Friday, February 09, 2007

Saying goodbye to an old friend

Bogey (1995-2003) and Elvis (1987(?)-2007)

Wednesday I had to play God, and I didn't like it one little bit. I had to decide to let go of one of my oldest friends. His name was Elvis, and he brought me more joy and comfort and love than I could ever have hoped to return. I hope he loved me the way that I loved him. I think he did.

I'm lucky -- I had him for 18 and a half years, and he wasn't a kitten when we got him, so that means that he was 20 or 21 when he died. He outlasted my marriage. Pretty good innings for a cat, I think. He was a long-haired domestic tabby (vet speak for non-purebred) with probably some Maine Coon somewhere in his ancestry, judging by the way he'd talk almost non-stop, and his yowly voice. He was very healthy his whole life, but at the end, his body just gave out. His kidneys atrophied and his thyroid enlarged, his body weight dropped and he got weak. As hard as it was to make the decision to euthanize him, it was time. And I think he forgave me.

Let me tell you about him, it helps to talk.

My boyfriend D (later my husband, and now my ex) got me Elvis in 1988. I had just moved to Toronto to be with him, and I was horribly homesick. Thinking it would make me feel better, D brought Elvis home for me. He had neglected to discuss this with our room-mate Sue, a girl I'd gone to high school and university with, and she had no idea we had a cat. The day D brought him home, he was scared because of the new surroundings. He immediately hid behind the couch in the living room. The couch was against the wall shared between the living room and Sue's bedroom. Along the baseboard behind the couch, was a small hole drilled through the wall, I think it was where a phone jack had been taken out. Sue was lying on the floor her room trying to reach a dropped earring under her bed, and happened to look through the hole. And saw a green eye looking back at her. And she screamed so loud, I think they heard her across the street, lol. D and I were in the kitchen, and ran in to see what was the matter. And that's how Elvis met Sue.

Elvis used to sing opera. No, really, he did. I would whistle one of the arias from Carmen, and he would join in at the end of each 'line' of notes with a yowl. Of course I bribed him with treats to do it, but it was the best party trick.

He wasn't named for Elvis Presley (although D took a Sharpie and wrote "Elvis on Tour" all over his carry case) or Elvis Costello. He was named for the hapless father gorilla on that old Bugs Bunny cartoon where a drunken stork loses a baby gorilla, and , finding Bugs bathing in a stream, conks him over the head and delivers him to the expectant gorilla parents. The father gorilla wants nothing to do with the 'baby', and the mother gorilla, brandishing a rolling pin, keeps yelling, "Elllvisss, play nice with the baby."

He liked to drink from the toilet, eat potato chips, and hunt and mutilate (but not eat) green stuffed olives. Catnip made him drunk. He could look innocent as a newborn even though evidence of his misdeeds was staring us in the face -- the scene of the crime: a stove (elements off), the lid of a pot of chili pushed to one side, reddish orange kitty paw-prints on the stove and counter, and Elvis sitting on the kitchen floor, licking his white front paws stained bright orange, looking at us all "What?".

He used to carry pompoms around in his mouth, you know, the kind that used to be on ankle sockettes? He'd carry them around and make these odd mournful howls. We called them his babies. He always wanted to be on your lap. Even when you were sitting on the toilet. He slept with us, and later, with just me, every night. He always knew when I was sad or upset, and would curl up with me and soothe me with his purring. And his unfortunate habit of love bites on my chin. Ouch.

He had forgiven me for bringing the girls home from the hospital and subjecting him to stroller rides and dress-up. (The look of disgust that he gave me when Leah came home for the first time, and he jumped up on the couch to sniff the wiggling, pink, squalling baby in my arms, was truly hilarious). He grew to love the girls too, and would go to them for affection and play.

He was a great cat and I miss him. Last night I kept waking up waiting to feel him jump up on the bed with me. I miss him and so do the girls. And so does D, strangely enough. I phoned him to let him know what was happening with Elvis, and we had a long reminiscing conversation about the things Elvis used to do.

It was hard to let go, but it was time. Goodbye, Elvis.


  1. Anonymous5:26 PM

    I'm sorry, Alison. I know how hard that is to have to do, but as the person who loved him most in the world you were definitely the best judge of when it was time to help him go. There is nothing for him to forgive you for--I imagine he is grateful to be relieved of any pain he was feeling.

    He sounds like a wonderful friend.

  2. I'm sorry for your loss. I love the story of the origin of his name. I hope your girls are dealing it OK--and that you are too.

  3. Sounds like he was a great family member! I'm so sorry his time with you has ended.

  4. Anonymous6:42 PM

    This is E :) I dont have a myspace but wanted to say Elvis is such a beauty!

    Sorry for your loss.

  5. Anonymous8:20 PM

    Oh, Alison, I really felt your pain when I was reading this! Hope it is easier to bear by now (Sept. 9th)

    Did you know that every Friday in the Citizen they have a feature called "Pet of the Week," and as this account is a zillion times better than any others I have read, you should enter a portion of it. Who knows, where such a fine example of writing could lead to....a byline...extra $...meeting new people...a book ...fame.... sky`s the limit! I believe in you!


  6. A - I must have missed this when it came out - I'm so sorry.

    They look like great cats.