Yesterday, my sweet Tank, the kitty-man of my heart for
nearly 17 years, died.
Many years ago, when Big E and I were both employed
and childless, we were money saving machines with goals.
There were plans for marriage, children, a house to call
our own, and pets. To be completely frank, one of my
main drives toward a mortgage was being able to have a
cat (or cats). And so, when we had our wedding and
bought our house (within a month of each other), we
also had our cat. (Yes, our sweet girl-dog also came
along, but she is another story.)
The Tank was that cat. We brought him home as a
kitten from the humane society, and he was my cat.
Yes, he loved Big E, but I was his Person, with a
capital ‘P’. We called him Tank because he didn’t
believe in subtlety. He plodded down the stairs with
gravitas and percussion. When he jumped, you knew it.
If he didn’t like you, you were in no doubt. It was his
view that the house was ours, his and mine, but that
I kept inviting creatures into the house without his
blessing. At first, it was just humans who would come
for a couple of hours and then they would leave.
Then we brought in that girl-dog, but she, at least,
knew her place and would do whatever The Tank
demanded. Then the children came, who were
strange, unpredictable things that must be tolerated.
After a decade, or so, he decided they were okay,
and perhaps, useful. Then, we brought in that Kitten,
The Tank did not suffer outside cats. For many years,
at this time of year, on or about the first day of spring,
he would race into the forbidden outdoors to find a
feral cat. Dire battle would ensue, followed by;
a trip to the vet, the inevitable abscess, surgery,
antibiotics, wound cleanings, and a week locked in
the bathroom while his wounds healed. To achieve
this feat, he would jimmy windows open with his nose,
open doors with his paws, and leap from roofs.
It was a mission.
And into this house of one cat, we brought Mr Fuzzpants.
We thought the girls needed a cat who could love them,
not just tolerate them, and that maybe a kitten would
be good fit. The Tank hissed, ignored, batted, thumped,
and growled at the newcomer, but he did not injure him.
Mr F threw himself at the Tank with a relentlessness that
speaks either of stubbornness, craftiness, or insanity.
And, The Tank yielded. He many have been a grumpy
old man of a cat, but Mr Fuzzypants was his (sometimes
The Tank was a working cat, of sorts. He moused,
when there was need, with great success. He would
have been happy for more mousing work, but with mice
being scarce (thank goodness) most of his time was to
given to taking care of me. He followed seasonal routines.
In winter, he slept behind my knees. In summer, he slept
next to my arm. When Big E would come home from
work, he would greet him, and then make room for him
in the bed. If I stayed up too late, he would scold,
before going up to bed to wait for me. He came when
called, and always kept me company when I was sick.
He talked to me, and when I left work after Sweet G
was born, he kept me company.
He met the challenge of aging and disease, as he did
everything, with grudging compromise. When the
growths in his hind leg first started to hinder him,
he just thumped down the stairs with more percussion
than before. When I placed a step next to the bed, so
he could get in and out more easily he ignored it for a
week, and then would only use it when I wasn’t looking.
When the growths spread, he forced his legs to work,
marionette like, so he could make his rounds.
If he needed to rest after walking the length of a room,
no one should notice. Even emaciated from illness,
he was still a big cat who held his own. The day before
yesterday, when I was feeling down, he came and
snuggled on my lap, my sweet boy to the last.
And then, Big E and I decided it was time; The Tank
was in more pain than could be tolerated. The Tank,
who had always been vocal in the carrier, was silent
on his way to the vet. When the vet’s assistant came
out to speak with us, he rallied to hiss and growl, but
he was silent when she carried him back. Afterward,
it was apparent how much of what had held my sweet
boy together was will. It is difficult when the best gift
we can give our companions is relief from pain,
but I am glad that we could, at least, give him that.