Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Farewell to a friend

I had to say goodbye to my best buddy yesterday. Back in October of 2003 I came home from work one bitter cold Saturday morning. Under my front steps were two tiny kittens shivering. A calico and a orange tabby. I took pity on them and fed them a little tuna that I was going to have for my lunch. The calico hid in the corner, while the tabby got down on his belly and stalked it. Then he pounced and attacked it.

He had started to inspire his name.

After eating they both ran off.

A day later I asked around of the neighbors to see if anyone knew about them. A couple days after that I was talking to the guy two doors down. He was the last house on our dead end street. Next to his place was the town garage. People were in the habit of dumping animals they didn't want anymore behind the town garage where they couldn't be seen. Somebody had dumped a pregnant cat. Eventually she had her kittens under my friends deck. Unfortunately she managed to get herself hit by a dump truck, leaving my friends grandson caring as best he could for some kittens that were way too young to be orphans.

While we talked standing at the edge of the woods behind our houses, there was a rustle in the weeds near my feet. Looking down I saw that tiny orange tabby drop a dead grass snake at my feet and scamper back into the weeds.

The grandson had named him fluffy. But, at that moment his name became Hunter.

I told the grandson to catch him and I'd give him a home. With that I headed into town for a litterbox and some food. I came home to find them sitting on my porch. I set up the litterbox in my bathroom. Put down some food and water nearby. Hunter decide he was going to have nothing to do with it. At least not when I was around. He ran to hide under my bathtub. Where he stayed for several days. However when I'd come home from work, or wake in the morning the food was eaten and the litterbox used.

A red shoe lace was found. His nature wouldn't let him ignore the red shoe lace. Soon he was out playing with me, and shortly after that he jumped into my lap. I would go to bed at night and he would follow. Not as your typical cat that slept at the foot of the bed. He would pace around and meow until I let him under the covers. When that happen he would lay with his head right under my chin and meow until I gave him my hand to hold between his tiny paws. When I would leave for work, he would stand in the window facing the driveway with a paw on the glass. I could see his mouth going as if he were begging me not to go.

When he got a little older he still came to bed most nights. The only change was he would put his paws in my hand to hold instead of him holding mine.

Before he was a year old, he saw me through what was probably the darkest night of my life. He saw me through the pain and loneliness of failed relationships. He saw me through tough times, he was always there when I needed a friend.

 Probably my favorite picture of Hunter at about 5 yrs old

A couple months before we moved from NY to VA, we moved in with my brother to get ourselves situated for the move. It was then I noticed for the first time he was aging. He was slowing down and not so willing to play, preferring a nap on a warm lap. He did well on the drive to VA, which surprised me. He wasn't happy to be in the truck for 10 hours. But, he dealt with it well.

When we got here he found waiting for him a new life. A dog he didn't like. He never did like dogs. A couple children that he was kind of wary of, just because young children were a new experience. But, he also found another feline friend, Isabel. Isabel for a while breathed some youth into Hunter. He was doing well and last October we added a kitten, named Hagrid, from the shelter to the mix. Hunter still played, but, three of them made some conflicts. Sometimes the play got to be more. Still, he held his own and overall seemed happy.

Hunter and Isabel about a month ago.

Over the winter he started to show his age again. His stomach gave him trouble, causing him sometimes to puke. Then he started to slightly lose bladder control when he puked. Still the messes weren't huge, and they weren't happening on furniture. With time they became more frequent. But, knowing he had kidney issues when he was three, and a few other problems I started keeping a closer eye on him.

Last Thursday night he came to bed as usual, held hands until I fell asleep. This was his normal routine. Friday I took my soon to be wife to work and came home, to find a slightly larger than normal puke puddle, This time it had food in it, normally it would be clear. He seemed okay, maybe a little quieter than usual. He spent some time with me, then went to sit on the sunny window sill. A little while later he was sick again. Violently sick for about 10 minutes. I began to worry. He went back to napping. When he woke he was having trouble breathing. He slept all weekend. I kept water nearby. Sunday I knew he was while probably not in pain, suffering. We had promised to take the little girls to the fair. Before we left, I had a talk with him. I told him if he was suffering, not to hold on for me, I loved him no matter what.

I made a tough decision that night. If he wasn't better in the morning we would take the step I was avoiding. Monday morning he sat up and watched us at breakfast. I had a chunk of ham steak in thr fridge. He loved ham. He wolfed down a chunk. Then he seemed to get a touch of life back into him. The little girls were relieved he was better. When they left for school, he stopped the act. He was still having trouble breathing. He had put on a show for them. I made the phone call I wasn't ready to make. They couldn't get us in until 4:30.  I took a walk to Kroger and got 3 jumbo shrimp for him. We paced them through the day so he wouldn't get sick.

 He enjoyed eating on the table for the first time.

 After his last meal.

We spent the afternoon saying goodbye.

He was the first pet I ever had that we chose each other together. I have never felt so close to an animal before him.

At 4:55 pm October 2nd 2017 Hunter slipped into his last sleep, in my arms and holding my hand. He will be missed for as long as I live. He is being cremated so his ashes can be scattered with mine when the time comes.

I pray that his heaven is filled with sunny window sills, blankets to crawl under and endless dishes full of ham and shrimp.


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