Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Dear Readers,

There has been a lot going on right now, with getting ready for the baby's arrival, so apologies to you. Right now Kathy and I are in the midst of a home-improvement blitz so that we can actually have a safe home in which to raise a small child. You know, baby-proofing, moving hazards out of the way of a child on the move, that sort of thing. One of the dangers that resided in our house was our cat Acrodyl. The only people he liked were myself and Kathy, and that was only about 90% of the time (less so with Kathy, though when he liked her he loved her. He tolerated my father, which was good for when we would go out of town. But we did not feel comfortable with the idea of having a very scared, angry cat around a baby.

See, Acrodyl was a rescue cat. He had been a litter of one, separated from his mother too soon and then abused. But at the shelter, he was taken care of very well and when we adopted him in 2004, he was very sweet. But the damage had been done in his youth, and loud noises and sudden movements always scared him. He was content sitting and laying quietly, playing with a string or a ball or a laser pointer, but he was not a cat who was into being played with physically. He took it as a threat. And a couple years ago, unaware of this, one of our friends played a little rough with him and he could never be around strangers again without hissing, swatting, screaming, lunging and biting. He had very powerful teeth, too, made sharp by the fact that he never chewed his food (he only licked it until it was soft and then swallowed it). He was not without other problems; he had a respiratory infection when we first adopted him and always had a little bit of a rasp in his breath. He was fickle about cleanliness in his litter box, to the point where he would develop bladder infections rather than use it. He got his tail caught in the bathroom door once and ran away from it, leaving a section behind (that required surgery, three days of sedation, two weeks of a head cone and three weeks of antibiotics). But he remained sweet, especially in the evenings, toward us, and we loved him. Amethyst, his little long-haired sister we adopted in December 2008, loved playing with him, chasing him around, and trying to do the things he did and he sort of tolerated her. I have pictures of them cuddling to prove it.

In December, when we found out we were expecting our first child, we were faced with a decision about what to do with the cat. We contemplated keeping him, because he was a part of the family and had been since our second week in our first home. He would greet me each evening by kneading his paws over my the laced part of my shoes (always the chagrin when he saw I was wearing sandals). He would snuggle up against Kathy's neck and purr louder than any cat I've ever heard, kneading her neck and shoulder every night. We didn't want to say goodbye to him.

But we knew it had to be done, and his mood swings got worse. When he was in a bad mood, it was sometimes terrifying to see. It was like there were two cats, one sweet and gentle and the other terrified and desperate. Only I could calm him down when he was in a mood like that. What would happen if he got in a mood like that when Kathy and the baby were home alone?

No shelters would take him because he was no longer adoptable. He was too scared of others to know that nobody was trying to hurt him. Some days, just trying to pet him made him feel threatened. So we made the hard decision and on April 28, 2010, Kathy, Amethyst and I said goodbye to him.

The saddest part of this isn't how much we cried that day, or how Amethyst wandered the house looking for him for a little bit, or how she's been afraid of strangers since that day (my father came over to pick me and Acrodyl up, and I came home alone, perhaps she got the wrong impression?), or the lack of shoe rubs. No, the saddest part is how easily we've adapted, how his memory pops up in this little instances that make it more painful than if we were constantly thinking about him. The other day, I was looking for a pencil in my desk drawer and found the pet microchip tag Acrodyl came with and subsequently chewed off his collar. The first time I cleaned the litter box afterward, I cried over scooping up the last of his poop. I cried over poop...who does that? We were working on our closet system the other night, listening to music on my computer, and my screensaver came on. It's the picture slideshow, and there were pictures of him every third or fourth one. I miss him. Kathy misses him. Amethyst misses him.

Worse is when we're doing something that Acrodyl used to involve himself in, like folding sheets. He used to get angry at us for doing that, because he just wanted to lay on them, and of course he reacted as if we were threatening him. The other night, we were folding sheets, and Amethyst was playfully trying to stop us. No fear, just playfulness, and we very easily distracted her. We both thought, "How easy is this without him?" One of us said something and the other concurred. What wasn't said, but I'm sure we both thought, was, "I don't care that it's easy. I miss him."

