A Life Remembered in Pictures and Purrs
Tangerine, it was the large gray cat that I wanted to bring home from Citizens for Humane Action, not you. You were a little, stubby, scrawny orange cat, but you convinced Phyllis and Kaydee that you should be the cat we brought home instead of the big, beautiful gray cat.
They won and over the next 10 years you showed me how very wrong I had been to suggest the other cat.
I have never known a better kitty than you. I will miss you. This is your life in pictures and words.
You never were like a member of
the family; you were a member of the family. I'm fairly certain that you thought of yourself as a person or, perhaps (and to my honor), you thought of me as a large cat.
Mister Kitty, I started writing this eulogy on Monday, April 19, hoping that we would learn you had an easily cured ailment and that I would be able to put the file away for 5 years or 10.
That was not to be.
You briefly showed Kaydee that you were happy she brought you home.
But from then on, you adopted me. You were my cat. I was your person.
You are the only cat who has ever picked me as your person. I have known many felines over the years, but all of them lived with me only because I happened to have brought them home. You tricked my wife and daughter into insisting that we bring you home so that you could be my cat. Why?
You sat with me. You slept with me. You followed me when I went to take a shower. And you purred. What a deep, rumbling, melodious purr. Once, when I woke in the middle of the night with a splitting headache, you wrapped yourself around my head and purred. I went back to sleep and, an hour later, the headache was gone.
I wish I could have performed the same service for you. But there was no cure for what you had. All I could offer, all I could promise, was a good and peaceful death—one without pain.
We will all miss you terribly, but we will always remember the 10 years you gave the family. All of us are grateful for for the time you had with us.
Dumped at a Farm
Somebody dumped you at a farm and you ended up at Citizens for Humane Action, where you lived in a cage until we brought you home. Maybe that's why you always had a penchant for beds.
As the successor to Minus, you met your new buddy, Cheese.
The two of you quickly became friends.
You were a bookish cat, though, always leaning on a book or a computer.
You slept a lot and your tail became longer.
And longer. It was the most marvelous tail I've ever seen. You held it the way a ballet dancer holds her hands, gracefully.
Oh, and there was that thing with the sink. You never did explain that.
Even if paper hadn't yet been printed and turned into a book, you liked to lean on it.
You saw me sleep on my back, so you decided to try it, with mixed results.
This method works better for a cat.
There was the constant allure of the sink.
Or sitting on a computer and trying to catch the cursor.
Then another new friend came along from Citizens for Humane Action. We called him Scampi. He always wanted to go out.
You weren't sure that you wanted him on your bed.
But you soon relented.
You became close friends, perhaps as the result of a few mind-melding events.
Your tail continued to grow and become more graceful.
We think you tried to teach Scampi how to read and maybe how to meow. He was always silent except when he visited a radio studio.
You guarded the house, keeping it safe from other cats and certain pedestrians.
Although you were a snuggly cat, you weren't holdable. When I picked you up, you always went tummy-to-tummy with me and then pushed so that it was more like carrying a tray than a cat.
Oh ... your nickname wasn't "Big Foot" for no reason.
You and the gray cat became the very best of friends.
The moustache trick was always a favorite.
The Three-Cat Neighborhood Watch Program
Cheese became the outsider to your duo, but sometimes the three of you would hang around together as part of the neighborhood watch program.
Sometimes you were the only watcher.
And sometimes Scampi helped.
One thing you learned, though, is that a plastic paper tray is not a good bed for a cat.
But closets are interesting.
In 2002, when I brought home a new Apple computer with OS X on it, you thought that it made a really good pillow.
So much the better if some books were piled on top!
You would go outside but only if someone dragged you there.
Being the official watch cat, from the inside, was much more to your liking.
You "lost" the collar Citizens for Humane Action sent home with you and we found it. The next time you "lost" it, you "lost" it well and we never did find it. Apparently your conclusion was that if a cat plans never to go outside and get lost, he shouldn't need a collar.
You adored computer books and sometimes I think you got more out of them than I did.
For a higher vantage point, you perched on the back of the computer chair. When the chair broke and I replaced it with a thin-back chair, you were not amused.
