Not ready to let go of ‘early us’ cat

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He’s always been less a lover, more a fighter.
We bought him almost 15 years ago, in our early dating days when buying a cat together was still giddily committed, “hey look at us, we’re a FAMILY!”
We found him in a pet shop, stuck in a cage in a roomful of barking dogs, eyes wide, fur on end. Truth be told, he wasn’t all that cute.
He looked for all the world like one of those “scaredy cat” stuffed toys you used to see stuck to car windows with wild eyes and suction-cup feet back before everyone developed some semblance of good taste and got rid of those things.
We named him “Taz” after the cartoon character, Tasmanian Devil. It was fitting.
Even at his tiniest, weighing not much more than your thumb, he would remove a limb from anyone who tried to touch his food.
Mr. Wonderful once reached down to pick up a bit of meat he’d dropped in Taz’s reach.
He almost pulled back a bloody stump for his efforts.
Loner. He is not, in the strictest sense, the cuddliest or most loving of pets. Yet he has been loyal and true, and I’ve often said we would have been slap run over with mice had we not had him.
At his best, Taz was a fiercely independent loner. A slayer of mice. A killer of rats.
Many afternoons we would glance out and see him, a small gray ball skulking across the field, or stealthily lying in wait for some unsuspecting prey.
I used to worry about raccoons until I realized I truly pitied the coon who would tangle with him.
Not a house cat. He was always welcome in the house but rarely deigned to enter.
Ours was not his domain. He was a cat of the world. Or at least the yard.
Then, last winter, he decided to domesticate himself. Suddenly he would deign to come inside, but only overnight, thank you very much.
Then, this past fall, he moved indoors. I don’t know precisely when I noticed but eventually it came to my attention that he was inside to stay.
Now, since Christmas he has gone quite quickly downhill. He wanders in a fog most of the time, living between the kitchen and living room.
I won’t go into the details of how he has lapsed because some of you might be eating and he does, after all, have his dignity.
Suffice to say that he is no longer the fighter. Or maybe he is.
I trucked him off to the vet in hopes of a cure. I have a checkbook and a willingness, surely there must be something?
The vet gave me a wan smile and a prescription that is unlikely to change the fact that he is very old. We can, however, try.
He’s been with us 15 years, I can’t see not giving him a few more weeks.
Youth. Of course everything I write is somehow less about the subject and more about me. This is no different. Taz is the last vestige of “early us.”
He was ours when life was wide open, choices boundless, and time meant nothing. We were young, in love, and a pet seemed a heady commitment.
He came into our first house and with us to our second. He was one of the first things outside ourselves that we ever loved together.
He is our salad days, our early years, our youth. In photos of his first days with us he fits in my hand and he and I are both much smaller.
Now he is shrinking back to that kitten-size but without the kitten zest.
I feel the time – and age – stretching out between then and now.
It catches me off guard, and annoys me, that 1993 was so long ago.
Why do we, and what we love, have to grow old?
He was one of our original four pets together. Two dogs, two cats. He was the youngest. Now, he is the only one of the “originals” left.
For nearly 15 years we have been his people and he has been our cat. Lately he’s become a lover and a fighter. We just hope he has some good fight left.
We’re not quite ready to let go of him, or “early us” just yet.

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Warm, witty and just a wee bit warped, Kymberly Foster Seabolt is a native of Kent, Ohio, who survived childhood exposure to disco and grew up to marry and move to the country. Her column weaves her special brand of humor with poignant, entertaining, and honest portrayals of parenting, marriage, and real life. She currently lives in northeastern Ohio with her husband, two children, two dogs, two cats, and numerous dust bunnies who wish to remain nameless.

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