Stewardship of a Friend

I hope I won’t be tossing too much of a wet blanket on things with this story but I’m writing this entry as more of a catharsis than a literary exercise. More than anything, I just want to get some of the emotion off my shoulders. Tomorrow morning, I will be putting an old and deeply loved pet to sleep. I’ve only done this once before and I’m dreading doing it again.

It’s been a rough year or so for pets in our house. A few months ago, I told the story of Peanut, the mouse and his discovery in a box at my shop. He was a good little mouse and though the extent of our interactions could be boiled down to feeding and cleaning his cage, I liked having him around and miss seeing his antics. For a mouse, he was ancient and finding that he had passed away in his cage one evening was hardly a shock. Tomorrow will be something totally different. It’s time to say good bye to my cat, Sylvester and he’s been with me a long, long time.

Action Girl and I wound up with Sylvester and his sister some time back around 1995. The road that went from my place to her apartment also wound by the local animal shelter and every time we drove by she would try to talk me into stopping. One day, weakened by home made pancakes and sweet talk, I pulled the car in. As we looked at the various cats in their sad little cells, I noticed that each one had a card next to it. The card detailed the name of the cat, its age and what it did well with, such as other cats, dogs, kids, etc. One little black and white cat sitting in his little cage caught my eye. The card said that his name was Sylvester, which is hardly original for a black and white cat, I’ll grant you. What was interesting was what it said he did well with.

“I do well with _Misty_”

As I looked to my left, there sat a scared looking calico who was, sure enough, named Misty. We decided to test drive them in the petting room and Sylvester quickly proved him self to be a lover. What he wanted to do was play, rub and purr. He was a great self promoter and I had no doubt that I had just found my new cat. Misty, on the other hand, hid under the chair. When we asked about them we were informed that they had been brought in together by a woman who had become allergic. Because they were brother and sister, the shelter really wanted them to go to the same home. The problem was that they were already past their time at the facility. This was not a non-euthanizing shelter. The woman who were were looking with said that there was someone who wanted Sylvester, but not Misty. They had hung on to them a bit longer in the hopes that they could still be placed together and both saved. We were hooked and took them both. We actually were ushered out a side door since shortly after filling out the adoption paperwork, the woman who wanted just Sylvester had come in the front. We were told that she would not be pleased.

doink

Oddly enough, we changed Misty’s name to Jade but kept Sylvester as is. He immediately proved himself a great cat and his antics would send us into peals of laughter. Jade, on the other hand, clearly wanted to be a single cat. She simply did not want to be part of a two cat show and took it out on her clownish counterpart. A short time later, she found her way to my folks house and lives there now, fat, old and happy to have all the love and affection. Sylvester has been with us ever since, squeaking his paws on the wood floors as he tore around the house at top speed. Along the way, we picked up a Maine Coon Cat named Beeswax and the two of them became best buddies. They kind of reminded me of the Odd Couple. Beeswax as Oscar and Sylvester as Felix. They made life a lot of fun and we enjoyed their company if not the lost space on the bed. They’ve moved to many new homes as we have tried to find our spot in the world.

The last addition to the fuzzy side of the family was our third cat, Owlie. A fluffy little fool who, being far younger than the other two, took over the difficult stage work of keeping us laughing and gave the other two old men a chance to kick back and heckle from the box seats.

For a while, we were a three cat household. That, for the size of our house and the fact that they were all indoor cats only was just too many cats. Someone was always underfoot, puking on something or shedding on your new coat. Then you toss an infant into the mix, and things were really getting crowded. We loved them all though. Then about a year and a half ago, Beeswax started to fail. He had been a huge cat, weighing in at over twenty pounds without an ounce of fat on him. In a few months, he had lost a lot of mass and rapidly went down hill. He was fourteen and on his way out in a long, drawn out illness. It was the first time I had to help a pet go. He couldn’t do it with out me. So, as an adult and father, I took our wonderful Beeswax down to the vet and he passed quietly and painlessly away in my arms. I heard his heart’s last beat. I was a wreck for the rest of the day.

That was over a year ago and now, it’s time for Sylvester to go and meet his friend. I had noticed that something was wrong a few months ago. It was one of those things that only a long term friend would have known. Even though outwardly he looked fine, I could tell that things were not right. Even after this summer’s routine checkup at the vet’s this which he passed with flying colors, I knew he wasn’t his old self. Over the last week, things have fallen apart. His coat wasn’t being cleaned, his appetite dropped and then, he started to stumble. He’s lost a lot of weight and a blood test that we had done confirmed it. Acute kidney failure. For him, there’s no turning back. He’s dehydrated, week and feels sick. He’s still a lover though and will purr at the lightest touch.

vester
(Sylester In younger and healthier days)

Tomorrow at ten, we’ll get a home visit from the vet. He’ll pass away on his favorite pillow on our couch. Short Stack will be away at pre-school, but I’ll be sure he gives ‘Vester a kiss goodbye before he heads off to play. It will be hard to explain later, but I’ll tell him that he’s with Beeswax now. There are some who would say that animals have no souls. I know this cat’s soul. He’s bared it to me for seventeen years, just as I’ve bared mine to him. I’ve breathed his breath and he’s soaked up my love.

