[My gaming readers can feel free to skip this if they like. It's an elegy I wrote for the coolest cat I've known, who died a year ago today, and I post it mainly for my wife and friends who read this page.]
Sir Walter Scott wrote, of dogs, "I have sometimes thought of the final cause of [their] having such short lives and I am quite satisfied it is in compassion to the human race; for if we suffer so much [the loss] after an acquaintance of ten or twelve years, what would it be if they were to live double that time?"
Maybe so. But at the moment, fuck that guy. Elmo died almost a week ago at the age of only eight and it is stony comfort indeed to imagine a grief more sharp or a loss more aching if we had but had more time together.
He was a cat of outsized emotions: both fiery and 'fraidy, smart yet screwball, "one half boneless cuddler and one half manic nutcase," as I wrote a few weeks after he came to live with us. He raised so much hell the first month or two we had him we thought he was defective. He had a bit of a mean streak, it's true, yet in the end I have known no cat more loving or more eager for human companionship. He wasn't much one for being picked up and petted, but he was quick to find my lap when I settled down to read, or to scooch next to Anne when she knitted on weekend mornings. Hardly a night has passed in years that he did not sleep at my feet.
He ate, played, begged, bit, stretched and slept with gusto, damn, you bet. I sometimes feared he'd burn out quickly, so fiercely did he live. To our heartbreak this has proven true. Healthy and strong till almost the last, Elmo died on July 17th of acute renal failure. We gave him every chance we could, but an intense course of IV therapy could not flush his busted kidney, and on his second day in the hospital, after he gained two pounds of fluid in 12 hours, we said goodbye. He died without dignity, great patches of fur shaved, eyes red-rimmed and leaking, swollen like a balloon, till the vet came and let the life out of him. No dignity, but there is no small grace in the end of his suffering, no matter how much or how long ours might linger.
When we stepped into his enclosure at Wisconsin Humane six years ago it was to look at another cat, but Elmo chose us. He crawled into my lap and, not gently, mashed my chin with his forehead and cheek and it was clear that there would be no other cat for us. This is no less true now that he is gone: he will always be my cat, the cat, to whom all others will be compared.