The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
SPECIAL EDITION: The Life of CJ, The Handsome Pirate Cat (among many other names)
(Disclaimer: I’m writing this as a form of therapy like all of the blog posts I write. I feel it’s easier to write than to speak. Plus, if I speak about this, it will involve tears and cause me to not finish…)
“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
– Winnie The Pooh
As I have stated before (many times), I’m a cat guy. I love dogs (we have a boxer named Louis) and I love all other animals. But since my first cat, (Tom, when I was about six or seven), I have been drawn to felines. I’m not sure why but there you have it.
The day I am writing this is the morning of September 10, 2018. Yesterday, I said goodbye to my buddy, my pal, my furry brother, CJ.
He was my pirate cat. CJ was short of Captain Jack, named after the famous Johnny Depp character. I also called him, the ninja cat, the furry monkey, Mr. Handsome, and my Bubba. I would talk for him (like most parents of four-legged compadres). CJ had an English accent, a Robert Downey Jr voice from Sherlock Holmes (honestly, even though he was named from a Depp character, he was way more Downey). He was smart and funny. But mostly, he was sweet and kind and gentle.
We got CJ and his brother from a lady I used to know. Her cat had five kittens sometime close to Thanksgiving of 2006. One was mostly white (like the mom) and she had a set of black kittens and a set of grey tabbies. She and her then boyfriend were about to get married and wondered if I would come and check on the kittens while they were gone on their honeymoon. But, of course, I would. Get to hang out with kittens??? Count me in. After the first day of checking on them, I came home and told my wife, Mindy, about how cute they were. She thought, if the owner wouldn’t mind, we could maybe give one of the kittens to her son/my step-son, Joseph, for Christmas. It was agreed on after a phone call to the lady. But the more I went to check on them, the more I fell in love with a particular black kitten. Between the black kittens, he was the only boy.
Have you ever had a sudden connection with something or somebody? I had that. I knew it the first time I saw this fuzzy little feline. After a little gentle persuasion, I got Mindy to agree to bring home this black little baby when the time came. And the owner was all for it because that was one less she had to find a home for. The time finally came and the brothers came to the forever home.
Well, even though they were litter-mates, they couldn’t have been more different. Where Sam, the grey tabby, was more of a bully and temperamental, CJ was more of a lover than a fighter. Where Sam was more of a cave kitty (a term I gave him because he likes to be to himself behind the couch or behind the end table), CJ liked to be out among his humans, laying near us, giving us the ‘I love you’ eyes.
Without going into every detail of their lives, that’s how it went. He would come up to our bedroom door in the mornings, usually Saturdays, and cry to be let in. Once I opened the door, he would jump onto the bed and wait for me to get back into bed. Then he would get between us and urge us to pet him to his heart content. His purr was so loud, you could hear it in the next room. He liked to look out the sliding glass door and wait to see a bird and follow it’s arc through the sky in the hope it would land on the fence so he could study it. He would play with his cat toys and loved when he was at the top of the stairs and while I was at the bottom, I would throw these soft toy balls up to him where he would swipe them out of the air with ninja-like reflexes. Sometimes, he would actually push them back down the stairs to me so I could do it again. And he loved to sit underneath the Christmas tree when he got older and just look at the lights. Maybe part of him believed he was outside, a panther in his domain. Sometimes, he would allow me to join him, lying close and sharing space.
But like everything, we get older. He became less active and liked to hang out with me on the couch. I bought him his own blanket and put it at one end while I lay on there other. I would occasionally pet him gently with my feet. He would roll over and show his belly and I would rub him, always waiting for him the put a claw or tooth into my toes, but it never happened. He would look at me with love in his eyes. If I brought my head close to him, he would grab me with his paws, pull me close, and lick my hair. I would try and pull away and his licking would become faster and his claws would go deeper. He wanted his human clean, I suppose.
Then, one day not too long ago, I noticed that his eyes were dilated, even in well-lit areas of the house. But he seemed normal. He knew the layout of the house, every corner, every nook. Then the heavy breathing started not long after that. And things got worse.
We finally took him to the vet on a Friday evening. And it was not good. After blood work and x-rays, we were told he had fluid around his lungs caused by an enlarged heart. They gave us some meds and sent us on our way. I think they knew what was going to happen. They said if he starts breathing through his mouth like a dog to rush him to the emergency vet hospital.
