Category Archives: Cats

Entries where I mention or talk about my cats.

Checkers: 2003 – 2011

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.

Tangerine: April 1995 to September 2009

Tangerine: April 1995 to September 2009

Here’s all I can really say about Tangerine.

She was a beautiful cat. She really was my favorite. I bonded with her in a way I’d never bonded with another cat. We both had respiratory issues; I have asthma and allergies, and Tangerine was permanently sniffly due to some upper respiratory issues she had as a kitten. We described her funny little noises as “snorfles”, and we could always tell when she was coming by her snorfles and sniffs. She was not a stealhy cat. And every now and then she would seem to get “oversnorfed” and would end up in a sneezing and sniffing fit that we could hear all over the house. Because of her breathing problems, she had a very loud and squeaky purr that we could hear from just about everywhere in the house.

Most mornings after waking up I spend half an hour or so puttering around on my computer. Tangerine would often jump onto my lap when I was doing that, and sometimes she would crawl onto my chest and lay ther purring, which would prevent me from sitting upright or standing up; she was a great excuse for avoiding my morning chores. If she didn’t jump up on me, she’d rear up and put her front paws on my leg, or just wander around the office, making her silly snorfs and squacking noises. Feeling her settle in on my chest and curling up and purring was one of my favorite parts of the morning, and it never failed to cheer me up.

She wasn’t much for playing or overt affection; she liked being on me, but she wasn’t too keen on being carried around or held. She hated being on her back, but sometimes she liked being on her side. Let’s say she liked affection but it had to be on her own terms. And even though she came with Jennifer to our marriage, Tangerine and I really bonded to the point where it was clear that she was really my cat more than she was Jennifer’s.

When she had her first seizure on Tuesday morning, we both panicked. I called the vet and brought her in as soon as I could; it was an hour until they opened, and during the entire time I worried. I took the day off work so that I could take care of her when she came home, and check in with the vet for the half day that she was there. When I went to the vet, the vet informed me that Tangerine’s heart was enlarged and she had some fluid buildup in her lungs, as well as a significant heart murmur. But we thought maybe it was something that could be managed at home, so Tangerine came home with me.

That night, while Jennifer was at her class, Tangerine had another seizure. Panicked, I call an emergency veterinary hospital. I took Tangerine in and let the ER techs take care of her while a vet took a complete history (every vet who’s examined Tangerine needed assurance that her “snorfles” and sniffles were normal for her). We worried and waited all day Wednesday while the hospital staff examined her and tried to figure out what was wrong.

By the end of the day on Wednesday, we had an answer: endocarditis. Endocarditis is essentially a bacterial infection of the heart valves. Bacteria build up, and as the heart beats, bacteria can break off and enter the blood stream and end up establishing colonies elsewhere in the body. The best theory is that bacteria or a clot had entered Tangerine’s brain and was causing the seizures. They started giving her antibiotics and some other medications, but she showed no improvement. Despite two rounds in an oxygen tent and continued medications, Tangerine showed no improvement; in fact, she was declining pretty rapidly. And on Thursday morning I asked the vet what he would do if Tangerine were his cat; and he told me that he would honestly consider euthanasia. And I knew it was the right choice. Tangerine would not get better. And the time she had left would not be pleasant. So I asked the vet to just keep her comfortable until the evening when Jennifer and I could be there, and I spent almost the entire day in tears; I honestly don’t remember when the last time was that I cried so much in a single day.

Last night we went to the veterinary hospital. The vet let us have a few minutes with her before it was time. I held her on my chest the way she occasionally liked to be held. She didn’t purr. She couldn’t purr; it was too hard for her just to breathe. We stroked her and gave her pets and told her how much we loved her. The vet let me hold her on my lap while he gave her the injection, and it was almost like the mornings and evenings when she would sit on me and purr and accept friendly pets. We both gave her pets and strokes while the injection did its work, and I take some comfort knowing that she was being held and surrounded by people who loved her when it was time for her to go.

There’s so much more I wish I could write about Tangerine: the little games we played; the way she sat on a pillow in the middle of the couch, staring at the back of the couch for hours on end; the friendly way she engaged people whenever we had gatherings or parties by sitting on the coffee table in the middle of the room; the way that everyone who met her seemed to want to take her home; how proud she seemed to be of her very fluffy tail; and so on. But writing this so far has been painful enough.

