For Siria, Alysha, and Stephen.
He was just a cat.
His name was SJ, and he was a fat, orange, ill-tempered tabby about the size of a small puma.
And he hated my guts.
When I first moved-in with my wife and her two teenaged kids five years ago, SJ didn’t like me at all. He would swipe at me every chance he got, leaving bloody marks on my arms and legs whenever I passed him in the kitchen or the living room. And he sure as shit hated it when I took over his side of the bed, and during the first two years, I awoke many a night to SJ clawing at my feet beneath the sheets. He was, and had been for several years, the Alpha Male of the family, and then, out of nowhere, this big, pink, wine-guzzling ape moves in and starts taking over his territory. I’m sure he didn’t appreciate that much. I can’t blame him for that. I wouldn’t have liked me either.
Now, my wife is a single mom who worked long hours while raising two kids on her own, and for years, they were essentially a family of three, a family that depended on each other not only as a mother and her children, but also as best friends. And they had their cats. And the cats were all orphans, lost and homeless and sentenced to die had not my stepdaughter, Alysha, seen them, rescued them, and brought them into the apartment. And they were a family–my wife, her kids, and the cats. And they watched out for each other.
No matter how I felt about the damn cats in the beginning, I can tell you that for five years, I have observed that whenever anyone in the house has been either sick or sad or both, all four of the cats, including SJ, will plant themselves on the bed of whomever isn’t doing too well, and there they’ll stay until the crisis is over. Especially SJ. Even when my dad passed away last year, as many personality issues as SJ and I had…he was there for me, too. At the edge of the bed. Watching out for me. Maybe he realized that suddenly I was a bit of an orphan, too.
SJ passed away today. He developed a mass around his bladder, and was gone within 48 hours. He left this world surrounded by the love and caresses of my wife and my kids. I was, and am, proud of them all. They are good people.
On an ugly, bloody day when fifty innocent souls lost their lives at a concert in Las Vegas, I’m sure some folks might think it’s a little silly to mourn so deeply for just a damn cat. But consider this:
A cat or a dog will never stockpile weapons to kill a bunch of other cats or dogs through a glass window in a hotel room. Our pets will never seek to murder us because they don’t dig our politics or religion or skin color or orientation. A pet won’t seek revenge against an old grudge. A pet won’t rob you, or lie about you, or slander your name.
They just…love us. And they want to be loved in return. And even if you don’t love them back, they’ll still love you unconditionally. They’re crazy like that.
All they want in the world is to eat, poop, pee, snooze, play, and have some big, pink apes to snuggle with. As such, they are eternally forgiving and crazy-loyal. Wow.
I think one of the reasons we cry so much for our pets is because, secretly…we know they are better than us. And maybe we should learn from them…
SJ was a good cat. We had our problems, but they were never his fault. They were mine.
He wasn’t just a cat, though.
He was a good man who watched over his family.
And I loved him.
And I admired him.
And I will miss him…