Jones Town Pays Tribute To A Dear Friend

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hanklittlefoot.jpgWhen I met Hank, I wasn’t sure what to make of him. The only pets I’d ever had were dogs, and I didn’t know much about cats or if I even liked them. I heard they were “aloof”, “self-absorbed”, and that they didn’t care for people too much unless it was dinner time. Over the next 13 plus years Hank properly rearranged my thinking and turned me into a “Cat person”, at least a “my Cat person.”

Hank came into my life in the Spring/Early Summer of 1994. My girlfriend at the time was unable to keep him as she was in the middle of moving, so she asked if I’d watch him for a while. At first, I balked. “A cat? I don’t know, I’m a dog person.” But she insisted, and being the gracious boyfriend (Insert sarcasm here) I am, I agreed.

To be honest, he got on my nerves. He was wild as Hell, and several times I asked her to take him back. In the middle of the night he’d attack my hand or my head out of nowhere. I’d awake from a dead sleep to find this little fucker on my head trying to eat me or whatever in the hell he was doing.

We had some battles in those early days.

But he was also funny. Sometimes he’d jump at me as I was walking across the room and miss sticking to the back of my couch, a furry Velcro ball. He’d hang there with his claws stuck waiting for me to get him down so he could attack me again. When he did hit his target he’d stick to my pants, and I’d walk around with him hanging from my jeans like a holster. “Fuzzy Cricket” was one of his first nicknames along with “You little son of a bitch” and “You Little Bastard!”

But my indifference toward Hank changed one afternoon as I was coming out of the bathroom. Hank followed me everywhere. If I went into the kitchen, he went into the kitchen. And on this day he followed me into the bathroom, but I didn’t see him.

As I came out and shut the door, I heard him screech. The next thing I know he’s flying around my apartment his tail flopping back and forth. Apparently Hank had his tail wrapped between the door and the frame and when I closed the door…

My girlfriend, being a professional bitch, immediately laid the guilt on me like I did it on purpose, and after we argued for ten minutes about my “guilt” I picked him up and off we went to the Vet.

Hank’s tail was broken near his spine. The Vet told us if we didn’t amputate it the tail might become infected, which obviously presented a serious risk. In that moment, Hank went from being the cat I was “watching” to “My Cat.”

I stayed with him for a little while assuring him everything was fine, and that I’d be back to pick up as soon as the Vet said he was ready. He gave me a look as if to say, “Yeah, I bet you will Mother Fucker. You already broke my tail, what’s next?”

Hank came home two days later with a little bandage and a piece of tape on what was now nothing more than a stump of a “tail.” Personally I thought it was cool, and gave this Cat who was already filled with so much character even more. “Nub.”

A battle soon ensued between my girlfriend and I over who Hank belonged to at this point. Being the son of a Republican, I immediately invoked good old “Law and Order.” “Possession is 9/10’s of the Law, and he’s in my house, and I paid for his surgery. You can kiss my white Ass! Hank stays, but you My Dear must Go!” And she did. (A man has to have priorities. At this point in my life, women were a dime a dozen, but Hank? Only one of those).

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Over the next several years Hank developed a reputation as a “son of a bitch.” He bit the shit out of everyone, except for me, and people loved to hate him. Of course, it never stopped them from trying to pet him whenever they came over to visit. (Actually let me revise). He bit everyone except me and females. Hank was quite the ladies man, and he always managed to cuddle up with the various women who floated in and out of my life.

He loved to be admired. He’d saunter into the living room when company was over and lay in the middle of the floor practicing his “cutes” (Various poses meant to entice the viewer into petting him).

Hank also loved people to talk to him, and I’m fairly certain his understanding of the English language surpassed that of the average American’s.

In 1997, I moved to Florida to take a job as a Counselor, and because the job involved me spending days or even weeks living in Ocala National Forest, Hank stayed behind.

For the next 17 months, Hank lived with one of my friends in Frankfort while I lived in Florida. It was a rough period. Every night when we went to “Pow WoW” (A nightly ritual where we sat in front of a fire talking about the days events) I gave a “Shout Out” to “My Cat.” I did that every night, sans one or two, for the entire time I lived there. In fact, it became a running joke. “He doesn’t miss his family or girlfriend. He misses his Cat.”

When I returned to Louisville in 1999, the first thing I did was get my Cat. Hank was different. My friend lived in a neighborhood where Hank got to go outside, and he had some “Wild” in him now. Not that he didn’t before, but now it was “Outdoor Wild.”

For the first couple of days, things were strange. He knew who I was, but I think he was pissed I left him so he gave me the brush off. But it didn’t take long for that to fade and for Hank and I to become Partners in Crime once more.

