Today’s Cat Man Monday was submitted by Dan who shares the story of his first cat Mooch and how she helped him actualize a life dream.
Have you ever seen the picture of the Israeli soldier on patrol that’s stopped to pet the kitten? That’s not me, but it might as well have been. During my stint in the Army, I was the guy who fed the strays that are so common around army bases — if I wasn’t going to eat field rations, someone should, right?
In college, I found my way home for a weekend every month, and would spend time with my mom’s cats. But I never really thought of myself as a “cat person” until much later.
When I finally graduated and moved out east, I got a little place in the north ‘burbs of Philadelphia. It was a small apartment, wildly under-furnished save a ratty couch and an IKEA bed. I like to joke that the first piece of furniture I got was a cat.
I met her at the Montgomery County SPCA (Perkiomenville location). She was this tiny, sleepy little tuxedo girl who barely acknowledged me when I pulled her away from her nap with her sister. But there was just something intangible about her, so I said “yes.”
A week later, when she came home, she was a force of nature right out of the gate, romping around the mostly-empty apartment. Sleeping on my neck at night. Another week later, she had her name — “Mooch” after the character in the Mutts comic strip. Another week later, she had her first nicknames “racetrack” and “bonks”…she wasn’t particularly graceful, but she was fast.
And over the next few years, she’d become my best friend and the one point of absolute stability in a chaotic life. She was with me through my move back to Minneapolis, my first marriage and subsequent divorce, job losses, and two new cats. Always there and always my friend.
And she was there for the happier times, too — when my girlfriend (now wife), Kate, and I moved in together, the joining of our two herds of cats, our engagement. She never made it to our wedding, and won’t be around to see the birth of our first child.
During the summer of 2009, Kate was on a 5-month long business trip, and I was holding down the fort at home. While I was getting ready for work, Mooch came running up to me one morning, breathing heavily and dragging her front leg behind her. A high-speed drive to the emergency vet, panic, tears, and thousands of dollars later, the verdict was in. Cancer.
A tumor was pushing on her spine, and it had metastasized. Bones. Liver. Everywhere. My baby girl was going to die. I completely fell apart. Kate rushed home from North Carolina as soon as she could, and on a rainy Saturday morning, we drove to the vet and had her put down. That was the day I realized that I was completely, without question, a “cat person.”
When I pulled myself together and started to screw my head on straight, I started building bicycle frames — I was thinking of it as a distraction, despite always having dreamed of doing it. My first one was a tribute to her. If her passing hadn’t shown me how short and tenuous life could be, I might never have chased my dreams. That was her last gift to me.
Today, we still have four. Mooch’s adopted brothers Calvin and Scout are still around, and Kate’s two boys, Happy and Vinnie, are still doing well.
There’s still a little hole in our family, though — and that hole will always be there. No other cat or person will be able to fill it, but they can grow around it, maybe cover it in a layer of scar tissue, and that’ll do.
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