Until recently, we would joke that he was the honey badger of cats. He don’t care. He could fix you with a belligerent stare that said Feed me or That’s my spot, Dog. He was black and white and comical. He had a big head and in his prime he weighed over a stone, about 16 pounds, but when we took him to the vet yesterday he was just under 7 and there was a mass on his spleen and so we did what we had to do.
It is the first day of spring, after unseasonable biting cold, the air is soft and you can feel the warmth of the sun. This seems unfair that he has made it through the winter and missed out on the first evening he could have sat out on the deck.
He was really old. We were in our 20s when we got him. He sniffed the Moses basket with the baby. The girls staggered under his weight as they carried him around and posed for photographs. The older daughter fell asleep holding him in her arms the night before he died, after we had told them we thought his end was near. I came back from tennis and found them both asleep on the living room floor. She was still on the beanbag and he had gone back to his spot on the rug, lying in this facedown posture he had adopted as part of his decline. The thing about pets is that you sign up for this. That kitten or puppy you bring home will get old and die. They teach us about death, I tell the younger daughter after school, before we go home.
The ground around our house is stony and filled with roots. It is an effort just to plant a bulb, the tip of the trowel immediately hitting a dense network of fibers. A box with a cat would be impossible. You would have to dig a deep hole, because of the wildlife, and you might make a good start and hit a rock and have to start all over again. It would take all weekend and be grotesque, like a scene from a National Lampoon movie.
We chose the group cremation and scattering of ashes in the woods or farm of a man who was in the vet’s office that day, who we glimpsed through the door, who wore a fawn colored corduroy coat.
I will not bore you with the charming details of his life, his fear of a certain 70s pop song or his love of chèvre, his last meal, and asparagus; the way he liked to lie on my chest; how kind he was to the second cat or the time he got his head stuck in a can and I thought we were being burgled. It was good of you to read this far, even if you were only skipping ahead to the punch line, the realization that animals are brave because they have no choice.