So long, my snerky and snorfly fuzzy friend. You’ll always be my fuzzy buddy, and words can’t express how much I miss you.

Sebastian: September 1991 to August 2009

Yesterday afternoon, we had to put our beloved cat Sebastian to sleep. He was eighteen years old, and was in the early stages of kidney failure; but in addition to the kidney issues he was anemic, which probably indicated that there was something more dire going on. He had stopped eating beyond a minimal amount of the special food that we prepared for him, and was losing weight. He was having trouble walking, and had taken to hiding in the closet when he wasn’t trying to eat; and we know from experience that when a cat hides in the closet, it is never a good sign. We took him to the vet yesterday to have him looked at one more time, and the vet told us that his prognosis was guarded at best, and definitely not good. We asked the vet what he would do if Sebastian were his cat, and the vet told us he would consider putting the cat to sleep. So that’s what we did. It was either that, or let him slowly and painfully starve to death.

Sebastian was a friendly cat. When I first met him a few years ago, just after Jennifer and I started dating, he clambered on my lap and crawled all over me, rubbing his face on my chin and so on. He liked strangers and would always investigate new people when they came by. Of course, once he got to know someone, he would become aloof to them.

But what really distinguished Sebastian from other cats was his vocalizations. For a cat, he had very impressive lungs, and would frequently wander around the house, yelling. He did this mostly while we were watching television, or when we had guests over for a party or to play a role-playing game. He was also adept at finding the best places in the house for the best acoustics, whether it was at the bottom of the stairs yelling upwards or yelling into the drain in the bathtub. Sometimes his yelling was loud enough for the neighbors to hear, though fortunately no one ever complained. Jennifer and I used to joke that he was part foghorn.

In his prime, Sebastian was a big cat, weighing upwards of seventeen pounds, and quite muscular. Though he was definitely a mama’s boy and hung out mostly with Jennifer there were times when he deigned to let me carry him around, though he would start to struggle after a few moments. And as an all white cat, of course, he shed everywhere. Sometimes, even after we’d brushed as much of his fur off of us as possible, people would still ask us in public if we owned a white cat.

So overall he was a good cat. Silly, loud, and friendly. Jennifer held him as he died, which he did quietly and without any yelling.

So long, big noisy cat. We’ll miss you terribly.

More random updates

The vet called back today with the results of Sebastian’s bloodwork and fecal workup. As I predicted, she told us that he was amazingly healthy, especially for an older cat. She also said that he was the loudest cat he’d ever treated. Not bad for a cat who is basically a geriatric.

Also, tonight we beat the final boss in House of the Dead 3. Basically, you just keep shooting at him. The game’s origins as an arcade game were certainly evident. Just keep shooting as you move through. And the zombies splurt green goo at you. Fun!

Exsanguinating the Cat

At eighteen years old, Sebastian is the granddaddy of our household’s cat population. He’s had some hard times, he’s been through rough patches, he had to spend some time on meds because he was damn near homicidal at one point (I could make a joke here about how he’s the John McCain of our cat population, but that would be in poor taste and disrespectful to the cat). He’s also the noisiest cat I’ve ever known, yowling and howling at inconvenient intervals (again, a McCain joke suggests itself). Every time we’ve moved to a new house, he immediately went to hunt down the best places to yowl, for the best acoustics. He’s been known to yowl in the shower, in the stairwell, even down the bathtub drain. Here’s a cat who really loves the sound of his own voice (no more McCain jokes, I promise). I’ve threatened to record his yowling on my digital voice recorder and turning it into a ringtone.

Most impressive of all: this cat is NOT deaf. He just really likes to talk. And no, as far as we know there is no Siamese in his background.

Sebastian

Since he’s an old guy, and because he has developed a weird tic in his head, shaking his ears violently at intervals and scratching at them, we decided to take him to the vet today. It was going to be a pretty standard checkup; we didn’t even have to bring a stool sample, if we couldn’t easily procure one. After perpetrating all of the humiliations that vets usually perpetrate on cats — palpating the belly, checking the mouth, taking the temperature — Sebastian decided he’d had enough, and went to lurk inside the cat carrier I’d brought him in. He yelled the entire time, of course. The vet and the tech both commented on his impressive feline lung capacity.