I had hoped for the best. Even though I am a person who deals with depression and anxiety, I try to hope for good things to happen and I pray that they do.
But this time, it didn’t. Around Noon on Sunday, less than 48 hours since the vet visit, he started to act weird. He went behind the couch to hide. I laid there next to him and watched. The breathing had become very heavy. I had hoped this was a temporary thing, that he was having a ‘moment’. He had a couple where he wanted to just lay down where he was at to just breath. We still had hopes the meds would start working. Then he came out and laid down underneath the bookshelves. He started to cry really loud. We rushed over to him. All we could say was, “NO. NO.” He laid on his side and cried like I had never heard him before. He had strained his head back, mouth wide. Two kicks.
Then…nothing. The heavy breathing stopped. The heart had ceased. The pain was over.
My CJ was gone.
And we cried. My tears fell into his fur as I cried harder than I had in a long time. All I could say was, ‘My baby’ over and over. Then Mindy and I held each other.
Well, we had him cremated. And we plan to spread him near the lake sometime. Maybe when it gets cooler. Maybe it was because of his black fur but he liked to stay cool and that was part of the reason he liked to stay on my couch because I usually keep a fan blowing on me. And he loved to drink cold water from the refrigerator and lick the condensation from our water bottles.
When it gets cooler, we’ll have a little ceremony and sneak down to one of our favorite parks and go by the lakeside and spread him around. I have a place in mind, a special place, where the water will be cool and birds play and fly from tree to tree.
I know some of you that are reading this and thinking I’ve lost my mind.
“You make him sound like a human. He was just a cat, just an animal. Get over it.”
If you are thinking that, I’m going to guess you don’t have any pets. I’m even going to go as far as to say you are probably only concerned with your own well-being and are really lonely. I feel sorry for you if you are.
I’m sorry if I suddenly lashing out but I know it’s true. I’m not talking about people who want an animal in their lives but can’t have them due to living arrangement or sickness or etc. I’m talking about those who find the idea of living with an animal as disgusting or stupid. Those people and I probably couldn’t be friends.
CJ was more to me than a pet.
He was family. My family.
He still is my family.
That fuzzy face was there when I needed him. That master of ninjas was there when I felt alone. That four-legged feline was there, standing or sitting beside me while we looked at each other with love when the world felt too dark, too unloving. He was a port in the storm when the outside world felt too cruel to even venture out. And I suspect, he will always be there in my heart and mind.
He waited for me to get home. He waited outside the bedroom door to be let in or for me to be ‘let out’. When I saw him, I knew we still that connection like the first time I saw him with his littermates, how he looked up at me with the same look he gave me not long before he passed.
I’m here. Love me.
You see, I believe in Heaven. I believe that all of those that have passed before you and you loved will be there waiting. And that goes for the animals that you gave names to and brought into your home and heart. There all will understand, speaking and being understood. They will be there to greet you and the love you had for each other on Earth is but a drop for what it will be like there.
CJ will be there with the others and I’ll get to see him once again. For eternity.
That’s my Heaven.
By the way, when we took him to the place to be cremated, it was raining. It hadn’t rained this hard for some time. We drove through puddles and the windshield wipers were a blur. But it didn’t bother us. We had other things on our mind. How were we going to face another day without his little face looking at us and wanting to be petted and loved on?
But once we gave him one last kiss good-bye and were driving home, the sky cleared and blue could be seen.
I took it as a sign because I look for them. I believe in them.
He had made it. He was home.
CJ was one in a million to me. He was special. I know all humans say that about their animal companions. But he was special, like no other cat I have ever had the honor of calling mine. Some have come close and I have loved them all. But CJ… he was an argument for fate. We were fated to be together.
Of all the cats I have had in my life, he was the sweetest.
He had a soul. An honest to goodness soul.
And to CJ, I’ll see you again, Mr. Handsome. I imagine that purr you have is shaking the gates of Heaven. Nuzzle up to Trinty and the others. And save a spot for me. I’ll be along directly to sit with you.
Until then, keep an eye on me and know you are a part of me, even still. One day we will bring another little fuzzy black kitten into our lives. Not to replace you but to share our love. We’ll tell him or her about the big brother they never met. Hopefully, your brother Sam will be sweet to them because they remind him of you. He has actually calmed over the years. I think he thought of you as a role model.
And so do I.
And, there never will be another you…
I’ll love you forever.
-Loyd Elmore Jr.
September, 10th, 2018
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.