During the Summer of 2000 I moved again, this time to St. Louis. The girl I was dating was getting ready to enter Graduate School at St. Louis University, and I had two choices: Continue driving back and forth from Louisville to St. Louis twice a month or pack up my shit and move there. Being a perpetual wanderer, I chose the latter.

Hank and I got into my Honda and off we went. Hank the “Adventure Cat” and his Flake Father.

We lived in St. Louis for two and half years, and after I got bored the Prodigal Son returned home to Louisville for the third time. But Hank took it all in stride. “Whatever”, he once told me. “As long as you feed me, I’m cool.”

Returning to Louisville turned out to be a pivotal point in our lives. Within a year of returning, I was suddenly a father. After miraculously avoiding this potentiality for over a decade, my “luck” finally ran out.

Hank didn’t take the news well. He wasn’t much into sharing, and voiced his objection to one of those “little people” who pull cat’s ears, and tails (He was safe from that at least) and try to pick them up by their heads.

But once my daughter was born his attitude changed completely. Not that he snuggled up to her or even went near her for the first six months, but he never attacked her or jumped into her crib to “steal her breath.” He accepted her, and went about his business being the Cat.

Bella and Hank grew to be quite a duo over the next couplemyfriend.jpg of years. She, being the little “Sister”, constantly told on him. “Hank won’t read books with me.” “Daddy Hank won’t come in my room and lay on my bed with me.” “Daddy Hank is trying to drink my milk”img_0818.jpg (She said that almost every morning). “Bella, Hank is in here with me. He’s not trying to drink your milk. Give the poor guy a break.”

Hank never got mad at her though, at least not really mad. He did bite her once, but we both tried to warn her and she insisted she needed to pick him. She never needed to do it again. But other than an occasional hiss he was very patient with Bella.

He’d lay on her books while she colored or on her “Play Play” (clay) pad and give her pointers on color usage and what not. I never thought it would happen, but my once indifferent Cat grew to love Bella. (He wouldn’t admit it, but I knew).

In October of last year, things started to change. I went to California for a couple of weeks, and when I got back I noticed Hank looked thinner. (One of Hank’s countless nicknames is “Fat Ass”)

At first, I thought maybe it was anxiety because yet again I left him in the care of strangers.

But about a month ago, I realized what began in October never stopped. He was getting thinner and thinner. I guess it was denial, but I wanted to believe it was the food or that he simply wasn’t as hungry as he used to be.

He never leveled out though, and I knew. He wanted to eat but he couldn’t. I tried several different foods thinking maybe he was just sick of eating the same shit over and over. But it was to no avail.

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Last week it really hit me, Hank was dying. He was starving to death. For whatever reason, he couldn’t eat anymore. I know, I should have taken him to the Vet, but I was afraid they’d want to put him to sleep and I wasn’t ready to let him go. He promised me he’d hang around for his “Little Sister’s” sake. It was selfish, but if he died I wanted him to be at home with us where he belonged.

I bought some expensive canned food hoping the softer food would be easier for him to eat. And it seemed to work temporarily. The first couple of days he ate more, but this past weekend he stopped.

Monday morning when I woke up Hank had goop all over his eyes. “He’s fucking dying.” I asked him to hold on so Bella could see him one last time and say goodbye, but he just couldn’t do it.

Last night he began to labor with his breathing, and I accepted I was going to have to have him put to sleep. I called my mom and told her and then I called the Animal Hospital to let them know we were on our way.

I told Hank I wasn’t going to let him suffer anymore and he went in my room while I took a shower. When I came out, he was under my bed squirming around, and I ran into my room calling his name. He mustered the strength to stand and come toward me, his eyes were blank. He took three or four steps and fell into my hands. (One last time he came to me). He died while I held him.

In the end, I hope I didn’t let my friend down and hold on too long. But it’s hard to let go even when you know it makes no sense to try. I’m just sorry Bella wasn’t able to say goodbye.

I have so many memories of my 13 plus years with Hank. All the people who’ve floated in and out of my life like balloons without strings Hank was the one constant. We grew up together.

When my girlfriend and I broke up last year, Hank would jump onto my bed and lay on the pillow where she used to lay. He’d put his paw on my head reminding me that we made it through many tough times and that we’d do it again. It wasn’t much but it was better than the unwanted advice and cliché ridden encouragement I got from my family and friends.

After he died, I sat with him a moment and ran my hand along his side. (“Hank is really soft Dada”). He is, and he had a good life.

One of my favorite memories of Hank is the tumultuous relationship he had with Miss Spider. Miss Spider was a Rose Haired Tarantula I bought on a whim many years ago. Hank hated Miss Spider. He’d sit against her aquarium waiting for her to even flinch. When she did, he’d knock the hell out of the aquarium trying to get her. (Cats and movement).

