GOOD-BYE, PRETTY BOY
I never imagined I’d take it this hard—these last days as Pretty Boy kept trying to jump up on my table or onto Bob’s lap, and sliding back down, not quite making it—he, the incredible jumper. And now knowing I’ll never see him again.
I’ve suddenly become as bad as Rob—weeping over an animal, somehow unable to see him any longer as just a cat.
How could this happen? I am mostly a people-lover, not especially knocked out over animals, but here was this little guy who’d become a third presence in our house . . . who would sit for hours on top of a protected outside shed, just waiting for us to come home. And then, as the car stopped, we’d see him mid-air, saw his paws extended as a great, carefree jump took him from the top of the shed onto our windshield, where he left tiny cat prints. Tail swishing, he followed us into the house. In his seven years, he must have spent half a year on the shed, waiting patiently.
He was never just there. He inserted himself into our lives. Like a puppy, he followed us around the house. His favorite spot was Rob’s lap, where he parked himself every night as Rob watched television. Second favorite was the back of Rob’s chair, which inspired a feline impulse to give Rob a shampoo.
When Rob wasn’t available, I was second-best. Suddenly he’d appear upstairs as I was typing, full of sudden fervor to spread out across my keyboard. I had to push him away . . . until eventually he caught on that I didn’t want him as a second author. With that, he chose the back of my upstairs couch and stared out the window until he fell asleep—sometimes for hours.
Cats are nothing if not great sleepers. Yet they’re light sleepers, too. When I appeared every morning in the family room, he was right there, rushing to greet me at the door, standing still and purring as I rubbed him under the chin. At those moments he stared into my eyes—which I’ve heard is how a pet tells you he loves you.
To our continuous astonishment, Pretty Boy was, for years, an Olympic-class jumper. After a quick sizing-up, and with no apparent effort, he’d take a sudden flying leap and land atop a cupboard that was six feet higher than where he started. He never cared to stay long—it seemed the attraction was simply doing it. When he came down again, he landed miraculously amidst pictures and little boxes and papers, without disturbing any of them. Occasionally, when we couldn’t find him, he spent the night outdoors. We knew why the coyotes never got him: our Olympian could out-leap a Bengal Tiger.
The last month with him was agony. Three different vets told us he had kidney failure and wouldn’t last. After they’d treated him for days in a cat hospital they said, “We’ll help you put him down.”
Rob was horrified. “I can’t kill my little friend. I can’t. I won’t.” And I said, “Isn’t it better for him?” But Rob said it wasn’t, that Pretty Boy wasn’t suffering.
“But you’re suffering,” I said, “And so am I. Maybe we should put you down.” And Rob replied, “Give him some food, Babe. Offer him something new. Maybe he’ll get better.”
Which explains why for weeks I kept opening new cans of tuna (since cats won’t eat anything exposed to air), and I kept following him around the family room, placing fresh food under his nose. In despair, Rob and I saw him turn away, refusing everything except water. Yet until the last week, he still managed to purr . . . and the last day he broke Rob’s heart when he wobbled after Rob into another room.
At last Pretty Boy did what pets do. After we went to bed, he found a small spot deep in a cupboard we couldn’t see or find . . . and using his last energy to get there, he spread out and died. Yet Rob and I were not without help. Next morning it was Tracy’s Paul who came over and found him—and yes, buried him.
We may eventually get another cat. But we know in our hearts we’ll never replace Pretty Boy. For us, his enthusiasm, his unconditional love was irresistible. In the end, love is what it’s all about.