Do you remember the day when Doctor Weller kissed you?
You learned how to head-butt some doors in a special way that opened them. Then you learned that if you just knocked, we would open the door for you.
When I replaced the baby Mac with a Power Mac, you wanted to read all about it.
You liked Kaydee's chair because it was in front of another Mac and the chair was black so your pretty orange fur would be highly visible.
The Welcoming Committee Chaircat
When I came home from business trips, you would always climb up onto my briefcase, welcome me home, and listen to my stories. This eventually became a daily routine, even if I had no stories to tell.
Along the way, your nose started to develop distinctive spots and your whiskers began to turn dark. This happens to some orange cats as they age. I was impressed.
You loved having your ears squished, a vigorous tummy rub, and a good "armpit" scratching. And combing! You could never get enough of having your luxurious, thick fur combed.
Your primary element was always books and computers. You found the scanner particularly interesting, but you never did solve the mystery of the little light that went back and forth.
The Power Mac was an ever better pillow than the little white Mac.
Why Did You Pick Me?
I'm still trying to figure out what you saw in me. Why did you ever think of snuggling in between my ribs and my arm when I was trying to read in bed? Your head on my shoulder and your paws on my arm made reading difficult, but that was OK with me.
Once I even woke up to find your paw in my hand. I'm pretty sure that would be considered illegal in some parts of the country.
If I would leave you for a few minutes to go downstairs, I would often find you waiting at the top of the stairs, toy mouse in mouth, wailing, when I returned. Kaydee represented this in an oil painting that she gave me.
The toy mice were your favorites. I would wedge one in between the handrail and the wall at the top of the stairs; you would position yourself one step down and look over one shoulder and then the other at the mouse. Then, a lightning turn and a mighty swat would send the mouse into a high arc.
Like all cats, you had a fine-tuned sense of humor. Even so, you sometimes laughed at my jokes. Or was that a yawn?
Sometimes at bedtime, you would walk downstairs, careful to stay just one step ahead of me. You always let me catch you in the kitchen.
You always looked at me as if you thought I might say something that would interest you.
Each day you had something to communicate that you hoped would interest me: At dinner time, you stood on the computer desk, put your front feet on the arm of my chair, nudged me, and then stated "Meow!"
You tried my headphones, but they didn't fit properly.
You and Scampi used each other as pillows.
One of your favorite perches was the printer that is beside the window. It gave you a great view of the neighborhood.
Because you were loved, you had many names: At CHA, you were Jax. To us, you were Tangerine, Mister Fur (because of your luxurious coat), Tangle, Tangerinie, Tangly, Mister Orange, Tangrrrrrine (because you growled when people approached your house), T-Cat, Orange Cat, Kitty Guy, and Pine Cat (because of your color and pattern). You were also Fuzz-Ball, of course, but every cat answers to that.
Every morning, you helped me tie my shoes (and, I think, secretly tried to untie them.)
Every evening, you greeted me and welcomed me home by skritching on my shoes (and, I think, secretly trying to untie them.)
Always on the lookout for Burrito, the cat from across the street, you screeched if he set foot on your property.
You also watched for others who occasionally had the temerity to step on your lawn. The marauding tuxedo cat, for example, or ...
... the threatening postal carrier, the scary UPS driver, or the frightening FedEx guy.
Suddenly Your World and Ours Turned Inside Out
On April 19, 2010, we received horrible news: Your abdomen was distended and Doctor Weller said it was full of blood. It was probably cancer, she said, but it could be some internal trauma. Blood test results would be available on Tuesday.
That evening you sat for a few pictures.
You leaned on my hand for a while at bedtime and I wished you to live because you've been my best kitty friend for a decade.
Then I wished you to die, quietly, at home to avoid the final indignity of having to be taken somewhere to die.
All I could think of was Gaff's line from the movie Blade Runner: It's too bad she won't live. But then again, who does?
During the night, I heard a skritching sound and found you welcoming my shoes home even though they had been home for hours.
You were too uncomfortable, or in too much pain, or too warm to snuggle with me that night, but you sat beside me.
Just waiting, I guess.