But then the worst hit. The vet took the cat into the back to draw blood for the bloodwork. And then there commenced a yowling that Edgar Allen Poe would have gladly put into one of his stories. I’d never heard anything so impressive, not even from Sebastian. I’ve been to the San Francisco Zoo on days when all of the primates from all over the zoo, from the lemurs to the howler monkeys, were all going off at once, and I could swear that Sebastian’s yowling was louder and more desperate sounding.

The walls shook. The room rattled. I sent a note to Twitter saying that I was waiting for the vet to exsanguinate the cat, because if Sebastian’s yowls were anything to go by, then that was exactly what the vet was doing to him.

A few minutes later, the tech finally returned, bringing the deeply traumatized cat with him. “That was amazing,” he said. “He scared some of the other techs.”

I looked at the cat who, at this point, was obviously the worse for wear: annoyed, humiliated, and dangerously pissed off. “Really?” I asked. “That bad?”

“Yeah, he hated every second of it. However, there was a bright side.”

“Oh?”

“Yep. He gave us a stool sample while we were trying to draw blood. Should we do a fecal workup while we’re at it?”

I shrugged. “Sure. Might as well, as long as you have it.”

The tech blinked at me. I think he thought I was joking. But I wasn’t. I’ve tried getting stool samples from cats like this and it just isn’t easy. Take advantage of these opportunities when they present themselves, I figured.

The vet pronounced Sebastian a very healthy senior cat, with the exception of a slight ear infection. She’ll be calling tomorrow with the results of the blood workup and the fecal workup. I expect that she’ll find nothing, that Sebastian will be perfectly healthy. That he’ll live for another eighteen years, at least.

The most annoying and the loudest cats are the ones who live the longest, after all.

I dunno. What do you think the cat might be trying to communicate to us?

The Furry Grim Reaper

Death CatJennifer found this story:  Cat Plays Furry Grim Reaper at Nursing Home.

The cat, who goes by the name Oscar, seems to have an uncanny ability to predict within a few hours when one of the patients in the nursing home is going to die; he is so accurate that staff members will actually call the family of a patient that Oscar has curled up with, knowing that the patient will very likely die soon.  He doesn’t look much like a grim reaper to me; that’s his picture to the left.

It’s kind of sweet in a way, if somewhat disturbing.  If I were living out my last days in such a nursing home, and dying uncomfortably, it might be nice to have a cat to cuddle up with.  On the other hand, getting a visit from the Cat of Death is probably never a comforting thing.

The Return Home

Flying for just over an hour with total sinus congestion is not, I’m sorry to report, nearly as fun as it sounds. There’s the pressure, the weird sounds as your eustachian tubes try to equalize the pressure inside and outside your head — something kind of like a squish, and something kind of like a pop — and the whining from the wife, who says she’s tired of listening to the whining when she’s done cross-country flights with her sinuses inflamed, infected, and pretty much packed solid, thank you very much.

But anyway, we left Dublin. More pictures are forthcoming, I promise, though they may not be particularly exciting. Coffee shops and bookstores, pretty much, and a line of strange sculptures that could be puka frolicking along the central divider along O’Connell street. I wanted to see more, to do more, but walking more than a few meters made me short of breath, so we just sat around. Around six we caught the bus to Dublin Airport, from whence we made the aforementioned flight of pain.

A fourteen hour layover in Heathrow Airport also sounds like a great deal of fun, I know, but in spite of the pending excitement we decided to spend the night at a nearby hotel. The cost of said hotel was 64 pounds, which works out to something like $140 at the current exchange rate (at least it felt like it). In the morning we took a shuttle back to Heathrow to catch our flight to San Francisco.

I have no pictures from Dublin Airport, not even of the giant stainless steel flying pig, nor of Heathrow, nor of the hotel we stayed in. Nor of my sinuses.

The flight from London to San Francisco took just over ten hours. Fortunately, I’d armed myself with decongestants before we left (which I’m not supposed to take, but damn the hypertension), so Jennifer didn’t whine at me as much. I caught a couple of inflight movies (Firewall and Failure to Launch) and started to watch the in-flight presentation of Peter Jackson’s King Kong, but decided I did not want to see the emasculated version of it. From San Francisco we caught a twin propeller turboprop plane with room for the pilot, the steward, and a dozen or so passengers. I haven’t flown in one of those for decades, and that’s not an exaggeration. Puddle jumpers, we used to call them. Retro, they call them today.

