Today was spent (well, it seems like all day) taking my 12 year old cat Alyosha to the vet. He hadn't been eating. Now he hadn't even been drinking. My cat...the one who came running to the sound of running water. The one around whom no water glass was safe. Alyosha stayed behind. He was dealing with liver failure. He was in a lot of pain. He was vomiting and severely dehydrated. It was time.
Twelve years is a long time. He probably was nearly exactly the same age as my dog Sophie, who was put to sleep last February. Honestly, I don't think Alyosha has been the same since Sophie has been gone. They were good buddies. The first year we had Alyosha (named thus because I was reading Brothers Karamazov at the time. Poor cat) he was an ornery little thing. He would attack us in the middle of the night, tearing into achilles tendons in the dark. He would get mad and hold grudges. But most of the time he was also affectionate. We got him when we were on vicarage, and I would come home from the church office to check on him, and I would sit in a chair and he would jump up on my chest, purring like a maniac. We got him in Yuma, and I was determined that I wanted a female calico (as if there is any other kind of calico. But he was in the cage with the rest of his littermates, and he climbed up the grating, meowing louder than anyone else. He was only about the length that his paw would eventually be, and he had the bluest eyes....eventually they went green, but they were still beautiful).
For many years he had no use for my husband. He was the one who took him to the vet to have him declawed, and the one to have him neutered. I was the "rescuer" both times. I brought him home.
But when we brought Sophie home, the cat ran around the corner to greet us and stopped in his tracks. Shock and then sheer hate were on his face. From then on, all that anger and aggression was focused on Sophie...yet Sophie had so much fur, she never felt a thing. Sometimes the vicious beast would try to attack her belly, and Sophie would happily just lay down upon the poor cat...as pictured above. If Sophie was ever aware that the cat had any ill will toward her, she never showed it. Eventually, they became friends and as cat mellowed, they became close friends.
He wasn't a wuss. He didn't hide from strangers. He didn't really bother them either. He didn't hide under the bed (honestly, when he started doing that yesterday, I knew things were serious). You also couldn't ask for a better cat for my children. He was always gentle with them, slow to pick a fight. If he bit them, it was generally evident that they truly deserved it, and he was gentle, even then, giving them plenty of warning. He was huge. When we took him in for a checkup last February, he was 18 pounds, and he wasn't overweight. He was very big for a cat. He showed many "Maine Coon" characteristics. He'd lost so much weight in the last month, but his fluff hid a lot of it. I couldn't have asked for a more perfect cat.
So since I was the one who brought him home, I was the one who watched him leave this world, petting him and crying all the while. It also occurs to me that with his passing and Sophie's passing, an era of our lives is gone. Our dog Scully, our rabbits, and whatever cat we get next in a few months will be for the kids. They will be the ones swearing to take care of it, excited about getting it. Sophie and Alyosha were for my husband and me. They were there before the kids were even a thought.
Despite what you may think about cats in general, he was my friend.