Last month I lost my best furry friend, Thumper. He was pretty much everything to me, so his passing was heartbreakingly difficult. When the vet took him from my arms one last time, she begged me to consider getting another cat someday. In the moment, I couldn’t imagine loving another cat, but I acknowledged that, maybe after an extensive amount of time to grieve and heal, I wouldn’t be able to stop myself.
And then I spent a few days at home.
And it was quiet. Too quiet.
There was no sound of paws padding across the hardwood floor. There was no cat waiting at or near the front door for me to walk in at the end of my day. There was no critter to tell me that there was insufficient food in his dish, or too much poo in his litter box. There were no cuddles, no nuzzles under my chin, no paws to hold, no motorboat purrs.
I started losing my mind almost immediately. I am a person who needs a critter to love and care for; it’s an integral part of who I am.
So, a few days later I walked into San Francisco Animal Care and Control and met some cats. I wasn’t expecting immediate results, but I figured it couldn’t hurt to visit with some animals and give them some play time and love.
I met several kittens that day. They were all adorable. I wasn’t feeling terribly well, and I was a little overwhelmed by all of the animals. Being who I am, I felt immediately guilty for not being able to give all of them homes. And I did not connect well with any of the kittens I had met. So I was ready to go home, when the volunteer who was helping me pointed out a slightly older black kitten. “What about this one?”
I shrugged. Well, if nothing else, he matched my wardrobe. So I allowed her to usher us both into the get-to-know-you room and sat down on the floor as she came in with the carrier box. She opened the top. And I knew somewhere between 45 and 60 seconds that this was my cat.
Unlike the rest of the kittens she had brought in for me, he needed no help getting out of the box. He hopped right out and strutted about the room, tail straight up, full of fucking swag. He cased the room, and then checked me out. When I reached for a toy, my foot shifted and he pounced on it. When I grabbed him, he didn’t object, and when I flipped him onto his back and rubbed his belly he merely grabbed my hand with both of his paws and purred.
When I was finally able to pick him up from the shelter (thank you, Tristan!), it was pretty clear that he knew I was his human, too. The cuddles were immediate, and he followed me from room to room. That first night, as I lay in bed, he curled up beside me, wrapped his paws around my arm, and purred, occasionally stretching to lick my nose.
It was as if he knew how badly I needed those cuddles.
So now I have this kitten. He is made of love and purrs and headbutts and a willingness to burrow under my chin and a love of hugging my hand when I pet his belly and of gently tapping me on the face to get my attention at 5am.
To paraphrase my friend Valerie, nothing will fill the Thumper-shaped hole in my heart, but having this little guy curl up in it is a huge comfort.
Also, he does this:
I love my Monster.
(For hot and cold running pics of an adorable kitten, you can follow me on Instagram.)
This is Thumper:
He has been my best buddy for fifteen years. In the last few days of those fifteen years, I have watched Thumper go from older, but still moderately spry, to weak and wobbly. Or rather, it feels that way; it’s entirely possible that this has been creeping up and I’ve been willfully ignoring that motion in the corner of my eye. I don’t know.
Our last trip to the vet left me feeling optimistic. She couldn’t believe how old he was. His teeth, ears, coat, weight—everything suggested that he was several years younger than he is.
Now he sits in front of me, swaying back and forth as he tries to maintain balance and not have his paws slip out from under him.
Now he’s lost significant weight, and the joke that he’s really all just fur and fluff is becoming less of a joke and more of a truth.
Now he doesn’t jump down from things so much as fall as strategically as he can, and it really makes a difference to him when I help him up to or down from my bed, which is less than two feet off the ground.
Now he feels almost impossibly fragile when I pick him up.
And I am fucking wrecked over it.
I know that one of the things we sign up for when we bring home our four-legged friends is a life span that is far shorter than
ours. I get that, intellectually. I understand that we don’t get to have them forever, no matter how well bonded we are. But that doesn’t make the thought of losing the best friend I have had for almost 15 years any easier, as it turns out. That doesn’t make me feel any less like my world is going to fall apart a little bit when it is time for him to go.
Note: if any of you feel the need to tell me how lucky I am to have gotten so much time with him already, please shove it somewhere dark and mildly uncomfortable, okay?
Thumper is the closest thing to one of Philip Pullman’s dæmons I will ever find in this world. While he may not be the metaphorical embodiment of any soul I may or may not have, he still knows me better than any creature on this earth and has been there for me through more heartbreak, tragedy, loss, depression, loves, victories, and achievements than anybody else in my life.
He knows when I am hurting, or sad. He knows when to walk up to me and shove his head against my side until I drag him onto my lap, or when to rest a giant mitten paw on my leg to tell me he’s right here. He knows when I need him to butt his head against my chin and purr for me, endlessly. He knows that when he walks up to me and yells at me that I know exactly what he is yelling about even if I pretend not to. He knows that if he catches my eyes, we will spend minutes just gazing at each other. He knows that if I walk through or out of a room, and I see him reach out for me with one of his massive paws, I will be unable to resist giving him the cuddles he is requesting. I know that when I put my face in his face, I will be rewarded with a kiss or nuzzle to my forehead. I know I can bury my face in his big white soft belly and all he will do is purr.
In human years, Thumper is about 80 years old. I don’t know how much more time I have with him. Might be a while, yet. Hell, we’ve been expecting each Christmas to be my friend’s cat Elliot’s last Christmas for years, but he has clearly made a deal with Death or made friends with a voodoo priest because that fucking cat is apparently not going anywhere until he is damn good and ready. So it’s possible that I have years left with my cranky old beast of a cat.