Made it home safe and sound, looked around the house, and discovered that one of our cats, Azzie, had gone missing. We checked every single nook and crannie in the house, twice, every place where Azzie was known to have lurked in the past, but he wasn’t in any of them. We decided that we couldn’t do anything about it tonight, and resigned to not seeing him until later, if ever again.

We poked around, I attempted an fsck on my ever broken computer, played with one of the other cats, and then went out on the back patio to defy my manhood and cry about the missing cat. That’s when I heard his distinctive whine coming from somewhere in the back yard.

I opened the patio door and shouted up to Jennifer, “I hear him! I hear him!”

Jennifer came tearing downstairs, and we hunted around the back yard, not seeing the cat anywhere. We kept hearing occasional whines but the acoustics were deceitful. Finally, though, we tracked him to where he was hiding underneath the wooden steps that lead up to the patio. I poked at him through one side until he went out the other side, where Jennifer caught him. He struggled and squirmed, though, and before I could open the back door to let them in, Azzie had leapt out of her arms and scurried off to elsewhere in the back yard.

Against the far fence of our back yard is a hedge, one of those thick gnarly things. You can see a picture of it here, kind of along the right hand side of the photograph, though this picture was taken two years ago and the hedge has grown to roughly ten times that size. Another not exaggeration. Azzie had run behind the hedge and was lurking there, whining at us, daring us to come back there and grab him. Of course, the hedge was so thick that even with our powerful camp lantern, we couldn’t see him.

Finally I got down on my belly and peered through the hedges and found him. Jennifer told me to grab him by the scruff of his neck and pull him out.

Now, I know that lying on your belly on a gravel path at midnight while you have bronchitis, reaching through a thick, brambly hedge to grab a scared cat by the scruff of the neck sounds like a lot of fun, but it is my sad duty to report that it is, at best, annoying. Azzie wanted nothing to do with the idea. I reached in slowly, very slowly, and then shot my hand forward and grabbed his neck with an accuracy that can only be achieved when you aim for the scruff of a terrified cat behind a row of thick hedges. I mean, I got him, and pulled him out, knowing that both the cat and my arm would be covered in dirt and brambles and scratches and possibly insects, but that wasn’t the important thing. The important thing was getting the cat.

I shoved Azzie at Jennifer, who had a towel ready. She wrapped him in the towel, nearly swaddling him, and ran for the patio. I had had the foresight to leave the patio door unlatched, so that Jennifer could just shove through it without having to work the doorknob, and that’s what she did. She dropped cat and towel onto the breakfast nook floor, and he shot up the stairs faster than I’ve seen any cat go in years.

Me, I ran upstairs and made for my nebulizer.

So, we’re back from Ireland, and all the Crawford household, two-legged and four-, are accounted for. Azzie’s terrified of me now, and I guess I can’t say as I blame him. How would you feel if you were grabbed by the scruff of your neck and forcibly dragged from your hidey-hole by a giant creature? He’ll get over it, of course, because Azzie’s long term memory is only slighty better than that of your average turnip (though I may be giving the cat too much credit).

Until then, though, he’ll skitter and hide every time I go near him. But he’s inside, where it’s safe and warm and loving, and that’s what matters.

Weekend Updates

Over the weekend, Checkers spent most of her time lurking in one spot or another in the library; for a couple of full days, her favorite spot was behind the books on the bottom shelf of one of the bookcases. I took to calling her the Lurker in the Library, which appealed to the Lovecraft fan in me. However, she started doing much better yesterday, to the point where she was relaxed enough to come out for Jennifer when she came into the room, and to sit and actually play with us for a bit when we dangled string in front of her and gave her skritches on her head. She also purrs loudly and is interacting with us more. She prefers Jennifer’s company to mine, but I think she’ll loosen up more over the next few days.

