The end of an era

Yesterday, December 29th, 2009, was without a doubt one of the saddest days of my life. It was the day that we had to put our cat, Grey, to sleep. He was more than just a pet. He was family. He was my little buddy. He was one of my best friends. And he was the most un-cat like cat I've ever personally known.

Had he made it another 2 months, he would have been 20 years old. So, while I'm grieving pretty hard for him right now, I know that he was blessed with a long and happy life. Rather... we were the blessed ones to have been given the gift of taking care of him while he was here on this earth the last 19+ years.

For those of you who never met Grey, let me tell you his story...

Our adventure begins back in March of 1990 in Reynoldsburg, OH. One day while walking outside my future wife heard a faint squeaky sad "meow" type sound out in the distance. She walked down towards a field beside her house that was filled with waist-high weeds and also close to the highway. As she got closer to the field, out popped a little grey kitten.

The cutest little kitten she ever saw, with a silvery grey coat of fur and giant ears, about two sizes TOO big for his head. She reached down and picked him up and began to pet on him (she did this to any cat she came across). He let her love on him and began to purr. But when she turned to take him to the house, he jumped out of her arms and went running back into the field, letting out little squeaky "meow's" the entire time, so she followed him in. He even stopped a couple of times to make sure she was still following him.

He led her to a plastic bag like you'd find at Kroger or Wal-mart. The bag was tied in a knot but she noticed that there was a big rip in the side of the bag. The kitten started poking his head inside so she looked inside the bag as well. Inside she found another little kitten, a tabby, that appeared to be the same age as the grey kitten, about six weeks old. It was shivering and looked terrified. She pulled the kitten out of the bag and then grabbed the little grey one and took them both home. Her mom adopted the tabby and she kept the little grey kitten for her own. And she had him ever since. What a sweet little cat he was to make sure that his sister was found too! And how horrible it was for someone to tie two kittens up in a bag and throw them off the side of the road! But our little grey was a fighter, a hero. He wasn't going to let his sister die in that bag.

A few years later, my future mother-in-law was emptying the groceries out of the car. She left a car door open and Grey, ever the curious cat, decided he wanted to go for a ride. Just as he was leaping inside, my mother-in-law started to shut the door. She didn't see him trying to get in and she shut the door on him. Fortunately, no ribs were broken, but it did result in him getting a very distinctive "purring" sound, much louder than typical cats. After that incident, he hated to be in a car and would meow his little head off anytime he was in one. It also made him snore at times, kind of a cute little wheezing sound. I miss that sound already.

The first six years of his life he was forced to be an outdoor cat by my mother-in-law even though he often demonstrated signs that he wanted to be inside with the people instead of being outside and alone, such as darting inside the moment a door opened and once inside, hiding so he wouldn't have to go back outside. So six months after my wife and I got married in '96, we brought him home to live with us as an indoor cat where he was well fed, spoiled and pampered until the end of his days.

One of the funniest memories of Grey I have is from the second year we had him when we lived in Nicholasville, KY. He loved to chew on our shoe strings. Well one day he was chewing on the shoe strings of my wife's winter boots. He got startled and the next thing you know he started to take off running down the hall. The one thing he forgot to do was let go of the shoe string. So as he went sprinting down the hall, he had one of her boots in tow right behind him, kicking him in the backside, which only made him more run faster and kept the whole process going. My wife chased after him the entire time, trying to get the boot string out of his mouth. I, however, was crying from laughing so hard at the sight of this poor little cat being chased by the boot. lol.

He ran down the hall. Took a left into the bedroom. Jumped on the bed. Ran ON THE WALLS around the room (just like in the cartoons, I kid you not) back out to the hallway. Down the hall again. Hard left into the dining room. Another hard left into the kitchen until he finally stopped in front of the fridge. He opened his mouth to breathe and the shoe string fell out. He proceeded to wedge himself in between the wall and the fridge (I still don't know how he fit) and let out some of the saddest little "meows" he could ever whimper. We finally got him to come out and we never saw him chew on the shoe strings again! lol

There are so many stories about Grey that I could share, from him climbing into the back of the open dishwasher with it fully loaded, to announcing to us that it was time for him to go to the litter box, or hearing us turn on the TV in the bedroom and then seeing him sprint into the room where he'd jump up on the bed and proceed to crawl onto my chest and just plop down so that I could love on him. But there's one other memory that I'll always treasure.