I have spent the last 15 years telling him he has to live forever, like I was casting a spell on him through sheer force of love and will. But I’m no magician.
I’m pretty sure Thumper got all the magic.
I suppose it’s time for my increasingly traditional annual retrospective.
If 2013 were a cartoon animal, it would be the Cat in the Hat, balancing too much shit and ultimately failing. Oh, don’t get me wrong, many, many good things happened in 2013.
- I went to Puerto Vallarta, my first vacation in six years.
- My friends generously helped me get Iago, my beloved motorcycle back on the road.
- With some overlap, my friends also helped me raise significant funds for the organization for which I work.
- I moved into a fantastic apartment in SF (with laundry AND a dishwasher AND hardwood floors AND natural light AND off-street parking).
- I met Allie Brosh.
- I got three raises (which add up to, in just a little over a year, a 29% raise from my first salary here).
- Luke and Marisa got married.
- Jay and Jenneviere got married.
- What I am hoping is becoming a Christmas tradition of spending one of the most annoying days of the year with my friends Lisa, Matt, and Elaine.
- I have met some new people and made some new friends, at least two of whom are definitely keepers (and one I just fucking love so much I gave her, as somebody pointed out when I mentioned the book signing, an original Allie Brosh drawing).
- I beat my all time best bowling score. Which isn’t amazing, but I’m still pretty pleased with myself. (Current best: 157.)
- I learned some new things about who I am and how my brain works that explains A LOT about me and is helping me to make sense of my life and who I am.
But 2013 also slipped on a gigantic pile of shit, twisted its ankle, and landed on its face in yet another gigantic pile of shit with its mouth wide fucking open, for me and for people I love.
Losing Sparkly Devil broke more hearts than mine, and I think some part of me is always going to be wondering when we are going to go get our next cocktail and talk about everything. I still make notes in my head for things I want to chat with her about. Apparently it’s going to be a while, so I should start writing them down.
- I have watched my friends lose people, family members, partners to death, relationship failure, and drama. Broken hearts everywhere.
- There are friends who have been too far away for me to give them the kind of support I wanted to give.
- I am having to face the fact that my beloved constant companion, my purrbucket, my cuddly, affectionate, loving, and deeply annoying cat Thumper is officially old. He still looks great in a bowtie, though.
I don’t do the resolution thing, really. I know what I want to accomplish in the next year. I don’t know how I am going to do all of it, yet, but I’ll figure it out.
Happy New Year.
I had high hopes for 2012. 2011 was such an unbearable year, I thought that it could only get better. Briefly, it did. And then it all went to hell, for me and mine.
The death toll of 2012 rivaled the first five minutes of a Michael Bay movie. Loved ones and loved ones of loved ones were lost to accident, suicide, illness, and just shitty, shitty luck. When I wasn’t powerless with regard to my grief, I was powerless in the face of grief suffered by people I love deeply and dearly.
My attempts at finding love or even a halfway interested lover failed repeatedly, and early 2012 brought me a very badly broken heart and an utter loss of hope, not to mention a great deal of frustration and confusion. Many of my friends were unlucky in love and went through relationship strife as well.
There were a number of friendship upheavals about which I remain unsure, and I believe 2013 will involve some restructuring.
Things began to turn around for me toward the end of the year. Slowly, like the Titanic attempting to avoid the iceberg.
- I finally got a full time job at an amazing organization, working with phenomenal people and the best office dog in the world. I love my job. And it almost pays me enough to live on.
- As part of a last-ditch attempt to find somebody I might want to date, I showed up to a bar one evening with a book and a thirst for Scotch, and hoped that the woman I’d messaged on OKC wasn’t going to be a complete waste of time. Since I was pretty much over dating by this point, I wore the same unwashed jeans I’d been wearing for the past several days and a shirt I never checked for stains, and I didn’t bother to wait to start in on the whisky. I’ll go ahead and skip to the end of this one: She’s wonderful, hysterical, loving, caring, and has the prettiest, smiliest eyes. We just finished moving the rest of my possessions to her apartment in SF. She likes my cooking. (ETA: She has corrected this statement to make sure I know to call it OUR apartment.)
- My cat Thumper is in good health and happy in our new apartment, which is much smaller than our house in Oakland, but cozier and has many soft and warm things for him to sleep on. He even has his own chair, from which he can observe his neighbor cat girlfriend, Foxy. He and my lady absolutely adore each other.
- I opened up about a very serious topic in a very public forum and was rewarded by a show of love, support, and trust from individuals known and unknown to me.
2012 still sank, but I and many of my friends ended up on life rafts, paddling toward 2013.
I don’t think anybody expects 2013 to be amazing. But I am hoping that we all have the space to recover from losses, strengthen new and old foundations, and remind each other that we love and care for each other, that we are there for each other, and that we may occasionally want to give up on everything, but that we won’t give up on each other.
I can’t help but be a little optimistic; I’m in the best place I’ve been since maybe 2008. I’ve found love and employment, I have a roof over my head, and my cat has the most adorable mitteny paws in the world. Things are not easy; I don’t know if they ever will be. But it isn’t all difficult, and for the first time in a long time I really feel like it’s worth it to keep working, keep fighting, and keep pushing through. I am not in a place where I can say, “Bring it, 2013, I can take whatever you have to throw at me.” I am, however, in a place to say, let’s do this.
So. 2013. Let’s do this.