Most of the other cats still don’t care. Tangerine’s more interested in Checkers’s food. Azzie likes to hang out in the kitty carrier that we brought Checkers home in. Rosemary coudn’t care less about the presence of another tortoiseshell in the house. We don’t know how Zucchini feels, and probably never will. Sebastian, however, finally got around to expressing his outrage with hissing and yowling, and Checkers hissed back at him. We’re still keeping her isolated, so we won’t have to police that situation for awhile.


This past weekend was DunDraCon. I meant to go on Saturday and Sunday, but Saturday I ended up sleeping until 2:00 in the afternoon, at which point I just kind of figured there wasn’t any point, so I spent the rest of the day at home. Sunday, after Sunday School (third session of the Da Vinci Code class), I drove down so I could spend a few hours there. I hung out with K. until he needed to get set up for his game, then went to the open game room and played a few games with C. and some other random person he had met. After that, went to K.’s Galactic Champions game. It was already full up with players, so I didn’t get to play, but I did get to assume the role of the over-the-top supervillain for a bit, and that was quite fun. K. is an outstanding GM; if gaming were a profession like law or medicine, he would be among the most respected practitioners. Alas, it is not.Oh, I also made a few purchases; the 6th Edition of Call of Cthulhu (and I’m still planning on running a game someday); the new color edition of Give Me the Brain (I’m kind of disappointed that it’s a full-color glossy card game now, instead of the cheesy card-stock black-and-white Cheap Ass format that it has been in the past); and Cheap Ass Games’s Kill Doctor Lucky. I also got a T-shirt which reads, “Innsmouth Emergency Medical Services”, which is funny to me at least (see the image below).

So, all in all, a pretty decent time at the con. I wish I’d gotten to spend some more time there, since I have a pile of games that I enjoy but that I never get to play (the other two games in the McFries trilogy, for example, as well as ChronoNauts, Burn Rate, Cthulhu 500, and others). Perhaps next year.

No marker

I was avoiding going home.

I had to leave the office at three in order to take care of some business on the main campus. I drove out there, parked in the parking lot of Borders so that I wouldn’t have to pay the six dollars parking fee in one of the campus parking lots, and walked. It took fifteen minutes to walk to the office where I had to take care of my business. Then I walked back, went into Borders, and bought three books that I had been thinking about all day. I didn’t need any new books, of course. Jennifer and I had just spent the weekend moving about a hundred books and two bookcases from the living room downstairs to the spare room upstairs, the room that will eventually become our library. We had spoken over the weekend about the fact that we have close to three thousand books, many of which we should probably get rid of, but I have a hard time letting go of anything. Books included, even if I’ve never read them and probably never will.

I bought the books anyway. I wanted to browse more but I had promised Jennifer I’d get home before her so that I could start digging the hole to bury Rebecca.

I took the back roads home, because they’re more relaxing than the highway.

Why have I been crying about this? I’m not sure. Rebecca was Jennifer’s cat, after all, and had been part of Jennifer’s life eleven years before I showed up. Rebecca used to sit on the back of our couch where we were sitting, feet folded under her, eight pounds of cat, glaring holes into the back of my head with her sharp green eyes. Sometimes I’d pick her up in one hand and hold her above my head, with her feet and her tail dangling, and she’d look around the room, curious about what else might be happening that she couldn’t see from all of two feet lower down. She was the only cat I could do that with; none of the other cats would put up with that sort of indignity. Either that, or they’re just too heavy.

I never found the knack of carrying Rebecca, though. Jennifer could pick her up and carry her around for quite awhile, but I never did it right; I’d pick her up and she’d start to squirm and wiggle around, and if I didn’t put her down — carefully, of course — I was in serious danger of being scratched.

I thought about these things driving home. I wondered if I should put away her water bowl by the sink when I got home so that Jennifer wouldn’t come across it later on. Immediately, though, I forgot the idea.

Pulling into our driveway and opening the garage door, I thought that perhaps Jennifer was making a joke. She’s not given to practical jokes, especially not tasteless ones like this one, but for a moment I found myself desperately hoping that it were true. Of course it wasn’t.

I parked my car in the garage, left my briefcase and my workout bag and the three new books from Borders on the passenger seat, and got out. I stopped long enough to grab the shovel before going through the house to the back yard with the flower bed where we had decided to bury Rebecca. We had chosen the flower bed because Rebecca had loved rolling in the dirt, and it’s right next to the grass that she loved to munch on during the very few times that she went outside. On a more practical level, though, the dirt in the flower bed is softer and much easier to dig in than the dirt anywhere else in the back yard.

