We got Checkers when she was three years old, and she was a small bundle of nerves. She hid in a box in her foster home’s spare bedroom, and we had to chase her to get her into the carrier we’d brought with us. We knew going into this that she was a neurotic cat, but we were used to cats with issues.
When we got her home, we put her carrier into the library and she immediately ran and hid behind the books. For days we barely saw her, though we have pictures of her peering out at us between books of Lovecraft stories (I really wanted to make a lolcat with one of these pictures and caption it, “Lovecraftian Cat Lurks In The Library”, but we figured not many people would get the joke).
For weeks, she stayed in the library. Then she moved to the linen closet, and that became her new lurking spot. It was a good spot for her, because it was unmolested by the other cats, and it was easy for us to play with her. She didn’t play much at that point, but she did enjoy catching her claws on a dangled shoestring.
Eventually, she moved on from the linen closet to the office. It was here that she and I connected, as much as we did. She hid on one of the shelves, behind one of our miniature gargoyles. I’d throw small toys at her — sparkle balls were her favorites — and she would bap them back at me. This game could go on for hours. And every now and then, when I would walk into the office, she would throw one of her toys at me to get my attention for another round. We were becoming buddies. But then she started to pee on my desk, and the time I caught her doing it — I picked her up quickly and darted to the litter box — more or less marked the end of our relationship. She didn’t throw the toys at me anymore after that, and she became less enthusiastic about the toy bapping game.
When we moved to our house in Sacramento, she quickly marked out the lower level as hers. We never saw her upstairs. She didn’t interact with the other cats, and we joked that she would have preferred to be an only child. She was happy like this, living downstairs, spending most of her time on top of one of the cat trees, occasionally (and only half-heartedly) playing the toy bapping game with me.
Jennifer noticed that Checkers was losing weight and becoming lethargic, so we took the cat to the vet, who found tumors in her intestines and diagnosed her with lymphoma. She wasn’t in pain, the vet said, and there were some pills that might hopefully shrink the tumors. We tried the pills — or, rather, Jennifer tried, because there was no way Checkers would let me near enough to pop a pill down her throat. Soon Jennifer was unable to administer the pills either, so she took Checkers back in for a shot that would hopefully do the same thing.
It didn’t work.
We came home from a play late Saturday night, and Jennifer found Checkers lying under the bed. She’d thrown up, and was struggling to breathe. We bundled her up in a thick towel and headed off to the emergency veterinary hospital so that they could administer the last relief, but it was too late. Checkers died in Jennifer’s arms. Tearfully we left her body at the vet’s for disposal — there simply isn’t room in our back yard at this point.
Checkers’s death was a milestone of sorts for me. She wasn’t the first of our cats to die, but she was the first of the cats that Jennifer and I chose together after our marriage. So even though she and I did not get along that well (aside from that brief time in the office in our old house), I miss her. She used to yell at us from downstairs whenever we put out wet food for the cats, and now that hollering has been silenced, and it’s hard. It’s strange to go downstairs, look at the cat tree where she used to lurk, and not see her there.
So long, Checkers. I’ll miss you.
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