Saturday, July 3, 2010
I had a rough night on Halloween, 1997. I was a sophomore in college at Colgate University, and Halloween happened to fall on a Friday that year. Instead of reliving the (very) gory details of the evening, I'll just say that I imbibed.
The next day was a painful one because of the massive and enduring hangover I suffered. The pain didn't last all that long, though, because at some point in the afternoon, my friend Lindsay convinced me to go out and get a cat. Why she thought a cat would be a suitable cure for a hangover still escapes me, but sound reasoning in general often escapes Lindsay. And me, for that matter.
Upstate, NY in November is a dreary, cold place filled with heartbreak and despair. We drove all over creation that evening looking for a cat hospital that would let me adopt a cat. "You live in a dorm," they said! "You're obviously an idiot, and you can't have a cat in a dorm," they kept saying! Of course, they were right, but I was 19, hung over, and determined. While I wanted to adopt a cat, I also didn't want to return home without one. We ended up at a pet store in the Sangertown Square mall in New Hartford, NY, where I found Trip.
I'd never owned a cat before, having always wanted one as a kid but never having those desires indulged by my parents. Dog? Check - we had a Lhasa Apso named Wicket who hated water and cars, barely knew his name and liked to crap on the carpet. Throughout my childhood I also had a turtle (Oscar Moron), two white rats (Herbert and Houdini), a sparrow (Little Man), and two parakeets (James and Rita). But never a cat - for that I'd need a hangover and some poorly-considered advice from a friend, apparently.
Trip's name was almost Dexter, actually. Third place was Mr. Biggelsworth, as we were all just thrilled with Austin Powers at the time. Thank Jebus that one didn't make it. It made sense to me at the time because it could have been shortened to Biggs, which appealed to me as a Star Wars reference, but in the end I thought better of naming Trip after a movie cat, which I think speaks to my character.
Trip's first night was spent mostly just running up and down my bed, chasing either my feet or my hands under the covers. When he finally did fall asleep, it was perched on the pillow right above my head. While this might have been convenient for him, it meant that when he was startled awake (which happened a number of times), head immediately extend all of his claws and grab hold for dear life. My head wasn't pleased, as Trip had very sharp little kitten claws.
Sleeping on me would be something that lasted with Trip for most of his life. When he was little, and broken of the habit of head-clawing, he used to sleep on my chest or neck for as long as he could, usually being tossed aside once I rolled over. I still remember the afternoon at my parents' house during the summer when he was suddenly too big to do this. He tried to fall asleep on my neck and was just too big - I had to tell him it wasn't going to happen anymore, buddy. Still, for the next 13 years Trip was always pretty happy sleeping on me, somehow.
Trip was a biter. Some cats will bit playfully, while others will just lick you. Trip would grab hold of your hand and bite like you slapped his sister. In college, this meant Trip was always called, "weird." Later in life, it manifested as "holy shit that's a cantankerous cat." He was a pretty big cat (for a while I told people he was part lynx), and extremely strong, so if he got you, it hurt like a bitch. The thing is, Trip was just not a fan of most people who weren't me. He also did play rough - he was an upstate barn cat, and that's just the way they roll. He'd get me from time to time, but he was always just playing. With others, though? Yeah, that could hurt. Trip just didn't give a hoot about anyone except me, and I was always pretty fine with that.
Trip was also a yeller. He didn't start out that way, though. When he was little, he could barely make a sound at all. He'd open his mouth and nothing would come out. As he got a little older, he started to meow a bit, but it was the most pathetic thing you'd ever heard. We'd try to get him to meow just to hear it - it was the sound of a cartoon mouse dying of heartbreak. To that end, I'd always encourage him to meow. When I'd come home every day, he'd try to say hello and I'd meow right back. This positive reinforcement turned out to be an interesting choice, because after a few years, Trip found his voice. And he used it. For anything. When he got older, I had to put him on a strict diet, which meant only getting fed twice a day instead of a 24-hour food bowl available at all times. Dear lord, the cacophony. I think after a while he probably thought his name was, "Shut up, Trip."
I had a friend named Pete who stayed with me for a few months while we were, let's say, "between career opportunities." Pete needed a couch and I happened to have one, so it was a great fit. Unfortunately, Pete was allergic to cats, but in the end, free couch > cats. Our financial situations weren't really, "solid," in those days, so we had to scrimp and save to even afford White Castle (which was so worth it). After a month or two, Pete decided it was really time to give his stinky-ass clothes a good wash, and used what little money he had to do two loads of laundry, folding it all neatly in his duffel bag. This turned out to be a poor place to store clean laundry, as Trip decided "clean laundry" really meant "second litter box." Poor Pete's clothes were clean no longer.
Trip peed on lots of stuff he shouldn't have. That's all I have to say about that.
Trip had a scare a few years ago when I woke up to find him sprawled on the bathroom floor, not moving and not looking well at all. I didn't have a car at the time, so I called a car service and got him to the Forest Hills Cat Hospital as fast as I could. It turned out he had a urinary tract blockage, which was serious but treatable if they could get a catheter in. Because it was Trip, that proved extremely difficult. Because he was so big and strong and distrusting of everyone not me, he did not do well at the vet at all. While they did finally get the catheter in and he passed the blockage and was just find (after a week), the hospital told me that they'd never seen a cat that was so difficult to work with. Trip was just not pleased to be anywhere but home, and he was just fine letting everyone know that.
Two months ago, Trip seemed to be losing weight kind of alarmingly fast and was having trouble breathing. I took him to the Clinton Hill Animal Clinic for what I thought would be a routine checkup, but turned out to be must worse. They said his lungs and chest cavity were filled with fluid, and I needed to get him to the emergency hospital as fast as possible. That was the first time I had to think about losing him.
Turned out, he wasn't in good shape. One of the chambers of his heart was failing, and no matter what they did, they couldn't really keep the fluid out of his lungs. They wanted to do a bevy of tests and keep him for a few more days (they'd already kept him overnight), but they couldn't really tell me what good it would do. He was sick no matter what. I knew how much he hated being there, and how stressful it must have been for him. I'm not a doctor, but I know stress isn't good for your heart, so I went to bring him home, even if was over the objections of the vet.
A funny thing happened by the time I got there, though. He was suddenly responding much better to the medicine he was getting, and they thought maybe it might actually make sense to send him home. When I walked into the room to see him, the vet said the change in him was night and day. Like before, they'd told me he was one of the most difficult cats they'd ever seen - even with a failing heart - but once I showed up he settled down and they even got his IV out without sedating him. All Trip wanted was to go home. Despite the encouragement, the vet told me he probably only had a few weeks to a month at best.
Trip passed away yesterday afternoon, after two months of fighting a broken heart. He'd been having good days and bad days, but he'd been truckin' along ok. I honestly thought he'd confound everyone and live another few months. Thursday he had a bit of a bad day, so we decided he'd sleep alone in my room with us, much to the chagrin of both the dog and my other cat, Seven. Trip had one great last night, sleeping next to me like he wanted and purring the whole night. After breakfast the next day, he took one last walk down stairs, where his heart finally gave up.
Trip was a great cat, and he'll be missed.
If you ever met him, please feel free to talk about it in this post. Because of a computer disaster a few years ago, the one above is currently the only picture I can find of him, but I'm going to be scouring some old backup discs to see what else I can find. If you happen to have any pictures of him, please take a moment to send them along.
Posted at 8:02 AM