On April 20, Doctor Weller called. You were anemic from loss of blood, but your body was trying to regenerate red blood cells. That was good. Also good: No leukemia, no FIP, and no FIV. We knew what your problem wasn't, but not what the problem was. Exploratory surgery could tell, or an ultrasound exam.
Exploratory surgery wasn't recommended because the risk is so high.
Options: (1) Ultrasound to assess the situation, (2) no treatment, or (3) iron supplement—assuming trauma, not cancer, and hoping that the internal bleeding might heal.
We owed you the ultrasound to at least determine whether the problem was treatable, but MedVet had a 2-week waiting period. By then, you would have been dead from the internal bleeding. But we could go through MedVet's emergency department. Doctor Weller recommended that we wait until Saturday morning if we didn't want them to keep you overnight.
Because you are so profoundly distressed when you away from home, we decided to wait until Saturday. We hoped that you would wait, too.
After spending much of Tuesday morning just out of reach under the computer table, you sat in the window and watched the neighborhood for a while, but then you scooted under a bed, once again out of reach.
That night, you kneaded my arm for a few seconds and then slept on my shoulder for about 90 minutes. Were you feeling better or just making sure that you did some things for one last time? In the morning, you helped me tie my shoes.
Wednesday, you sat in a window for a while, another of your favorite activities. All of me wanted to believe that there would be a solution to your problem, but most of me knew this was a false hope.
We continued to wait for Saturday.
On Friday, I had to carry you downstairs for breakfast and then you spent most of the day under a bed. I began planning for your final visit to Doctor Weller, not your trip to MedVet. By the time I came home, you had gone downstairs and you were hungry. A glimmer of hope remained.
So on Saturday we spent nearly 5 hours at MedVet.
Nothing could be done.
Ultrasound revealed the cause of the bleeding: Hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer of the blood vessels. Your abdomen was full of many small tumors and, because this cancer spreads in the bloodstream, it had undoubtedly spread throughout your body.
I brought you home for the weekend and hoped that we might get a week or even two during which we could enjoy each other's company.
By Sunday, one eye was beginning to be stuck shut with mucus. You were still excited about eating, but could eat only a bite or two. Your breathing was becoming labored, probably the result of tumors in your lungs. Well, at least we got Saturday and Sunday with you.
Your final lesson was about dying. You did it with dignity and, although I believe you were in pain toward the end, without complaint.
Tangerine, your absence leaves more than just a kitty-size hole in our family. We will miss you more than I can express.
I thank the people who, not knowing what they had, dumped you at a farm more than 10 years ago. I thank Citizens for Humane Action for taking you in. I thank Phyllis and Kaydee for making sure that we brought you home. And I thank you for being our cat for these past 10 years—for all the unforgettable memories. I doubt that there will ever be another cat who means as much to me as you did.
Although you never gave me a clue why you thought I would be a suitable companion, I am eternally grateful that you did.
Rest in peace, my furry little friend.
The purring is from the morning of April 20, 2010. Although you were gravely ill, your purr was still full, deep, and resonant.
Why so many pictures? Why so many words?
It's how I deal with events such as this. It's my way of working through the grief. All this writing was important even if nobody reads it. The formerly little, scrawny, stubby orange cat meant so much to me. I mentioned earlier how Tangerine would howl when he couldn't find me. Maybe this is the human equivalent of that feline howl.
Although this is a sad story, it's also a happy story. Tangerine was noticeably ill for just a little more than a week. He was healthy for more than 10 years and I wouldn't trade that for anything.
Tangerine: 1999–April 26, 2010
Tangerine's final pictures - The pictures on this separate page illustrate his further decline and are more than a little rough to look at. I've also included a description of Tangerine's final day. To me, the pictures and the events clearly define stoic.
I had a shirt made with one of my favorite Tangerine pictures on it.
An acquaintance from Copyediting-L suggested that I make these shirts available via Cafe Press and donate the proceeds to Citizens for Humane Action. What a great idea!
I had already used Cafe Press for my one shirt, so I returned to Cafe Press, converted the site from private to public, added several additional products, and set a flat markup of $5 on each item. That full amount will go to CHA in his memory.