This is the last picture Carla took of our cat Bock. She took it yesterday as the temperature plummeted and hunkering down seemed to be the best way to go. He slept with us last night, sometimes up against me, sometimes down at Carla’s feet. He’s spent most nights with us since we got back from our cruise over Christmas. Our bedtime ritual was for him to come in to be petted, and then he’d settle down.
He seemed perfectly normal this morning when he walked in on me as I was in the bathroom, as he always did. He stretched out on the door frame and sharpened his claws . He walked in and gave me a look that said he wanted to check out the shower, so I slid open the door to let him in. He walked to the other end of the shower, nearest me. I heard a little thump and asked him if he found something to pounce on. Through the frosted plastic door I could see him moving, but not too much. I opened my end of door after a moment and he tried to come out. But his back legs weren’t moving.
I called for Carla and the nightmare began. It’s only been a couple of hours since all this happened, and this is the point I already want to forget. He was in some distress, but he only yowled some. There was undoubtedly pain, but there was also the confusion that comes from something being wrong and just not understanding. We got him to the vet as fast as we could. The drive was awful. We had no idea what had happened, but Carla knew when she saw him it was over. I did too, especially by the time we reached the vet. It was clear he was dying. They saw him immediately and had the answer within minutes. A congenital heart condition, a clot that paralyzed his hind quarters, little hope that the clot could be treated or that it wouldn’t happen again even if they could treat it. The vet had tears in his eyes when he told us the most humane thing was to put him down. Since we already knew, in our hearts, that this was coming Carla told him to go ahead. They’d taken him to the back and we could still hear him yowling on occasion, but part of that was putting in the IV and sedating him so he’d be more comfortable. After a few minutes they brought him in to us so we could spend some time with him. His eyes were open and he was looking straight ahead. Who the hell knows what’s going on in a cat’s head on the best of days? Could he hear us tell him we loved him and thanking him for making us so very, very happy? I don’t know, but when the vet came in for the final injections, we were petting him and he knew he was loved. Because he was.
We got Bock as part of a pair. Porter is a week younger than Bock and they never knew life without each other even though they were from different litters in the same household. Bock was the gregarious one. He was outgoing. In an act of desperation the day we got him, I gave them these silicone beer bottle caps to play with because we had everything for them but cat toys. Bock became obsessed with his bottle caps. He carried them around in his mouth. He chased them if you threw them. He’d bring them back to you. Or partly back to you. He never did figure out that whole “you have to bring it all the way back before we can throw it to you” thing. We called it the “mic drop.’ He’d chase after the cap, pick it up and bring it back about half way and drop it. Then he’d come and sit at Carla’s feet and expect her to go get it. It didn’t happen. Sometimes he’d wander off and do something else, but other times he’d finally go get it — you could feel the eye roll as he tolerated the simpletons he was saddled with — and bring it over so Carla would throw it.
This is an important point. Bock was our cat and we loved him very, very much, but Carla was Bock’s human. He liked me. He knew how to get me to give him a belly rub or to brush him. But Carla belonged to him. She knew how to throw the bottle caps right. Because of the way we work, I’m home most of the time and we spent hours and hours together, but when Carla came home she was the center of his attention. He’d follow me to the bathroom like he did this morning so he could stare at me, but if Carla made a noise somewhere else in the house he was gone.
It’s not a big secret that I don’t care much for people, on the whole. Bock had a different personality from Porter and between the two I could anthropomorphize the hell out of them. I’ve spent many an hour talking to one of them or the other, and I have to say that Bock was the guy most likely to come over when I’d been staring at this laptop for hours on end and and paw at my elbow and say “Hey. You. Primate. You need to pay attention to me now. Let’s keep our priorities straight.”
As I write this with tears in my eyes I can’t believe I’m never going to feel him doing that again.
I’m worried about me. I’m worried about Carla. I’m worried about Porter. My sweet little boy (for I am his human) has never been without the companionship of Bock. My favorite thing was when Porter would go and start grooming Bock. Bock would enjoy it for a while, then it inevitably set off either a wrestling match or an epic chase around the condo. Just yesterday — yesterday! — I laughed as I watched it play out as it has so often.
Because I’m 50 years old and have buried more people that I’ve cared about than I can count, it’s not surprising how fast I’ve become accustomed to putting Bock in the past tense. But goddammit, he’s supposed to be in the bed on my desk right now. I’m supposed to see him curled up in front of the speaker by the TV. He’s supposed to be asleep on top the tower or the Kitty City. We only had him for a little over a year. It’s not fucking fair.
I don’t let much in anymore. The Buddha was onto something with that whole “all existence is suffering” thing. But Mr Bock? He got in. Deep. And it’s going to take awhile. As awful as this is, it could have been worse. I was right there. Carla was off school today. We have the most wonderful vet practice (Hebron Animal Clinic) nearby. It could have been worse. We’ve already made the decision that there will be a new cat joining our family someday. Not too soon, not too long. The idea of a bored Porter is, frankly, terrifying. Bock was always there to help him burn off his considerable energy. He hasn’t started to do a search for Bock, but I expect it soon. Like everything else this awful, awful day, it will be hard.
Early on when Bock and Porter were just little fuzzballs, I made up this little ditty that I’d say to them when I was getting dressed in the morning and they were playing in our bedroom window. I don’t know if I ever said it when Carla was around. It was our thing:
Mr. Porter and Mr. Bock,
Coolest kitties on the block.
Mr. Bock and Mr. Porter,
Best darn kitties from border to border.
I got to say it to him one last time this morning, just about three hours ago.
Goodbye, Mr. Bock. I miss you more than words can say.