When I was 6, I begged and pleaded with my parents for a cat. My mom rescued a stray that winter who (unbeknownst to us) was pregnant. She had three beautiful black and white kittens in April 9, 1996.
Jake was one of them.
Every night I would pull him out of his hiding spot, throw him over my shoulder, and head to bed. He would wait until my little fists of steel relaxed before making his escape. Whether suffering from the results of Stockholm Syndrome or simply deciding I was alright, over the next 20 years Jake was my shadow, best friend, my “criminal”.
This cat is incredible. He permitted me to teach him to ‘sit’ and kitty-proofed every puppy my family has brought home. For the first 10 years of his life he came and went as he pleased. If I needed him back inside, all I had to do was call his name and he would come out of the woods, meowing the whole way.
I had a second shadow, was never allowed to use the bathroom in peace, and woke up more times than I can remember with a cat smothering my face. As he got older he tormented my brother, howling plaintively at the top of the stairs about the gross injustice of no one feeding him breakfast as 2am. He would wander from room to room, crying at my father and his now wife, demanding to know where I was and when I would be home. No one but me could satisfy him, and when I finally came home I would receive a series of chirps, trills, and baby meows as he talked to me about his day. He’s always been incredible vocal.
He would sit on the half wall in the family room, swatting at people as they walked by. He never use his claws, but he would get you with a solid pat. He loved plastic bags, and it was not unusual to see him cruising through the house, head stuck through a plastic bag handle and him walking along like a bag lady. He was always a terrible sneak – if you caught him loitering somewhere he shouldn’t, he would whip his head around, eyes wide, releasing a loud “M-OW!” and scurry out before you could scold him. He had figured out nearly every door in the houses over the years, and we would often catch him opening them up with a delicate finesse, letting himself (and the dogs) somewhere they shouldn’t.
He’s been through everything with me – three houses, elementary all the way through college, and multiple boyfriends. He was my source of comfort when my mom died, and it was never a question whether I was bringing Jake when moving in when Ben. Jake goes where I go. Jake settled into the new house like the Arrogant Bastard that he was while putting the dog in her place and lording over the furniture. He would stand on the side of Ben’s chair as we ate dinner, a paw raised to wave and occasionally tapping as he begged for food. It was not such a smooth transition with Ben, but before long I would find Jake loafing on top of my boyfriend and receiving two breakfasts after learning to harass a pre-coffee Ben in the mornings. He and Honey reached an understanding, sleeping on the love-seat together and trying to groom each other.
This last year for Jake had been most wonderful. He had my full attention (as well as Ben’s), a brand new home to snoop through, and a dog who tiptoed around him lest she wake the sleeping dictator. He fell in love with our wood stove and would sit on the stones watching Ben start a fire, almost as if he was making sure it was done correctly. He seemed to lose a bit of the kitty senility to seemed to plague him at my dad’s, no longer getting “lost” in the house and his nighttime howls ceased entirely.
On Friday, his body seemed to decide that it had enough adventures. His hind end suddenly gave out and Jake was no longer able to walk without assistance, jump, or use the litter box without my help. He didn’t seem in pain, just confused as to why he could no longer get where he wanted to go. It was time.
Even in his last hours he was wonderful, gently waking me up when he needed to use the box. He ate close to his body weight in wet cat food, and lounged with me in bed, tucked in my arms. We ran him over to the vet’s in the morning, and I said my goodbye.
I am glad I did not wait. I would rather a moment too soon than a second too late, but my heart hurts so, so much. I am selfishly not ready, and coming home without him was heartbreaking. I should be thankful to have had so many years with him, and I know he had a perfect life. After 20 years, though, the prospect of facing life without Jake is sharply painful. I’ve had many dogs and a few cats over those years, and whenever we had to say goodbye to someone Jake was always waiting at home.
Now, there’s just silence.
I miss you so very much.
Your ashes already have a spot set aside in the reading nook. You spent hours there, sleeping in my chair and basking in the warm sunlight.
One day, I hope I can give another kitten the same grand lifestyle. I hope when he or she takes off down the hall at 2am with the night crazies that you are there, watching and approving.
Until I see you again, my love.