Oh! the suspense, the fearful, acute suspense, of standing idly by while the life of one we dearly love, is trembling in the balance! Oh! the racking thoughts that crowd upon the mind, and make the heart beat violently, and the breath come thick, by the force of the images they conjure up before it; the desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate; the sinking of soul and spirit, which the sad remembrance of our helplessness produces; what tortures can equal these; what reflections or endeavors can, in the full tide and fever of the time, allay them! ~ Narrator, Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens.
Just as the artful Dodger, Jack Dawkins, in Oliver Twist, whom you were named after, was a handy little thief, you - my sweet Dodger McCoy - stole my heart. In July of 2009, I bought my first house and shared it with Tiger Lily and a ferret named Trigger. But the house was too big and empty. I needed another companion to help fill the space.
My mom had a Russian Blue cat. I thought the breed was laid back and calm and would make a good addition to our house. So, I searched online to see if I could find one of my own. As luck would have it, the Humane Society of Utah had a mama Russian Blue with a whole litter of kittens. I drove down the same day to pick one up.
Over the years I’ve wondered - what if that cage hadn’t been locked. If I hadn’t had to wait for someone to come open it for me. Would you still have caught my attention? Maybe, I don’t know. But the cage for the kittens was locked, and I did have to wait. It was a busy day at the Humane Society that day and as I waited, I went to every single cage in that room and visited with every single cat. Including you.
You were three months old and all alone in your cage. I’m a firm believer that animals can sometimes choose their humans, and I am certain you chose me from the crowd that day. Your little meow drew me over, your bright yellow/green eyes were wide and bright in contrast with your black fur. I opened your cage and you jumped onto my shoulder and settled there. I thought you were absolutely, and utterly adorable.
But I was only going to get one cat. A Russian Blue. So, I removed you from my shoulder and put you back in your cage. You didn’t want to go back in that cage and kept trying to climb back onto my shoulder. But at that moment someone came to open the other cage so back in you had to go. As the helpful Humane Society worker unlocked Sawyer’s cage, she informed me they were having a 2 for 1 sale on kittens that day and nodded to your cage. I thanked her, but I was only there for one kitten.
Sawyer was timid. I took him into the little room where I could get to know him in a quieter environment, and he just huddled in the corner looking scared. I felt so bad for him. I knew once I got him home, he would have Tiger Lily to keep him company and bring him out of his shell, so we headed to the counter.
As I passed your cage you called out to me in that chirping meow you had, and I stopped. I felt bad leaving you there all alone and I opened your cage again. Again, you jumped on my shoulder and settled there. I took both you and Sawyer into the little room to see how you would get along. You were more interested in getting my attention, than in Sawyer who stayed huddled in the corner. Your larger-than-life personality won me over and you both came home with me that day. I have never regretted that decision.
From day 1 you were jealous of Tiger Lily. She and I already had an established relationship.
She had first pick of where she slept on the bed, but that didn’t stop you from trying to push her out of the way. Unfortunately for you, Tiger Lily was stubborn, and you spent several years sleeping at my feet, instead of on my pillow or arm.
You loved your wand toy. You would drag that thing through the house and brought it to me whenever you wanted to play. You wrestled with the ferrets and beat up Sawyer and Tiger Lily trying to claim the title of Top Cat in the house. But as long as Tiger lived, you were second in command.
You loved people. Unless they were kids. I’ll never forget when I had someone over to give me a quote to install new windows in my house. He sat on the couch to show me the different samples and you jumped on his lap, curled up and claimed his lap as yours. Luckily, he liked cats and didn’t mind.
I don’t know if your dislike of kids happened before I got you, or after, but I know when I was dating Craig you didn’t want anything to do with Izzy or any other kid you came across.
When Craig and I got married, we rehomed the ferrets, and moved you, Sawyer, and Tiger Lily to the house in West Valley before the wedding so we could get my house ready to sell. During that time, you met Pirate, Izzy’s cat. You didn’t care much for Pirate either, but after you figured out that Pirate couldn’t climb, you took the high ground – literally. You were always up on something. The back of the couch, the top of the cat tree, the fridge, and even the cupboards.
You also loved to roam the neighborhood and often came back with battle wounds. I’ve never had a cat that has had as many abscesses as you had over the years. You lost your collar a lot too. At one point we put a small tracking device on your collar just so we could find it after you lost it.
When Tiger Lily passed I wrote that I wasn’t sure how I would sleep at night without her on my arm, but thought you might take that spot, since you’d been wanting it from day 1. I was right. It didn’t take long for you to move into her spot. And until you got sick, you spent almost every single night sleeping on my pillow, arm, or on my hip.
You were my Office Cat, and the Big Baby. Whenever I was working in the office, you were usually close by. And you loved being held like a baby – in my arms, on your back, with your back legs sticking straight up in the air. You loved chewing on the end of your tail, and you hated it when I tried to get you to grab your back feet with your front ones.
You tolerated Craig for my sake. Although, I think you secretly liked him despite the happy kitty dance he made you do, and the ‘my kitty’ game he liked to play whenever you were being just a little bit too clingy with me.
When Trigger (the dog) joined the family, you weren’t quite sure what to think. But you seemed to realize he was a gentle giant and came to accept him although it annoyed you whenever he got jealous of the attention you were getting and tried to lay on my lap with you.
You were always so aware of me and what I was doing, or how I was feeling. I always knew when you weren’t feeling well because I could feel your absence. In the last month, as you battled whatever illness had taken over your body, you slept downstairs. I understood and didn’t insist on having you with me, except on one or two occasions. And on those rare occasions, you stayed on my pillow all night.
But the absence of your presence on my pillow is nothing compared to the absence of your presence now. You were never a noisy cat unless you wanted me to play with you. But there is a new silence in the house. A void where your larger-than-life personality used to be. And I miss you so very much.
I know I did everything I could to try and get you well again. As the narrator in Olive Twist says, I had “the desperate anxiety to be doing something to relieve the pain, or lessen the danger, which we have no power to alleviate”.
But as you got more and more thin, continued to throw up daily, and then finally, stopped eating altogether, I knew the best I could do was make sure you were comfortable.
On your last day, you were hiding under the bed. I laid down on the floor next to it and asked you to come out. I had to leave in a couple hours. I had a market I had to go to and I wanted to hold you, to know you were still doing okay before I left. But you stayed right where you were, just out of my reach. So I got up and started getting ready for the day.
Craig and I were in the bathroom. I was doing my hair. You came in meowing in a way I had never heard from you before. You hunched up near the bathtub and kept meowing. I picked you up and set you on the counter and you laid down next to the sink. We tried to give you water, but you refused it. And I knew you were trying to tell me you were not still doing okay. I also knew I had depleted my resources to make you comfortable and the only thing left I could do, was to release you from your body.
Yesterday I cleared a space in the pet memorial garden next to Tiger’s Tiger Lilies. Her flowers have stood there, alone, for the past three years. The thought that I would be adding your ashes, and a “Dark and Handsome Hellebores” there in a few weeks made me cry. I believe you’re with Tiger Lily now, enjoying the sunshine and soft grass in heaven and you’ll both be waiting for me. But at least I’ll have a place to go where I can sit and cherish all our memories together until then.