I’m sitting at my table writing because right now, this is the only thing that will keep me from curling up in the fetal position on my bed and sobbing uncontrollably. Ed, my little gray cat, the first pet I ever had, just died in my arms. And I am not handling it well.
This is actually the second article I’ve written today, and even though it’s late and I have to be up early, I know that lying in bed will be worse for me psychologically than staying up and doing something productive. I’m upset for the obvious reason that my cat and one of my best friends of eleven years just passed away, but that’s not the end of it.
He went quickly, deteriorating in just a week or so. His strength was gone, he could barely breathe, and he had stopped eating. He couldn’t make it to the litter box, and had to lie down to drink water. That’s how weak he was, he couldn’t even stand up long enough to take a drink.
But my sorrow is so much more than just the thought that tomorrow I have to bury him and that he won’t be around anymore. That cat saved my life countless times, and in the end, all I could do was sit with him in my lap as he took his last breath.
Most of the time that I lived in Jacksonville I was so depressed that I was frequently suicidal. I hated everything about my life, and quite frankly, if it wasn’t for my pets, I probably would have killed myself. I had even gone so far a few times as to wonder who would take my animals. And the thought of Pico being back in a shelter and Ed and Herbie being separated was enough to stop me. The number of times that it got this far is scary.
But all along, Ed was there, all ten pounds of him, telling me in his own way that he loved me. He was born in a barn outside of Malone, with no pedigree or anything. There were three kittens in the litter, and Ed was the only short-hair. I called dibs, and Amy took Ed’s brother while someone else took the only girl. The farm was being rented by my friends, and we knew that the kittens were coming. So Amy and I headed up there a day or two after they were born, and I got to hold Ed. He was smaller than my palm, but opened his eyes for the first time while I was holding him.
A few weeks later I brought Ed home. He was pretty wild, as kittens tend to be, but even then, he had some idiosyncrasies. The house I lived in at the time was one main floor, with my bedroom upstairs. Every day I would go to school or work and leave Ed in my room. I didn’t want him chewing on wires or digging up house plants, so I gave him food, water, and litter to get by for the day. However, each day when I got home, Ed would greet me at the door.
There were a few times when I figured that my roommate had let him out, but more often than not, Brendan hadn’t been home since before I left. I could not figure out how Ed was getting out of the room.
Then one day after a few weeks, Brendan called in sick to work. I got home from school, and he told me that he knew how Ed was getting out. My room was the only thing upstairs, and so the stairs went straight from my room to a door at the bottom which led to the living room. So Brendan was sitting on the couch (most likely watching The Simpsons) when he heard a racket coming down the stairs, then a loud thud, and then the door swung open. Brendan stared in amazement as Ed came trotting out from my room. The little kitten, maybe weighing a pound or two, was flying down the stairs and just doing a full-body slam against the door to pop it open. After that I figured that if I found a way to keep the door shut tight, he would probably just hurt himself trying to get the door open. He had earned the right to have full run of the house.
When the weather warmed up that spring, I would take Ed swimming in the lake or for short canoe rides. I took him to work with me and let him wander around outside, pretending to be a hunter, though never catching anything other than dead leaves. His hunting skills got better over the years, and he caught many mice. He never killed them, just trotted around with them in his mouth, occasionally dropping one so he could catch it again.
This was a cat that learned how to turn on water faucets so he could play with the water. He somehow managed to get on top of the pipes in my parent’s basement to crawl around and hang out. He could hang upside down from the ceiling and jump to the top of a refrigerator from the floor. He would go for hikes with me and Pico in the summer, following closely but sometimes sprinting ahead. He had refined and discriminating taste in beer. In short, Ed was the man.
I love that cat with all my heart, and to know that he’s in a box on the porch is devastating. I’m glad he went quickly though, and thinking back on all the times I just shook my head and laughed at my little man is making things a little better. I feel bad for Herbie though. Herbie was the fat lazy one, and now he’s got no one to play with. Herbie just brushed up against my leg. He gave my calf a little nip, which he does a lot. But hearing him purr makes me realize one thing. Ed died purring, warm and comfortable, held by someone who loved him and will never forget him. He had a good life, and even though he’s gone, the little man will always be with me.