Saturday, January 1, 2011

Goodbye, Wink

This morning, I got up at 5:30 and the first thing my housemate said was "your cat's acting kinda funny." And she was right. My cat was acting so funny that I grabbed the cat carrier, found the nearest veterinarian that was open on a holiday and spent the next five hours talking about kidney disease, hyperthyroidism, and ... eventually ... humane euthanasia. Then I came home with an empty cat carrier and an unexpectedly heavy heart.

I know that dead cats aren't the usual fare for a blog about painting, model building and playing games. But I'm going to invoke the "it's MY blog, and I can do what I want" clause today and take a moment to remember a cherished pet. And, surprisingly there's actually a little bit of gaming in his biography.

Wink was already an adult when I met him. Every week, I would gather with five or six other game writers, illustrators and editors to test new games, play our favorite older games and enjoy some good-natured conversation. Wink lived at one of our regular meeting places, and although he wasn't particularly brave or friendly, we could usually coax him out by the end of the evening. When Wink's owner moved away, he left the cat behind. Rather than letting him go to the animal shelter, I adopted him. And it was a great decision.

For the last eight years, Wink was a brilliant companion. Just like the best cartoon cliches, he slept every night next to my pillow and woke me up each morning with purrs and gentle, fish-scented nudges (I know, it sounds sappy as Hell, and a little bit gross, but it was also the Best Thing Ever). He followed me around like a little dog. He curled up next to me when I worked. He could watch me paint or play the mandolin for hours. When I sat in my recliner, he would nearly always join me a few seconds later. But he could never decide where to sit, so he would walk from my feet, to my lap, to my shoulders and back to my feet until I grabbed him and tipped him over on my lap. Then he'd settle in for the long haul. He liked to chew on plastic shopping bags, so we were very careful to keep them out of reach. Even though he's gone, I'm not sure I'll ever be able to put a plastic bag on the floor without wondering if the cat will get it. He had the least musical meow I've ever heard. We used to joke that he was the Tom Waits of house cats.

Although the exact date was a surprise, his actual death was not. He was an old cat (at least 12 years) with established kidney and thyroid problems. He reacted badly to medication for his conditions, and it was only a matter of time before one of them caught up with him. I'm thankful that the symptoms came quickly. At 5am he started walking funny and he couldn't lift his head. By 10am he could barely move. It was time for him to go. I'm glad we had a chance to say goodbye, and I'm grateful for the veterinarian who made his last minutes as peaceful as possible. I didn't think I'd be able to be there when he died. But I'm glad they let me stay so I could scratch behind his ears and say "good kitty" one more time. For an absolutely lousy experience, it happened in the best possible way.

But still...2011, you are officially on notice. This is not the kind of first impression you want to make. And if you don't clean your @*#$ up right now, then I'm gonna have to let you go. I don't want to go all year saying "it's Two Thousand Dicekty One", Abe Simpson-style, but I will if I have to. So watch it, pal.
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