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Eulogy for a Friend

Monday, August 29, 2011
My cat Loki died on Friday. It took me several days to pull myself together sufficiently to write this small eulogy for him. I've lost other pets before, but none of them has left quite the hole that Loki's passing has.

We were together for fourteen years. I first met him when I was a graduate student. I'd grown up with cats, but hadn't had one for several years while I was in college. My roommate at the time had a very friendly cat and I'd realized how much I missed having one around. So when she finished school and moved out I starting thinking seriously about getting one myself. Word must have gotten out in the feline community, because in a very short time I had a starving, swollen-bellied, ear-mite and flea-infested, very ugly orange tabby kitten at my door demanding to be let in.

I knew right away I was going to keep him, assuming he survived. The vet said that he was an undersized six-month old, had probably been on his own for quite awhile, and was surprised he was still alive. This would become a theme with Loki - he was an exceptionally tough, strong-willed animal. I knew after the first night what his name was going to be, since I didn't sleep a wink. He circled my bed like a shark yipping and howling, and when I grabbed him and picked him up he wriggled away and started up again. He was very busy, you see.

Those first few months were...difficult. I actually have had worse-behaved cats, but Loki had a particular willfulness about his misbehavior. He just refused to learn, or to accept discipline. Once he'd decided that something was fun, was going to be a part of his repertoire, there just wasn't any dissuading him. For a long time his favorite game was finding a flat surface and slowing pushing things off, watching them fall. It looked very much like he was trying to figure out how gravity worked. Once everything was on the floor and the table or whatever was totally cleared, he'd stretch out to his full length in a victory stretch. After about 5 minutes he would get bored and look for something else to do, like maybe lick the top off a freshly cooked pie. Loki's true love was water, however. He absolutely loved lounging in the sink, would knock over water glasses if you left them alone for more than a moment or two. When I got married I discovered that his water obsession knew absolutely no limits - BH actually dunked him in her bath a few times, and afterwards he would howl or paw at the door wanting to be let in.

I could tell hundreds of similar, strange or funny little stories about Loki: how he bossed the other cats around mercilessly, or made a funny yipping noise whenever he was doing something he knew he wasn't supposed to. I think you get the idea. But what's important to know about Loki is that as challenging as he was, he was also my friend. When I got him I was in a very dark place, lonely and unsure about the future, and although it was years before he was comfortable with cuddling with me (and never was much of a lap cat), he would always hang around whatever room I was in. We were a team. He was kind of my id.

The last year has been hard. His decline was evident, with one medical problem after another. He'd rallied from his most recent difficulties, but you could tell he was frustrated by his inability to do all the naughty things he was used to. A great jumper, he'd lost that spring and couldn't get onto the kitchen counter as easily as he once did. But he was still the same cat, still keeping all the other animals - and humans - in line. I joked that he was going to live another seven years or so, ending up as one of those elderly cats with two legs and hooked up to an IV. Too mean to die, you see.

Last Tuesday something went wrong. He was having trouble breathing, and it had gotten worse by the time we got home. We took him to his vet, who when she ran out of ideas sent us to the vet research hospital on campus. It took them three days and a battery of tests to finally figure out that his right lung had collapsed, although even then they weren't entirely sure why. We're still waiting to hear for sure, but apparently he had a calcified lung, something that took a long time to develop. That's how tough Loki was - he was running around the house raising hell with half a lung.

We could have given him surgery to remove the bad lung. He had a chance, might have made it. But the surgery would have been traumatic, he could have died during it, the recovery would have been long and painful, and he might not have fully recovered. I couldn't do that to Loki, put him through such pain for so little return. The vet took pity on us and let us take Loki home for the night. For a few hours I thought Loki might shock the world - he was running up and down the stairs, checking everything out, letting everybody know he was still in charge. But that night he slept against me, which was strange for him, and the next morning was struggling, laboring for each breath. He gave me that look, that tired, sad, look that I'd never seen on his face before. I knew he was done. On the ride to the hospital he rested his head against my hand. I knew he was saying goodbye.

It took all weekend to get over the worst of the grief, to be sure that I could write this without blubbering (I was wrong of course). I suppose all I can say, all you can really say in a time like this, is that I know intellectually that things will get better, that I'll miss him a little less, that the house will seem less empty one day. For now though it's hard to believe it.

Loki was the best pet I ever had. He was an asshole, but he was my asshole. I very much doubt there will ever be another like him.

Posted by Arbitrista @ 9:37 AM
  • I am crying reading Loki's eulogy... I'm sorry his body gave up on him :( Hugs to you and BH.

    By Blogger Super Babe, at 8:11 AM  
  • I had a cat like that - grumpy and full of attitude. It's so hard to let go. Hugs.

    By Blogger Belle, at 8:51 AM  
  • Thanks guys.

    By Blogger Arbitrista, at 9:28 AM  
  • I am so sorry. I am dealing with a similar thing with the Boy and his brain tumor.

    Cats with attitude are the best. Hugs!!!

    By Blogger Seeking Solace, at 9:16 PM  
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