Goodbye, Minus!

Goodbye, kitty.

"Aw, it was just a cat."
Why DO we become SO attached
to these furry little animals
who live with us?

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He knew he wanted to live with us when he spotted us. Actually, I think it was Elizabeth that he spotted. She was about 7 or 8 years old and he was just a little ball of fuzz in a pet shop window. We'd just buried our old cat, Kiley, and the little gray fuzzball knew we were in the market for a cat even though we said we weren't.

He stood on his head. Elizabeth reached in and picked him up. We told her to put him back down. She started to cry. Minus came home with us in a red-and-white cardboard pet carrier. He hated the drive. In fact, he never did like going anywhere in a car. He hated it so much that most of the time when we went on vacation we had Elizabeth's best friend, Tori, stop by and take care of him.

Minus earned his name because the striped pattern on his forehead resembled a large capital M. The name was prophetic. He enjoyed sitting with Katie as she did her homework, but he seemed particularly enthralled by math homework.

For most of his life, Minus was an only cat. When Cheese entered the picture about a year ago, Minus wasn't so sure that he wanted a friend. Cheese was sure that he didn't want a friend. But within a few weeks, they had an easy truce. Minus taught Cheese about cat things (catnip, for example) and Cheese reminded Minus that it's fun to tear around the house like Krazy Kitty.

When it came to food, Minus could be in the basement or on the second floor and hear an onion being peeled in the kitchen. It's not that he liked onions, but he knew that onions often were followed by cans of tuna.

So onion + can opener = Minus underfoot. And if anyone made a move for the garage door, he was there in a flash to beg for catnip.

Cheese didn't understand the stuff at first, but Minus showed him how to use it. Minus would devour his own catnip, then knock Cheese out of the way and grab a second helping.

In early November, he was diagnosed initially with chronic kidney failure, and then with cancer. He had lost 30% of his regular body weight (to 7 pounds from about 10). Within two weeks, he was down to 6 pounds and was unable to walk.

Even before Minus got sick, Cheese was a much larger cat. Younger. Muscular. With sharp teeth. But Minus had "the look". One glare from Minus was enough to send Cheese packing.

Minus was a cat with class. Even in sickness, he carried himself well and enjoyed little comforts -- lying on a bed, sitting with one of his people, and occasionally looking out a window when somebody would pick him up and put him on a chair. He didn't like his injections, but seemed to understand that I wasn't sticking needles into him to hurt him.

During the Ohio State - Michigan football game, Minus sat with me for a long time, something he never would have done when healthy.

People could learn something from cats. Although he was dying, Minus didn't complain. He accepted petting or food with gratitude, medicine with resignation, injections with a kind of grim determination. He died as he lived, with grace.

During his decline, minus lost most of his body weight and became all tail and legs. He slept with Elizabeth because she was his person from the very beginning. On Sunday and Monday, December 12 and 13, he made a special point of getting up and walking around the house as much as he could. Monday evening, he told us in terms not at all uncertain that he didn't want his injection of Ringer's.

Tuesday morning, Elizabeth noticed that he was unresponsive and was twitching. The time had come. We called the vet and quickly bundled our kitty into the car for his final ride. He didn't quite make it. Instead, he died in Elizabeth's arms as we pulled into the vet's parking lot. I think it was his final trick. He didn't want that shot!

Minus, you were a special cat. We will miss you.

Minus came to live with us in about 1986. He died on December 14, 1999.

Requiescat in pace.

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