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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Eulogy for Mr. B…

A cat's lifeFifteen years ago Mr. B came to live with us. We weren’t in the market for a pet, especially a feline. “Kittens for adoption” the sign said, and that’s how our daughter, who loves animals, happened upon Mr. B. Although his provenance is sketchy, he and his litter mates had abandonment issues, were rescued from beneath a porch and somehow ended up penned in a small feed store where they were put up for adoption. The kindle of mewling kittens caught my daughter’s attention. On each subsequent visit she made sure to check out the penned litter. She was drawn to one kitten in particular, a tuxedo kitty, notably because of his anti-social behavior, namely hissing at anyone who came too near. By the time she decided to adopt a kitten, the rest of the litter had been taken. “I’m sorry…they’re all gone,” my daughter was told. “What about the one in back?” my daughter asked, pointing in the direction of the little misfit. “Oh, the mean one?” the clerk replied. her cat, for a whileMy daughter, compassionate and long the champion of the underdog (strange word in this post’s context), had no choice but to adopt “hissy kitty.” Not long after, her life became complicated, too complicated even to allow for a tiny kitten. She found a home for him, but for reasons you wouldn’t understand (and I’m not yet sure I do myself), I told her to call the party and tell them the kitten was no longer available. And so began our fifteen years with Ezra. 

She named him “Ezra” (aka “Hissy Kitty”), but that name didn’t stick. In his poem “The Naming of Cats” T.S. Eliot stated: “…a cat must have three different names.” Thus “Ezra” quickly corrupted into “Ezzie” and from there began a strange evolution of monikers that finally settled into the comfortable “Mr. B,” addressed more formally as just plain “Mister.” nap time

Mister spent the first two or three days hiding under our sofa, but then he warmed to us and his new surroundings; he accepted us, I must admit, before we were ready to accept him. (After all, he was just a cat.). He never was one to socialize, was Mister, and we came to understand this one flaw in his character, a personality quirk: he was a confirmed anti-socialite. Just the chiming of the doorbell or a rap at the door would send him scurrying to a safe vantage point on a dining room chair. If a visitor entered, Mister exited pell-mell down the hall and under our bed where he’d remain for hours, long after the imagined danger had passed. On the few occasions he ventured outdoors (Mister was an indoor cat), a loud noise or the rustling of a branch would send him bolting to the house, yowling to be let in. There must have been some serious demons under that porch.

In another eulogy to a cat, after his pet had passed, the author mused that in death he didn’t see much difference between his pet in life: cats do spend considerable time sitting And so did Mister, especially in his later years, but he was active enough to keep the household entertained—and not always in positive ways. In his younger days, when his springs worked, you were likely to find him just about anywhere. He seemed particularly fond of heights…atop the refrigerator or staring down at us from his perch on top of the tallest bookshelf. Once we looked everywhere for him and finally discovered him snoozing next to the stuffed calico cat on top of the armoire which he accessed in three stages: floor to bed, bed to window sill, sill to armoire. (Warm summer nights when we kept the windows open, we’d be startled awake as Mister launched himself from the bed to the sill to take in the night air.fridge cat

Although Mister came to us a kitten, we had no knowledge of his actual age, but he most certainly was born an Aquarius: that cat loved water—on his own terms, of course (for fear of getting slashed, we never bathed him but periodically wiped him down with cat wipes). Mister’s love of watering holes—any watering hole—called for some changes in household routines.ladder kitty Except when the facilities were in use, toilet lids were kept closed. All floral arrangements were at risk. In his desire to hydrate, Mister would tip over the vase, leaving us to mop up the damage the next day. We learned to put the vases out of reach before bedtime…but sometimes we forgot. When the woodstove was cold, the open ceramic pot on the woodstove was Mister’s personal oasis, too.  There he’d be head down in the pot slaking his thirst. And the shower pan…he couldn’t wait for us to finish showering so he could lap up any excesses. Christmas was his favorite season…one more watering hole, the tree stand. No matter how hard we tried to secure the tree skirt, velcro, safety and clothes pins, the next morning the skirt would be separated and there’d be a breach in the seam suspiciously in the shape of a cat’s head. Countless times we shooed him out of the seep water from the drainage dishes under the house plants.Ummm, tree water In his later years Mister delighted in lapping water from the deck downspout. He had an uncanny sense of when it had rained during the night and the next morning would aggressively vocalize his urge to rush out and sip at the waterspout. Summer or winter Mister particularly liked an ice cube or two in his principal watering hole.

