TW for pet death.
The death of a pet is hard. Even moreso for writers, for whom these furry companions are often the only company they have day in and day out while they work. And so, here I grieve in the only way I know how: by writing in the absence of a cat no longer here to sleep on my laptop, or swat at my furiously typing fingers. His ghostly presence remains, in the echo of feet padding up and down the stairs, in the phantom brush of his soft fur at my ankles, reminding me not to push my chair back before checking. I keep looking around, expecting to see him basking in the sun or sleeping at the top of the stairs. But he's gone.
Smartikus was diagnosed with congestive heart failure more than a year and a half ago, and has been on strong medication since then. At the time, the vets couldn't say how long he had--days, weeks, months. All we could do was be grateful for what time we had with him.
He survived past the average 5-months allotted to cats with this condition. He survived through basement renos and the birth of baby Mara. He got to watch her grow from pooping burrito creature to full-on walking, talking toddler who pet him "gently, softly" and cuddled him whenever he let her. He spent much of his last night on earth in her nursery, watching her while she slept, and when we were headed to the vet's, she meowed to him softly, singing a kitty dirge.
The vet was shocked to see him still alive and kicking in July. We thought he might live forever--he was always a warrior, after all. At age four, he'd survived a life-threatening urinary tract block that resulted in full penile removal; he'd lived to tell of the time he got out onto our roof the night Rob Ford was elected. If he could talk, he would regale you with tales of that time the vents were cleaned, or that time he got a plastic bag stuck around his neck and exorcised it by peeing all over the house. He would tell you about the time he conquered the defrosting chicken breasts, dragging their carcasses throughout the house as one might drag their slain enemies' bodies through the streets.
He probably wouldn't tell you about all the cuddles he loved to give his feeders, or admit to nightly routines of standing on the dinner table, pushing his furry head into their bowls to see what they were having that he could share. He loved to bite John's ankles after he'd showered, had a disdain for food that'd touched the floor, loved having his silky hair brushed, and enjoyed smothering his keepers while they slept. He was a cat that contained multitudes.
Alas, Smarty's literally big heart failed his body, though his spirit was strong. He'd stopped eating two days ago. He was panting heavily, foaming at the mouth constantly--a clear sign his belabored heart was not strong enough to clear his lungs of the fluid that was slowly drowning him.
He lost control of his bowels that morning, and when he stumbled down the stares and looked bleakly into our eyes, we knew it was time.
He left this world peacefully and painlessly at the vet's, with his loving owners at his side. They say pets are heartbreak waiting to happen, and we'd been waiting for a while. His upkeep was expensive, but worth every penny. All I have to do is think about how soft his fur was, how silky his ears, how loud his purr rumbling against my chest. He met us at the door every day, seemed to know when we needed his comfort the most, and never failed to remind us who was really the boss in the house with a simple cat butt to the face at 5 in the morning.
He was loved and adored and irreplaceable. He was the best cat and companion we could have asked for, and we were blessed to have had him in our family.