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Archive for May, 2011

Smokey Kitty

This one’s gonna be a sad one folks.

Watching the birds.

When I was thirteen years old I got a kitten who was light grey in color and looked like he had stepped into and laid in white paint. Excluding the family dog Dingus and a small gerbil army, this was my first pet. I named him Smokey because of the color of his fur.

Early on he had a lot of energy and liked to pounce. He would run up and down the hallway and hide behind objects waiting for me to walk past so he could bite my ankles. Another of his favorite mischievous behaviors was to wait until I crawled into bed and pounce and nibble on my toes as I moved them under the covers. I also liked watching him stare out the large glass patio door at the birds flying around. I especially enjoyed when he would swat or pounce at them despite the glass barrier.

It wasn’t long before we acquired a second cat: Tigger. The two would chase each other and Smokey frequently showed the (slightly) younger cat who was boss. That’s when I started calling him the “old man.” Even though he was only about 2 years old, he had a quality about him that showed wisdom and respect. He reminded me a lot of an aged martial arts master who was quiet and calm but capable of taking on all comers.

I remember he had a big ear mite problem when he was younger and it led to him being touchy about his ears. Most cats will let you rub or pet their ears, and some even encourage you to do so, but he didn’t care for it. He would tolerate it in the moment and then shake his head back and forth as if shaking off water. I’ll admit, I was mean from time to time and rubbed his ears intentionally to frustrate him, but I also scratched under his chin frequently, which he loved.

Hanging out.

Smokey slept at the foot of my bed nearly every night I slept in that house. More specifically, he made a point to sleep between my legs which made it difficult to turn over without thwomping him. I blame a small percentage of my back problems to the fact that I slept in awkward yoga poses for most of my adolescence because of him. He did this every time I came to visit after leaving college for college as well. I’m told he adopted my mother after I left and frequently slept at her feet, as well as my brother and (at the time) little sister.

I stick my tongue out at you.

Smokey was a calm and quiet cat and seriously affectionate. He didn’t seem to have many of the more annoying personality traits that come with cats. He was rarely moody and not terribly shy, though he did like his isolation time. He rarely hissed at people and rarely left the front porch when we occasionally let him outside to see the birds for real. He would often sit next to people or perch over their shoulder and watch television, frequently grooming the person’s head in the latter case.

Whenever I would visit home while in college I would spend the first few moments after entering the house tracking him down and loving on him. I missed him a lot and even though I am living with other kitties (Zoie and Jasper), I still loved him and missed him. He helped us all through tough times and in a way represented a new beginning following my parents’ divorce. I watched him grow up alongside my sister who was born a year after we had Smokey–another new beginning.

Over the past year or so the old man has really been the old man. He was the oldest critter in my mothers house of 5 cats and a dog. He kept an eye on the younger critters and became a fixture in my mother’s home. He slept for long periods of time and spent a lot of time lounging in far corners of the house. He continued to be sociable, especially at bed time, but he was starting to show his age.

It starts getting sad here.

On the porch.

About a month ago I got a phone call from mom saying he was sick. He had developed tumors in his ears and throat. Mom cared for him of course as he began to decline steadily. He lost weight rapidly and his appetite waxed and wained. I went to visit him about 3 weeks ago and took some pictures. Even then he had lost about 3 lbs and was looking tired. The vet informed us that there was little we could do about his condition, even if we had caught it a year ago, and mom resolved to bring him home.

That’s the second time I’ve cried while typing this.

Smokey continued to decline and began to have difficulty moving around. Mom and I made one of the most difficult decisions we’ve ever had to make. I spent an hour with him at home sitting on the front porch Friday afternoon. I pet his soft fur and stroked his head and chin. I talked to him about a lot of things and told him how much he meant to me and how much I loved him. We were surprised that he had hung on that long and mom had secretly hoped he would quietly pass away in the home. I realized that he was waiting for me. I have been traveling over the past 3 weeks and was unable to visit. He was waiting on me to say goodbye.

Mom and I were with him until the end. I don’t think either of us could have done it without the other.

Third time. Deep breath.

I miss him already. I tear up every time I think about visiting mom and knowing he won’t be there for me to find hiding in my sister’s room chilling out on her bed. He won’t be sitting on the couch grooming my hair. He won’t be sleeping between my legs at night. I won’t get to scratch him under his chin. I’ve honestly never felt grief like this before. No disrespect to family members who have passed, but this is as close to losing a sibling as I can imagine. I grew up with him and now he’s gone. I will never forget him.

Thanks to everyone who has given condolences and hugs. It means a lot to me. I look forward to seeing my kitties Zoie and Jasper and my wife Maggie real soon. I could use more kitty loving time and hugs.

Rest in peace Smokey. May 10, 1995 - May 6, 2011

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