Thursday, July 17, 2008

In memoriam: Elmo

[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.


Edsan said...

I didn't skip this post. If one of my fellow bloggers feels he should share something of his personal life with the rest of us, I am happy to read it.

Elmo seems to have been quite a character, and a huge cat too. Our domestic feline friends are usually considerably long-lived when compared to other animals. It is a shame you could not enjoy Elmo's company for a few years more.

But such is life, many times it is unfair. And many are the persons who feel the demise of their first peat to such an extent they cannot abide to own another afterwards; fearing the innevitable pang of loss that one day will come again.

While you tell us Elmo died without dignity you can at least find confort in the fact he was allowed a reprieve.
One of us in the same situation, unless lucky enough to live in a number of countries that can be counted with the fingers of a singke hand, would no doubt have to linger in discomfort until our body finnaly gave up.

Even in this cats are luckier than us. The little bastards. :)

I once had a friend who had always owned cats. He used to say his life-goal was working towards making sure in his next incarnation he would be reborn as one.

I was never sure if he was jesting or telling the truth.

Anyway, this is getting too long. One of my flatmates just gave a small 5cl bottle of Gin. I'll take a sip now in Elmo's honour and to celebrate the good memories that he left you of your time togheter.


Sham aka Dave said...

Sorry to hear about your loss. I gaze now at a framed pic I have sitting on my desk of the best pet I ever had, a Yellow Lab named Schaefer.

Elmo sounds like he was one helluva cat, and man was he huge or what? Dude was a downright Mountain Lion!

I buried two cats in the past couple years, and currently we have a tabby we inherited (an awesome cat named Suzie), an Alsatian (absolutely insane dog, but I think all German Shepards are spaz) and a Black Lab (as most Labs, just a terrific pet).

I'd offer a few cures to pet mourning, but I can tell you that I certainly didn't want to hear anyone do such a thing as I left the Vet's office, teary-eyed, carrying nothing but a leash after seeing Schaefer for the final time. Damn pets.

David Larkins said...

So sorry to hear about your loss. My girlfriend's faithful Cairn Terrier died at a relatively early age (10) a couple years ago, and we all miss him still. The thought of losing pets is almost enough to counter having them, but they give us so much it is, in the end, worth it I think. But it doesn't make it any easier to think that after they've passed.

Ewe Little Dickens said...

thanks for reminding me how he chose you at the Humane Society - the bond you two shared will always be something that I shall cherish.

S. John Ross said...

Many condolences :(

I can no longer keep cats due to allergies, but I had a few that meant a lot to me when I was younger, and decades later I can still feel the ache from days they passed on.

Anonymous said...

Oh f$*%, I didn't mean to joke about the departed, Garr. Once a day or so I think about the sad day to come when Snoot will be called to go sit in the Lap of the Transcendent.

Jack Badelaire said...

What a huge, awesome cat. People always underestimate the power that pets have over our lives, and I tend to think that creative, gamer-y people, having active and fertile imaginations, create even stronger bonds with their pets than most pet owners.

My cat Bailey (didn't name him, but oddly fitting) loves hanging out when we game, especially cuz he loves da ladiez and my group right now is about 75% female. He's got a habit of laying on his side, stretching both paws out, and yawning that has caused us to declare "He's casting Magic Missile!" every time he does it. I dunno why I thought of that, but I guess it's gaming + cats = fond memories.

So rock on, Elmo, wherever you are. We cat owners salute you.

Max said...

Thanks to all for the kind words and recollections of other pets.

Anne and I have since ended up fostering and eventually adopting a brother and sister pair from close friends who moved across the country to a houseboat. They're good cats, and it's good to have them.

So it goes.