To get to the back yard, we have to go through the kitchen. In the kitchen is the freezer where Jennifer had put Rebecca in the morning, in a cardboard box. I didn’t want to look at it, but I had to, just to know how big I had to dig the hole. I opened the freezer door, and saw the box on the shelf under the ice cube trays.

My God, she’s so small, I thought. The box was barely larger than a Kleenex box. I lifted it; it was about the same weight as the cat that I had used to dangle over my head. I opened the lid just a little, and saw the tuft of a scraggly tortoiseshell ear. I hurriedly closed the box and put it back into the freezer.

At work during the day, I’d talked to a couple of people about the specifics of burying pets. I’d never buried one before, and I wanted to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I don’t know what I could have been missing, though. I think I just wanted reassurance that I could do it right.

The flower bed in the back yard is a raised one that Jennifer and I had made about a year ago, lugging three tons of rocks for the wall and five tons of dirt for the filler, stone by stone, shovelful by shovelful. There’s a big empty spot near the edge where the flowers had never taken hold, and Jennifer and I had decided that this would be the best place for Rebecca. I started to dig, going by my memory of how big the box was.

At some point in my childhood I must have picked up the notion that when a loved one dies, they’re still there somehow, cold and dark and alone and confused. I know it’s stupid, but there it is. And it still seems to me that when burying a pet, they should be buried with a favorite toy or something like that to offer them some comfort: a favorite towel, a blanket, or something that smelled like one of us. Jennifer and I had talked about this, and had decided that we’d bury Rebecca with a twisty tie, or the plastic ring from a milk jug. Those were the only toys Rebecca would ever play with (though God forbid anyone catch her playing; if she was seen, she’d stop immediately and walk away from the toy as if mortally embarrassed to have been caught playing).

Halfway through the digging, I went inside to take off my sandals and put on my athletic shoes, which would make the digging easier. Jennifer came home while I was changing shoes. We talked for a little bit, then she went to the freezer and took out the box with the cat in it. She opened the lid and gave Rebecca one last stroke on her head. Then we went outside together and I started digging again.

“Is it going to be big enough?” Jennifer asked me.

“Yeah,” I replied. “If it isn’t, I don’t mind digging a bit more.”

Jennifer weeded the flower bed while I finished digging the hole. The fill dirt is about two feet deep; beneath that is the hard, nearly inpenetrable soil that we had built the flower bed on top of. I told Jennifer that the hole was done, and waited there while she went inside and got Rebecca. I asked her if she’d put any twisty ties or milk jug rings in the box; she said she hadn’t been able to find any.

I scraped a bit with the head of the shovel to make sure the bottom of the hole was flat, and we slowly lowered Rebecca into it. Then we started to bury her, and that was when I couldn’t keep in the grief any more. I could either hold back the tears, or I could bury the cat. I couldn’t do both at once. So I put the dirt on top of her and I cried. We put no marker on her grave; we’ll always remember where she is.

When we were done and I had finished tamping down the dirt with the flat of the shovel, the dirt looked like nothing had changed. We had done a good job. I thought briefly about watering the spot, just to help settle the dirt down a little more, but that part of me which is still hanging on to the image of the lost, lonely, and confused animal in the dark hole didn’t want her to get wet. Not now. Rebecca hates to get wet.

Hated. Past tense.

We went back inside and fussed around in the kitchen. Jennifer saw Rebecca’s water bowl by the sink, the one I’d thought about putting away but then forgotten to. We both started crying again. The other cats kept their distance.

Jennifer went to bed early, but I stayed up late, writing and reading and watching television and trying not to think about the cat that we had just buried. I laughed at Family Guy and Futurama on the Cartoon network, puzzled over the first chapter of the novel I’m currently reading, tried to concentrate on the short story I’m working on.

At midnight I finally went to bed. My thoughts always storm around in my head between the time my head hits the pillow and the time I fall asleep, and I tried to focus them on my short story. I couldn’t. I kept thinking about Rebecca and the other cats, and the fact that we’re going to have to do this at least another six times in the coming years.

I couldn’t handle it, and I found myself crying softly again.

I have a hard time letting go.