Pets are Our Family Too
Knox County — You are excused from this story if you don’t have pets that have ever been a part of your family. I’ve had cats ever since I was on my own. I’ve had several families. It started with a mackerel tabby named Sylvester and went on to Scamp and Scooter and Captain; then Sissy, Willie, and Tiny; then Grayson joined the gang. When we lost Willie, we added two more. They were and are Sundance, or Sonny for short, and Butch, or Butchie. Grayson left us before the big flood and as you know we had to put Sundance to sleep recently. So now Butchie is on his own.
Sonny and Butch came to Nanci and me ten years ago when we choose them from a pen up at Pet Smart when they had an adoption day from a local shelter. They were both gray, black and white tabbies. The lady said to us, “You want both of them?” We said, “How are we going to take one without the other. They are obviously brothers. We can’t separate them can we?”
She laughed and was very glad we took two kitties off her hands at once. She gave us a discount as to shots etc. because we took both of them.
As we stood holding them at Pet Smart I said, “We’ll call them Butch and Sundance.” They were very similar in looks. We decided they must be twins. Nanci was holding the lightest one and I said, “This one is lighter so we’ll call him Sundance. The one I have we’ll call Butch.” So we paid the $150, put them in a cage together and took them to their new home.
As it happened their personalities developed so that Sundance was aptly named. He loved the sun and was always sad on rainy days and just went in and lay down on my bed.
Because they looked so much alike and were of the same size, we put different colored collars on them for a while so that we could tell them apart. Sonny’s was pink for his rosy ways and Butch was blue. As they grew, however, the collars were no longer necessary as Sonny grew to be about twice the size of Butchie.
If you live with cats long enough you can tell when a special cat comes along. Sonny was one of those very special ones. He could very well have been a therapy cat like the ones in that nursing home that goes to sit with the very sickest patient. When I had a restless night and might not be feeling so well, Sonny would lay up by my head in bed and put his paw out and lightly pat me when I moved around too much, as if to say, “It’s OK, Mom. You’ll be all right.”
Sonny was never an aggressive cat. Although he outweighed Butchie, he would let him climb all over him and often sat back letting Butchie eat first even though they both had their own dishes. He would come to anyone and rub against you until you at least petted him; he’d bump heads with you and purr so loud you could hear him in the other room. He also snored.
His favorite toy was a small stuffed mouse. They came three to a card and we went through a bunch of those cards. We had to put the mouse to bed at night or Sonny would play with it in the middle of the night and cry to tell us he’d killed it again.
It was distressing, therefore, when Sonny got sick. At first the vet told us it was a minor infection and the medicine we gave him seemed to work and he was himself again. Then in the last week or so of his life he became increasingly aggressive towards Butchie and even towards us. We knew something was terribly wrong and the vet agreed. He said he wouldn’t be acting that way if something wasn’t medically wrong. We could have given him some expensive tests to find out if he had kidney problems or even worse, a brain tumor. Even if we could treat him at that point he probably wouldn’t have lived more than six months.
At one point we had to put them in separate rooms for Butchie’s own safety. I put his food dish and a small litter box for him to use. It was hard for him to understand why he’d been put in jail like that. It must have brought back memories of the time the two of them were closed up in one room for six weeks at our friends’ house where we stayed after the flood.
Nanci and I agree that we never want to see an animal suffer that way, so we decided to put him to sleep. Just getting him in the carrying case that day was a chore. What I regret most is that I couldn’t even give him a last kiss and hug because of his aggressiveness. Our sweet boy just wasn’t there anymore.
The rest of that day I spent cleaning up his scent from the apartment as much as possible. I scrubbed the litter box parts and the rubber rug that goes with it to catch stray litter. I threw away his dish and washed the other one out for Butch. I cleaned up the space where Butchie had been sequestered. Then I vacuumed. Butchie was happy at least to have the run of the house again.
Of course Butchie can still smell him. Every time I open the clothes closet where Sonny always insisting on going, Butchie smells every corner of it and looks and looks for his old pal. Yesterday he broke my heart. He suddenly wants to know where I am at every minute. He lost sight of me for a minute when I went into the office to do some work. Next thing I hear is his insistent crying which didn’t stop until I called him and he came running to me.
Even as they grew older and less dependent on each other, they always wanted to know where the other one was. Many times we had to go find the missing brother and show the other one where he was so he would stop pacing and crying.
I found these photos yesterday of when they were both little. (Please see these pictures on the regular blog space: www.southendstories.blogspot.com.)
Sonny is being cremated by the Shugarts, a family who has had after care services for animals for many years. They have cremated all of my cats to date. They pick him up at the vet’s and return him there and I will go there to pick him up. His ashes will be in a tin box which I’ll keep close to the other ones who have left us. They will all be buried with me when I am buried myself. We’ll all meet up at the Rainbow Bridge together.
Thanks for listening.