So, to get it out and provide a bit more closure, I'm going to list some of the things about him that were cute, hilarious, unique, and not sad.

The first day we had him, which was my first time meeting him, my sister and her husband came over to play board games, and Acrodyl fell asleep in my lap on the floor, purring.

He was so little at first, he couldn't get up on the bed. We had to help him up, but the joke was on us; he'd get up there, stand on a chest (whichever was most convenient), fart, and then run away.

We used to find him, on hot days, curled up in the bathroom sink. This got harder when we moved into the house, because he got bigger and the sink was more square, but he kept at it.

We bought him a crinkle bird, which is a kind of a cat toy, on his first day with us, which he loved dearly for three hours and then which he promptly lost. We never saw it again.

He used to put his paws in the food bowl when he ate. He tried this once with his water bowl, and was displeased with the result.

After a long day of Kathy and I running errands and being in and out of the house, Acrodyl would lay down on the rug in front of the door as if to say, "No more leaving!"

Every Christmas, Acrodyl would fall asleep on a pile of spent wrapping paper.

Always curious, Acrodyl jumped on top of the box our television came in, only to have the flaps give out underneath him. He spent three hours in the box, sleeping until Kathy called his name.

One night, at the apartment, when I got home late from work, he was so happy to see me he ran outside into the foyer when the door was open. I didn't notice until half an hour later, when he hadn't come to bed. I found him in the foyer, asleep in the corner, safe and sound and only a little annoyed.

The first time we brought home KFC Popcorn Chicken, Acrodyl went crazy for it. He kept sneaking up on us, leaping over our laps to grab pieces from our hands. It was the only people-food he liked.

We had the front door of the house open last summer, and Amethyst scampered out into the front yard. Acrodyl bolted out after her and chased her back inside. We had a hawk circling our neighborhood which Acrodyl had seen previously.

When he was sleeping, you could run your hand down his back and he would wake up with a noise that was half a purr, half a meow.

His favorite toys (beyond the misplaced crinkly bird) were twist ties.

Acrodyl figured out the laser pointer. He would play with the dot, but mostly, he looked at the thing in your hand and tried to figure out a way to get it. If you set it down on a flat surface he could get to, he would knock it to the floor and start batting it around.

He loved wet cat food, but would only lick away all the juices, leaving the meat alone. It was the wet part he liked.

Every evening at bed time, Kathy or I would grab a cup of water. Acrodyl always loved to drink out of the cup, sticking his head in it. He tried to teach Amethyst, but she just always stuck her paw in the water. She was a trying pupil and he was a patient teacher.

Acrodyl would watch movies with us. I don't mean that he would come downstairs and hang out while we watched movies, no; he would lie down on the love seat, face the television, and watch the movie. He really seemed to like Jane Austen films and the new Star Wars trilogy (for which he can be forgiven, as he did not know a world without the new trilogy).

From the day he joined the family, the only nights I spent sleeping without him nestled on the bed with me were nights spent not in my own bed. I could count on him never being more than three or four feet away from me when I woke up in the mornings, ready for some food. He never got too close when it was too hot, and he could never get too close when it was cold.

When I was younger, the first cat I remember loving was named Barney, and he died when I was in first grade. My first grade teacher, Mrs. Thum, gave me a book about a kid dealing with the death of his cat, called "The Tenth Good Thing About Barney" which really helped me. It might have been the first time I realized that a good book can have an emotional impact. Though at the time, I guess I didn't quite process it like that. I just knew that it felt good to read of somebody struggling the same way I was struggling. I came back the next school year and read it to her class. I don't know where my copy of it is...I assume it is at my parents' house, though in all fairness it might be buried in a plastic box in my basement. You never know. But anyway, it was a great book at that time and just thinking about it now gives me a little comfort. So how many good things did I come up with about Acrodyl just now? Quite a few, it seems. Which is nice. I like that. I like remembering those things. I never want to forget them.

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