Sunday, April 05, 2009

Booger T. Cat , March 1989-April 2009

I've always had animals in my life; when I was small, we had a dog named Otto that I don't really remember, and then my dog, Bruno, who was an old mutt of the best kind. Later, we had Baron, the crazy Irish Setter, that was the pick of the litter from my sister's Irish Setters. He was a gorgeous dog, but he didn't do well living trapped in a house all day with no where to run, so after a couple of years of trying to get his nervous conditions under control, we had to put him down. Old Bruno also got put down when his arthritis was so very bad, he couldn't come up the steps to get in out of the winter cold.

Then we got a cat. Mom was allergic to cats for many years, but I guess being away from them the years we had the dogs, she was able to tolerate cats again. We got a bold calico from a cousin of ours. And at some point, we decided to let her have a litter of kittens before we got her fixed, so my brother had a friend who had this cat that looked just like a lion - he had a poof on the end of his tail just like lions do. So when Zip went into heat, he brought that cat over to do his thing, and weeks later, we had 5 kittens around the house.We kept one of them and named her Tarzana. She was the coolest orange & white cat, but man, did she have an attitude. Just hated everyone except mom.

Then I moved in with dad. Cheryl had gone to a rescue place and gotten Gretchen the cat. I don't remember what happened to her now. And then came Bud (or ALex, as I called him - after Alex the Budweiser dog), who Cheryl found on the way home from work, out in the middle of the road. He was the whitest cat you've ever seen. He was a hunter; I remember one day when he brought 3 baby rabbits up to the house in about 10 minutes - he had to go inside after that. And then Big Fat Sally showed up (her real name was Pumpkin, but believe me, BFS was much more fitting).

When I joined the AF, my first permanent duty station was in England, and it wasn't too long before I found myself living off base, in downtown Ipswich. One day, three little Pakistani girls that lived around the corner banged on the door of our flat, and when I opened up the door, they held out this scrawny B&W cat and said "You want a cat?" So of course I said yes. He lived with us and we named him Socrates (there's a story behind the name that I don't recall now), and he hated the plecostamus in the fish tank :) When we moved out of the city, he much enjoyed his time in the country, and brought us "gifts" everyday - voles, finches, other things, all scattered outside the door between the house & the car. He even brought a few inside, not always dead. Soc fetched sticks, until the day the Killer Pheasant chased him back through the yard. When we left England, we brought Soc with us - it was an easy thing to do, since coming from England, it's the only place on the planet there's no quarantine from, since rabies doesn't exist there.

We got to New Mexico, and bought a house, and Soc seemed kinda bored tooling around there all day by himself - even with a new plecostamus to terrorize, so one of the guys in the shop had a litter of kittens he was looking to get rid of. So entered Booger into my life, though he was called Bear when he was little.Soc was happy, he had a buddy to play with. And play they did, tearing through the house at all hours, fighting, eating, running around the back yard, looking for horny toads.Bear was my constant companion; I'd open a book after a long day working the jet, and he would either push it out of the way or plop right down in the middle of it. If I was working on my needlework, he'd be right there on my lap, purring up a storm and chasing my thread underneath. And at night, when the porch light was on, and the giant moths would appear, he would constantly crash against the windows, trying to get them - and he ate a fair few of them.

He would go out back on the patio, into the hot New Mexico sun, and about 2 minutes later, would be panting so hard - he could get his black fur so hot, you almost couldn't touch him. Then he'd flop down by the half-barrel and survey his surroundings. And usually get dive-bombed by Soc. Then we had new neighbors move in, and they had British Bull Mastiffs. They had 2, who then had a litter, and they kept 3 of them. And their kennel was up against the fence that separated our back yards. So where did Bear like to walk? That fence over that kennel, just teasing those damn dogs that could squash him with a paw. Cat humor at it's finest.

From New Mexico, Bear & I found ourselves in South Dakota. I hated S. Dakota - it was ugly, it was hot, the people were so strange. Weird place, even though it wasn't all that different from NM - but it was different enough. We had a flock of wild turkeys that ran through the yard. Soc didn't like them. Bear ignored them, though he did like to prowl their path.

I decided I couldn't stay in S. Dakota, so I took my cat and I went home. I left Soc there, as I couldn't bring both with me :( I was told he had been adopted by a nice family; I hope so. So back to Ohio I go, cat in tow, and we move in with my dad. That's where Booger comes in - while I was away at school or work, my dad adopted Bear and renamed him Booger, and as boogers often do, it stuck :D And then Bitty was rescued, and her & Booger pal'd around like he and Soc used to do, though now Booger was the teacher and older brother.

