Once, I have sworn I would never marry a woman with long fingernails or own a cat. Long fingernails always signaled a high maintenance warning to me and she is not likely to join me for adventures outdoors or rough it in the field. I am also a climber and long fingernails didn't go well with technical climbing. Cats are aloof, never seem to acknowledge your presence, and it is on their time or no time, kind of like the worst personality in a friend. They have long fingernails as well. Proper real men have manly dogs and drive around in trucks and the worse the gas mileage, the manlier. The plan was to eventually get a dog, stay wild, and be the outdoorsy dude between the pages of the REI catalog. Then one day, a girl named Jenn came into my life and my best laid plans quickly unraveled.
So, this is where I share how I failed miserably at my promise. Not only did I fall in love with a girly girl with long fingernails, then married her, I also adopted two cats—Persians named Willie and Mattie. If I asked you to think about a breed of cats that spent 90% of its dietary intake in specialized fur production, you would be correct to say Persians. Did I mention I was allergic to cats? I had my doubts, not about marrying the girl, but would my body endure coexisting with in house, mobile fur production factories.
It's been three years living full time with Willie and Mattie, and Jenn. In the time that has passed, my allergy was not as bad as I thought it would be, rather have seemingly built up a resistance to the felines. I have my moments, but it's rare, and Jenn is a drug dealer and provides me with my symptoms. She's a pharmacist.
I've grown fond of Willie and Mattie over the years, especially Willie. The first time I met Willie, he walked right over to wrap his tail around my black slacks to spread a little bit of love and a lot of fur. I have since lived or died by Scotch Tape Rollers and wear less black shirts in the house. Willie was unusual for a cat. He frequently followed me around the house, sat next to me, and always greeted me with his raspy meow in the morning when I came downstairs. He would trot by the door to be let out, and then sit under our tree in the backyard and stare at his little hummingbird friends begging them to fly down lower and play. I would often say, Willie is a cat with a heart of a dog. A creature that embodied the best of both worlds.
Cats traditionally don't like sweets, but Willie loved to sit next to me while watching each spoonful of ice cream, intensely and repeatedly, tracking it from the bowl to my mouth and back. I usually gave him the final lick of the remaining ice cream. But, my favorite was his affinity for Doritos chips. Willie could be in a deep coma, but when he heard the crinkle of the Doritos bag being opened, his head would immediately prop up and those green eyes of his would be at its widest. He didn't eat the thing, but enjoyed licking the chip while his slave held it in front of him, then turned the chip over for enjoying the other side.
So many funny and frustrating moments with Willie the past years. Mattie is the perfect cat. While Willie coughed up hairballs, had sensitive stomach to further add to the hairballs, his eye infection flared up frequently, and occasionally carried around a "dingleberry" after using the litter, Mattie is perfect to a bore. Willie is the cantankerous early model Porsche that fishtailed in a turn and demanded attention to drive, while Mattie is a white Honda Civic, reliable and boring. I've grown custom to cleaning up after Willie, though hearing the undulating gulping sound, a prelude to his gift of hairballs, will still sound the klaxons in my head and get me out of my deep coma to a mad dash in attempt to intercept Willie from puking on a rug or the leather sofa and place him on the hardwood floor instead. All negligible compared to the joy he has brought into our lives.
We said goodbye to Willie few days ago. He finally succumbed to squamous cell carcinoma and was getting weaker, losing weight, and visibly less active. Jenn was devastated to receive his biopsy report few weeks prior and was told by our vet, the condition will set in quickly. I was hopeful and thought we had at least several months before things turned for the worse, but as advised, it all happened in few weeks since we received his diagnosis.
In the few remaining weeks while he was still strong, I spent taking Willie outdoors to the park, the beach, and hiked on the trail while carrying him most of the time. He's been a housecat most of his life, and I wanted to share with the little guy things that mattered to me the most. We even caught a sunrise and few sunsets.
The most difficult decision was playing God and deciding when to let him go. I reached out to few friends and family members, including a friend, who only had to put his dog down a week earlier. The most comforting words came from Jenn's 90 year old Grandma Ruth, a woman with infinite wisdom and grace, "He will tell you when it's time." And so it was.
This past Sunday, as Willie found increasingly greater comfort in the quiet and dark closet corner, I could see the tired look in his eyes and I knew. Life was slipping away, and we both wanted to remember him while he was still Willie. As much as I wanted few more days, a week, it wasn't fair, and it was time.
We often say, cats and dogs are like a perpetual little child. We cherish seeing the world through the lens of their eyes, enjoying the simple pleasures of life, and perhaps it's this similar fundamental joy we embrace through our pets and as such. In the end, it felt like watching a child slipping away. I'm eternally grateful and appreciative for our ten pound furball and the love he shared.
Jenn's still a girly girl, but has found a love for the outdoors, and we enjoy hiking, backpacking, and traveling together. She has become a fitness nut who regularly impresses the guys at the gym with her ability to do ten pull ups. I never thought I would appreciate cats, and I'm thankful it was Willie who came to my life. Never say never comes to mind. He's had a great life, traveled more than most people across the US, and I'll never see a bag of Doritos the same again. As the Brazilians say, Saudade. Thanks Willie!
I took some photos of Willie and Jenn would say that would be an understatement. She's right. I took a lot of photos of him and perhaps have more photos of Willie than my wife. He was quite the photogenic little guy. Several shown below. I welcome your comments.