This past year my little buddy decided that he wanted to become my assistant engineer in the studio. I thought I'd give him a shot since I didn't really have anyone else there to do the job. But he wouldn't run any cables for me. He wouldn't turn on the lights. Pretty much he only did two things. The first thing he would do was wait until I had to record acoustic guitar parts and then proceed to act as if he was on Feline Idol or something. Maybe he thought we would become a singer-songwriter duo and take our act on the road.

But the other thing he did was just so precious to me. He would come into the studio, whether I had a guitar in my hands or not, didn't matter what I was doing, and he would proceed to walk right over to the edge of my chair. He would then look up at me with those big eyes of his (imagine the scene from Shrek 2 with Puss 'N Boots), then proceed to put both of his front paws on my leg (or the front of the chair), and try to climb up on me, even though at this point, he really wasn't able to. So I'd pick him up and then he'd perch himself on me, both front paws dangling over my left shoulder, like he's trying to knead some dough, while I rub his belly and he rubs his head against my cheek, letting out that big ole "purr" sound of his the entire time, which was probably anywhere from 15-30 minutes at a time.

Earlier this year, we noticed that Grey had really started to lose weight, even though he was eating more than he ever had. We took him to the vet and he was diagnosed with hyperthyroidism. He had some medication that we had to give him each day, but over the last couple of months, the medicine just wasn't working anymore. Last week we took him to the vet for a check up because he just wouldn't eat or drink. For the past week, we had to double up his medication but it didn't make a difference.

Yesterday, I called the vet to give him the latest update. I dreaded making that call because I knew what was going to happen next. So after giving the vet the latest info, he told me what I was dreading to hear, but knew was coming, that it was time to bring Grey in and have him put to sleep. The moment I hung up the phone the tears began to flow. I had been trying to hold it in for the past week and just couldn't do it any longer.

So yesterday afternoon, about 24 hours ago, we put our little buddy to sleep. Remember how I mentioned that he hated cars and would always let us know about it by meowing his little head off? Well, yesterday when we took him to the vet, for the entire duration of the ride over there, he never made a sound. We stayed with him throughout the entire process. It was hard to let him go, but we know we did the right thing. Doesn't make it easier, that's for sure, but we know that we did all we could do for him and that his time with us was done.

After he was given his sedative, in typical Grey fashion, he proceeded to walk over to the scale that he would get weighed on and cozied up for his final nap. He loved to sit on things, whether it was a book you were reading or a notepad you were writing on. He liked to sit on it and claim it as his 0wn. I believe that he thought our house was his and that he thought he was being gracious by allowing us to live here and take care of him.

Earlier today we buried Grey in our backyard. We bought a black wicker box to put him in, one that he probably would have tried to crawl inside of and take up residence in if he were still alive, especially if we needed it for something else. As if saying goodbye to him wasn't hard enough, trying to get the hole dug, proved to be a challenge as well. Between breaking my first shovel, the ground being more mud than dirt, constantly running into tree roots or underground tubing that the previous homeowner had installed to help drain water away from the house, I thought I'd never be able to get it done. But I finally did and we were able to lay him to rest.

In the words of the famous professional wrestler Bret "The Hitman" Hart. When it comes to Grey... he's the best there ever was, the best there ever is, and the best there ever will be.

I love you little buddy.


Juliet Lyons said...

That's sweet Big Blue! Leaves me a bit misty eyed. I'm very sorry for your loss, he sounds like he was really special.

Big Blue Barry said...

Thanks Juliet. He was a very special cat, and more so, he was family.

Trent Oliphant said...

What a beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing. I am sorry for your loss. I myself am a cat person (we currently have 2), but I have never had one that long. That would truly by hard to have to let go.


Anonymous said...

We have the same breed... she looks exactly like yours (but a bit over weight). Very smart and what huge ears she has!! Got her when she was very small and she got sick and it took me 6 weeks to get her healthy. I know how hard this is and I'm sorry about you losing your buddy!!
Marlin Fowler

Big Blue Barry said...

Thanks Trent. Before Grey came along, I was completely a dog person, but that little feller totally won me over.

Thanks Marlin, appreciate it.

Fiddlerchick said...

I am deeply sorry to hear about your loss, Barry! It makes me sick to think about the day that will inevitably come (hopefully many years off!!) when our little Gureyo (our music director) is no longer curled up beside me purring and kissing my hand when I wake up in the morning.....Grey's spirit will live on through your music. You know he can hear it!

Very best wishes,

Brenda K

Big Blue Barry said...

hey Brenda, thanks for taking the time to read and comment, really appreciate that. I love the picture in your most recent blog entry of the cats sleeping on your bed. Made me miss my cat though :-( I hope Gureyo has a very long and healthy life!

thanks again,