Long-time readers know that I occasionally drop my cranky persona to write about my beloved cats. Today’s subject is the amazingly affectionate Gus.
Though I’m loath to admit it today, I never really wanted Gus. We were fostering him and another cat, Bandit, for a local humane society, and while he was quite loving, he had long, luxuriant fur, the kind that, if it didn’t shed onto everything, came up in hairballs.
But my wife came to love Gus and Bandit, so instead of putting them up for adoption, we kept them for ourselves. Gus was not only furry, but he was big, so big he probably has a generous helping of Maine Coon in him. He tips the scales at 18 pounds, but not all of it is fur. When we got them, our first kitties, Tuxedo and Fluffy, were 13 and 12. I never thought of myself as a person who would eventually have four cats, but I was, and it was delightful. Fluffy could have been related to Gus. They were both black and white, and had long, silky hair.
Though Fluffy was not purebred, we researched his markings and discovered that he probably had a healthy dose of Ragdoll in him. Ragdolls are a fairly new breed known not only for their raccoon-like masks, but also their friendly disposition, their ability to get along with both people and other animals, and their propensity to flop in your arms as if boneless – hence their name.
For Gus, two out of three ain’t bad. He has a friendly disposition. When he flops, he sends out seismic waves. However, he doesn’t get along with his brother as well as Fluffy did with Tuxedo.
Fluffy was a wonder. He was a lover and an adventurer. He figured out how to pull on the door stop to get the front door of our townhouse open so he could explore the fenced front yard. Once when we were having the window screens replaced, he managed to get out onto the roof. One foggy morning he ran across the street and behind the cluster of townhouses over there. Realizing he didn’t recognize anything, he sat down and waited for me to come looking for him.
But one evening, not long after we’d moved in our current home, Fluffy didn’t come for dinner with the other three. We hadn’t started letting them out because we weren’t sure they’d marked the house as their territory. I knew Fluffy had to be in the house somewhere, and I eventually found him in a cubbyhole underneath the stairs, motionless but panting heavily.
I put him in the car and rushed him around the corner to our veterinarian. She stabilized him with fluids and recommended getting him to an emergency vet that evening for more tests. Eventually he was diagnosed with lymphoma, and even though we tried chemotherapy, his tumors returned fairly quickly and we lost him about nine months later. I miss him every single day, just as I do Tuxedo, who passed away a few years ago at the ripe old age of 18.
As I said, Gus shares a lot of Fluffy’s characteristics, especially his affectionateness. At night, after I’ve gone to bed but before lights out, he’ll settle down on my chest and expect loving. When I wake up in the morning, he’s usually tucked up against my legs, as if the only really good place to sleep in this house is next to Daddy.
When I go into my office to start my work day, he follows, jumping up on my desk and stationing himself between me and my keyboard (just as he is now). If I’m not typing, and only using the mouse, he rests his head on my arm, a throaty purr emanating happily. He has a comfy bed on one corner of my desk, but he prefers being on the hard wood next to the keyboard, because he sees that that’s where my hands usually rest. That’s where the action is for him. And there I can pet him, and inhale the musky scent of his fur, and watch his huge paws knead the air in ecstasy.
Sometimes, if I’m just reading online material, he can flop there. But if I really have to work – and I get my best work done in the morning – that involves typing and I have to shove him away. I hate to do so. How do you tell someone who loves you so much that you don’t want them around?
Then I remember all the kitties that I’ll never have the chance to cradle again, and I think: just a few minutes more.