After a rocky start Mister wove himself into the fabric of our lives, our daily routines. While my wife continued to work, Mister and I had the house to ourselves four days a week. Whenever I returned from errands or working outside, I would announce to Mister I had returned home just as one might address his spouse. comfyThen there’d be the brief hunt for him, wondering where he had settled for the day. “Dogs have masters; cats have staff” one saying goes…and Mister could be downright bossy at times. Woe unto me if I let his food dish run dry during the night lest I awake to feline curses in my ear. No sleep from then on unless I rolled out of bed and stumbled to his food station to refill his dish. (Mister couldn’t abide a bare spot at the bottom of that bowl.)  4:00 p.m. was Mister’s treat time, a fact of which he was quick to remind me… starting at 3:30—or earlier. Clink your spoon on your cereal bowl and he’d appear by your side as if by magic, wanting to get at the milk sopped dregs. In later years his naptime ended when my lunchtime began and he’d saunter in to check out the day’s lunch menu. On the rare occasions we had fresh crab for dinner, you might just as well set a third place at the table. If I sat in a certain chair (Mister’s petting chair), he took that as a signal to hop in my lap. Sometimes it was hard to know who conditioned whom.

Mister’s last few weeks were difficult for our household. We saw a robust cat of nineteen pounds dwindle to half that weight. He no longer kept his tail perpendicular; it trailed behind him like an afterthought. The mischief in his eyes gave way to a strange dullness. His food dish remained untouched. Though his hind legs would collapse from time to time, he insisted on following me everywhere I went…so much I felt it was animal cruelty every time I changed rooms. But I was helpless to help him. One day he couldn’t leap up on the bed where he’d slept for the past two weeks, wanting to be near us.  We took that as the sign our fifteen years together was at an end. We said our good-byes at 9:00 a.m., February 27th, at our local animal clinic where his vet ,who had given him such wonderful care, helped Mister pass.

Old routines and habits die hard. When I’m in the kitchen, I still look over my shoulder to make sure Mister’s not underfoot. I head to clean his litter box before dinner and then I remember…. We still sidestep the little space that was his food station for fifteen years. I fumble an ice cube, pick it up to slip it in his water dish…. On my way to bed I glance down at Mister’s food dish only to see bare floor. peek a booI still have the urge to seek him out, wonder which spot he’d chosen for the day—and there were so many. Whenever I sit for a moment, I look for him to appear at my side as if he were conjured up out of nowhere. Just knowing he was around somewhere was a comfort, and the house never seemed lonely with him in it.

If you want to find the most comfortable place in the house, I tell folks, just look for the cat, and then, of course,  it’s useless information because that spot is already occupiedbig cat, little basket. And Mister was a comfort thermometer: winters in the easy chair by the woodstove or the end of the couch by the pellet stove. Summers, on hot days, in the corner behind the t.v., cooling in the downdraft from the ceiling fan. Or squeezing himself into a basket two sizes too small (or was he two sizes too big?). Let a sunbeam stray in on the carpet and Mister would find it, stretch out like a sun bather on the Riviera.

Mr. B was just a cat, and as cats go hardly took up any space at all—but he found a very comfortable place in our hearts.Sadness


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  1. RIP Mister! My cat is of the ripe old age of 17 and doesn't have many days left. She's paying the vet a visit on Thursday.

    1. Thanks, Paula, for the sentiment. Best of luck with your cat. I hope her visit this week is for a routine check up? We're adjusting to life without Mister...slowly. TMJ

    2. No not exactly routine. She hasn't been doing too well last few weeks and her time may be getting near too. She's also an indoor only cat.

  2. Terry - its sounds like you gave Mister a good life - that is all you can do - so good luck Mister in your new life as you fly on rainbows as you chase moles and birds.

    1. Matt, MIster was an indoor cat and in his other life he'll have to learn the art of the hunt. In his time with us, however, he did manage to corral seven or eight mice and alert us to some rat activity under the house. He never did kill a mouse (or a bird), just saw them as playthings...pretty rough play for some of them. Thanks for reading Mr. B's eulogy. TMJ