After a while, I found myself in some strange circumstances, not going to school, quitting one job for another, living in this horrible house with a horrible girl with two kids. And then I found my current husband, who I knew Booger would have to like before I would - he did NOT like a guy I dated 2-3 times in school. Booger liked him immediately, and even his house that had an ankle-biting dog running around - Booger just knew he was so above that dog, that that dog could just bark at him all day long, and Booger would just give him a swipe across the nose and go about his business.

Eventually, we got our apartment, and then, poor Booger was home alone all day. So we were in a pet store in Englewood one day, looking at fish, I think, and there were a bunch op kittens for sale. Next thing I know, Todd had one out and was up at the register paying for him. He actually paid for a free cat - because there aren't any free kittens anywhere.... And so Booger had a new brother to train, Ripley.And then our first 2-legged kid arrived, and Booger was not impressed by his loss of attention. But I think he was very protective of this new brother-thing, as he slept under his crib or in his doorway for a long time. We never saw Ripley while we lived int he apartment - he slept under the water heater (next to the pilot light) by day, and would come out to play with super balls at night; must've driven the people downstairs nuts :) But every moment I wasn't handling a baby, I had a 12-pound black cat in my lap, and he slept with every time I closed my eyes.

And then we moved to Georgia, and soon after, came across a dog that needed rescuing. Otto was his name (for the one I had when I was little that I didn't really remember). But Otto didn't get housebroken properly, so he had to spend his time outside, so Booger & Ripley didn't really pay a lot of attention to him. Then we got Zeke from someone at work. And then our 2nd 2-legged kid arrived. It was pretty much a full house at that point.

In the intervening years, we've had 3 hamsters, 3-4 hermit crabs ( a couple of which escaped and have never been found), gold fish that refused to die until the heron got them out of the pond, turtles, and Booger, Ripley, and Otto. Then I had to rescue a cat from my dad in 2006, a beautiful, but slightly weird, mostly-Maine Coon, who has since become known as Beanie (his given name was Legion, as my dad found him in the American Legion parking lot - but that didn't work, so we flipped through several before landing on Bean) .We lost Otto on a Saturday morning; Todd went down to the garage to get stuff ready to go to soccer games for the day - a tournament on the other side of Atlanta, I think - and Otto was in the garage, laying on the floor having trouble breathing. A little bit later, he was gone. I think he had a good 13 years, keeping all the neighborhood squirrels in check :) He had a wonderful relationship with the dog next door, whom we all felt should have been ours. And then, Ripley got sick, and went downhill fast. He died in April of 2007, a good 15 years old and beat up as all good alley cats should be. And here was Booger, still ticking, still stuck to my side like a burr, though he was definitely moving a bit slower than he had, and would really like Bean to just leave him alone so he could sleep. Some days, he wouldn't even wake up when I got home, but as soon as he did, and realized I was there, straight to me he'd come, yowling with that horrible Siamese scream he perfected.

And then we brought Lucy home. Beanie was having no part of that damn dog in the house, and Booger, well, it's all old hat to him by this point, except now, he has to eat his food on the counter all of the time, to keep the dog out. SO does Bean, which means Bean will then come finish off Booger's, because Boog's a dainty eater, and not a wolfhound like all of the other animals in the house. But Booger & Lucy come to an agreement - they'll stay out of each other's food, and if Lucy sniffs his butt too much, he's going to hiss & smack her nose, and that's just the way it is.Last fall, Booger really started to act his age - he was 19 1/2 in October. His kitty dementia was getting worse - he's just walk through the house, yowling, and would be found in the kitchen, over by the pantry, looking up at the wall, just screaming like he had no idea how he'd gotten there or where he had planned to go. Then we had the cold snap in November, with highly unusual freezing temps, and he was so slow to move, even when Bean and Lucy were chasing him or picking on him. You could tell how stiff he was, but he was still going up & down the steps to use his box, but sleeping a lot more. I thought for sure he wouldn't make it through the winter.

And then around December, his fur started to mat up, and he wouldn't let me comb him - you could tell how much it hurt. And he was sooo thin. I knew the time had come. I gave him a few more months, thinking maybe he would just finally go to sleep one day and not wake up - but he always did, and was out here sitting on the counter every morning, screaming for his breakfast. His unofficial birthday is March 25th, and when he reached that his year, his 20th, I figured he's just being stubborn. But as his back legs were failing him more & more, I knew I had to make the call.

We took him in to the vet last Friday. I think the vet was actually shocked that this cat was 20 years old! He went peacefully, and is now outside with Ripley and Otto. I miss him dreadfully.I had him with me for half of my life, and all of my adult life. I had him longer than I've had my family. And unlike my family, he just wanted my attention everyday, with no back talk, not too many demands, just some chin scratching and ear rubs, and all the tuna he could eat. And DH said he'd get me a new black kitty. NO! I do not want another, as there is no other.

I see you soon, kitty - I'll bring the tuna. And the can opener.

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