calming voice, but not see her face.

As the doctor withdrew the needle, my little friend turned back to me and rested his head on my wife’s arm. She cradled him closer as the vet asked to check his heartbeat. We nodded.

Reaching under him gingerly, it barely took a moment. The doctor withdrew her stethoscope as her eyes began welling up with tears. She could barely speak:

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered. “He’s gone.”

MiLady’s head dropped upon Boo’s side and wept loudly, rocking him as I turned to the doctor in disbelief.

“Already, just like that?” I asked shaking my head, as I looked back at my poor, fragile champion.

The veterinarian was also losing her composure. She nodded slowly, biting her lip.

“But it happened so quickly!” I said to her, slightly agitated. “It was too fast!”

My entire body began to shake, and then the tears started. I focused all my attention on Boo.

“NO!” (I think the whole clinic heard me.).

Apologizing again, Dr C excused herself and left. She was upset with herself.

Somehow, I managed to pull away, nod and say, “Thank you, Ma’am,” as she left; and just as the door closed behind her, I saw her hands reach for her eyes.

Boo – My hero. He stole every heart that he touched, including the young professional who had to put him down.

================================================================

I do not know how long we were left alone with him. In my heart, Time stopped.

MiLady laid him upon the little bed, turned away and wept uncontrollably, while I picked him up in my arms.

Holding him over my shoulder, I rocked him, rubbing his back like an inexperienced father trying to coax his first-born back to sleep. I buried my face in his side. I couldn’t stop my tears. I apologized profusely to him, hoping that “my little man” was still listening, still comprehending.

I felt my wife’s hand upon my back, as I moved Boo into my arms and cradled him closer. She stroked his head and told me that I was holding him awkwardly. I couldn’t see, so she was probably right.

Setting him back upon the bed, we leaned over both sides and looked at him. She stroked his side. I rubbed his chin.

It was then we discovered that he had grown in the brief time we had him. He was too big to be held in the palm of my hand, like the first day we had brought him home.

More tears fell before we agreed that he should be taken and looked at properly by the doctor.

I opened the door and peered inside. The doctor was alone at the far side of the room, her back to me. Before I could call out to her, the pink nurse rushed to my side.

We told her that she could take our little one, and she did so tenderly. I instructed her to return with his blanket — a small bath towel. She nodded and left without a word.

Turning to my soul mate, we embraced and the waterworks began again. She was still hurt, but I was beginning to simmer, I wanted answers.

He was so young. It was too soon. It wasn’t fair; he wasn’t with us long — all those typical responses with an angry, bitter edge to them.

The pink nurse returned with Boo’s blanket and left silently.

It was a few minutes later, before the doctor came back in. Her eyes looked redder than ours.

“I must tell you this,” she said, her voice still wavering. “Looking Boo over, just now, he was a very brave little kitty. I noticed a bloody discharge coming from his nose …” She paused. “I didn’t want to poke his tummy when you brought him in today, but I do remember checking him the first time you brought him here.”

“His tummy was a little distended then because of the constipation, but this time, there was something more that wasn’t there the first time I checked him.”

She then went into a detailed account of a secondary ailment, a virus that mutates and affects the functioning systems of cats.   

“It was only detected a few years ago,” she confessed. “I was still in med school. My roommate had two cats and they were diagnosed with it, although they had different symptoms.”

Before I barraged her with questions, she calmed my wife’s fears: if it was contagious, and if our other two cats will get it? The answers were no.

“How did he contract it? Was it possibly passed from the mother cat during pregnancy?”

The doctor shook her head, “I’m sorry. Very little is known about it. We have only unproven theories as to how it is possibly spread.”

MiLady had the next question that I wanted the answer to. “Is there medicines or surgery that could have been done for him?”

“No,” replied Dr. C, “There is nothing more that we could have done. You did the right thing bringing him in when you did. He would not have lasted much longer. Animals are strange that way. They will live with an ailment without complaint because they value our company, attention and love more than their illness. It is only when they can’t keep up with us anymore that we find out what is wrong.”

MiLady began to cry again.

It was then that the pink nurse came back into the room and handed my wife a small four-by-six picture frame, before showing herself out again. In the frame was an ink impression of one of Boo’s paws on a piece of parchment with a verse from Emily Dickenson:

“Unable are the loved to die for Love is Immortality”

“These last two months of his life that he had with you,” the doctor explained as her eyes began welling up with tears again, “Was far better than his first two months. You gave him Love and he said goodbye to you both before he left.”

=====================================================

Unfortunately, the rest of this event is lost to me. I think my mind and my heart have come to the agreement that what I have written is more than painful enough to remember and jointly refuse to cooperate further to relay anything more.

Boo: Your collar is still in my pocket. You are my only hero. Wherever you are now, know that you are thought of daily, missed terribly and forever loved. Live your new life peacefully. Until we are all together again — Daddy

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2 replies »

  1. Emily Dickinson is right. Love IS immortality. Yet so many people have gone through tragedies like yours. My daughter lost a kitten despite all she could do — she felt just as you are feeling now.

    She and her husband now have five kitties. And they’re expecting a baby in August.

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Boo was a wonderful and playful spirit.

    Like

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