I’ll miss you terribly, my friend. I know it’s your time to leave and we both knew it was coming. It doesn’t make it any easier, though. You’re the best black and white cat there is.

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You Can’t Get That From Here.

Some time ago, Action Girl and I were headed off on one of our trips, backpacking through various European towns. One of the issues that always proved problematic were the cats. We had two at the time and obviously, could not leave them unattended for two weeks while we gallivanted off on adventures. Try as I might, neither one of the kitties seemed to be able to get the knack of using the can opener. I blame this on the lack of opposable thumbs and having brains the size of a walnut. This meant that we needed a house sitter. Well, cat sitter, actually. Considering the neighborhood we lived in, having the house occupied would also give us a better shot at coming home to a house full of all of our stuff, rather than an empty shell. Our house was nice, where it was located was… well, lets just say that you didn’t get bored keeping track of your belongings.

Out house/cat sitter was a good friend and was happy to do it for free. All she wanted was something cool from Europe. That sounded easy. Off we went on our adventure and we had a great time as you’d expect, but one problem persisted. Finding something to get our house sitter that she couldn’t get in the States was getting impossible. Everything we seemed to find that looked promising to one of us, the other would inevitable remark that, yes they had seen that back home. It was getting really infuriating. It seemed that the world had finally shrunk to the point that there were no longer any real cultural oddities that you could bring back from Europe to the States that would “wow” the folks back home.

The only thing that we could finally come up with that you couldn’t get back home, was the Smart Car. If you haven’t seen one of these, then you are really in for a treat. “Cute” doesn’t come close to describing it. They are itty bitty, two seater cars (yes, I know that they make a four seater now) that you see fairly often over much of Europe now. They are made by Daimler AG so you know that they are both well made and crammed full of a gazillion little parts that would take a watchmaker to replace. The interesting part is that not only are they tiny, sporty and make you smile almost immediately when you spot one, but they are also quite safe. I actually had a friend in England who owned one. At one point he managed to get into a high speed accident going down the highway. He bounced off the guard rail doing about eighty MPH, zinged across traffic and off the road, into the trees. The Smart Car was toast. He had a broken wrist and ankle. Not bad for a car you practically strap on.

So, though we needed to repay our house sitter, a car was a bit out of our price range, even if it did have a fair chance of fitting in the overhead compartment for the flight home. On the last day of our journey, I spotted the perfect thing. While we waited at the train station for our ride to the airport, sitting in a gift shop window I spotted our “thank you” gift. Kinder Eggs. Lots and lots or Kinder Eggs. These were perfect. Kinder Eggs are the size of a regular hens egg and wrapped in foil like a Cadbury Creme Egg. They are Chocolate, like a Cadbury Creme Egg. The chocolate is hollow, again like the Creme Egg. There are two major differences. The interior of the Kinder Egg is lined with white chocolate. “Big deal”, I hear you say. Ahhh, but, the real fun is the yellow capsule inside. In that capsule is a toy, usually needing assembly. They are often perplexing, sometimes really fun but always random. They do offer “themes” that go with promoting various movies or TV shows, but for the most part, it’s a crap shoot. You just don’t know what you’ll get, AND you couldn’t get them in the U.S.

There’s a FDA rule that you can not stick an inedible object into a food stuff. You can kind of think of it as the “crunchy frog” clause. The capsule is far to big to be eaten by accident but it seems that the FDA felt that American kids were just far too stupid to notice the avocado pit sized, yellow, plastic thingie in the center of the egg. You couldn’t import them for sale back home!

So, one dozen Kinder Eggs in hand, we happily headed back to all out belongings and a happy house sitter. The cat’s had steadfastly refused to use the can opener. Good for them, she had been there!

A month or so ago, I went into a local fancypants food import store and there on the counter next to the Ritter Bars and the Nutella was a display of Kinder Eggs. I quietly called the manager over and mentioned that I believed that these were not legal to sell in the U.S. To my surprise, she told me that Kinder Egg had managed, after many years of lobbying, to get a special dispensation. They could sell them in America at long last. I was both relieved and a little sad. It was the one of the last things that was uniquely foreign. Some weeks later, as I drove to work I spotted this…

Yes, it’s a Smart Car. You can get them here now as well. This one in particular has been modified for the Lindt Chocolate Company. The bunny ears are not for sale with the standard model. It did strike my fancy though. Some how the idea of both the Kinder Egg and the Smart Car done up as a chocolate bunny goes hand in hand. I wonder if it runs on plastic Easter grass?

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