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I tried to protect Miss Spider, but no matter where I put the aquarium Hank found a way to get to her. One day I was sitting in my living room, and I hear this “Crash!” I look down the hallway into my bedroom, and in slow motion, I see Hank 4′ or 5′ in the air, extended like SuperCat, above Miss Spider’s aquarium as it tumbled to the ground. (That little fucker). She was okay, but I think the shock of dealing with him daily finally got to her as she didn’t last much longer. Hank seemed disappointed when he’d sit next to her empty aquarium and nothing would happen.

All day today I’ve caught myself looking for him, and several times, while sitting here, I’ve mistaken my giant dictionary on the floor for Hank. I turn to say something to him, and realize he’s gone. It will take some time to accept.

There is nothing profound about death. It is blunt, ill mannered and brutal. It does not ask for permission and rarely lets you know it’s coming. Death is the cruelest of jokes. One minute someone is there and the next they are not. And there is no such thing as a noble goodbye. They are all shitty.

After my mom and I decided burying Hank in her backyard was a bad idea, (They just sold their house) we decided to take him to the 2nd street bridge and put him into the Ohio River. The Ohio connects to the Mississippi which in turn runs all the way to the Gulf. Our hope is that Hank will make it to the Ocean.

He always was an Adventurous Cat.

 

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Hank Little Foot April 17, 1994-July 4, 2007

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~ by fairlane on July 4, 2007.

12 Responses to “Jones Town Pays Tribute To A Dear Friend”

  1. I’m so sorry. I lost a cat at the end of April. She was Mercedes and was as old as the hills. During her last month, her diabetes got out of control and she too was emaciated. I didn’t realize how far she had declined until I posted about her and brought up a photo of her that was about 4 years old. The amount of palpable cat-suffering in my apartment has dropped noticeably, and if there is no other comfort, I know that taking her in was for the best. I still have her litter mate, Portia, who is also a little old lady with her own health problems, but she’s managing pretty well, I think. Still pounces things. The hardest thing about losing Mercedes was getting rid of her pillow, where she spent the better years of her life. That was hard. I actually put another pillow in its place on my bed because it seemed like something was missing. She had the right side, I had the left. But it’s for the best. I am really sorry and totally know how much this sucks.

    Now I have the sniffles.

    HJ

  2. I’m sitting here trying to type this and the tears are flying fast and furious. I know what it feels like to lose a furry friend. It’s happened to me and there are some pets that I had to make that god awful decision, that I still can’t talk about to this day without getting “sniffles”.

    I truly do understand and I’m so sorry ’cause I know it can hurt like hell.

  3. I’m sorry, fairlane. I can’t say I’ve been there, but I have two now and I know it’d be tough if they were gone. I actually hate them right now, but I’d hate to see them gone, too. We’re in the hate phase of a love-hate relationship.

  4. My sympathies, fairlane. I’ve been there and I know how tough it can be.

    Peace, brother.

  5. Hank sounds like a helluva cat – you did well by him, too.

    I’m glad the two of you found each other.

    Sincerely,

    Tengrain

  6. I appreciate the kind words. He was a pretty cool dude if I do say so myself. I wasn’t sure at first if I should write a post about him. I didn’t want people to think I was trying to play the “sympathy card.” In the end, he deserved to be honored.

    The hardest part is explaining it to Isabella who’s only three. She thinks he’s in the “Sea” and is going to come back one day.

    Life starts early.

  7. Hey, fairlane,
    I’m sorry to hear about Hank. The cats I’ve lived with have been the same way. They just start getting skinny and begin to disappear on us.

    Lots of folks talk about anthropomorphization as being intellectually dishonest. I think that if you can’t see the humanity in a cat or a dog, how the hell are you going to spot it in some of the human beings we see shuffling about?

    This was one of my favorite posts by you. I don’t think it was maudlin or sentimental. I think it told a story. A good story.

    Thanks.

  8. Hank was more human than many humans I’ve met.

    The truth is most of our personal experiences are based on observations and feelings. We don’t conduct experiments to “prove” our girlfriends love us or that our enemies hate us. We observe, we feel our way through. You can just as easily read into another human something that is not really there, and I’m pretty sure everyone has done that at least once in their life.

    Let’s say a cat figures out it likes to be petted so it learns to behave in a way that increases that possible outcome. Is it really showing you affection or is it just ringing the bell waiting for the food pellet? Who knows? But is that really much different than a man saying, “Damn baby you look beautiful tonight” in the hopes of getting laid?

    I think Hank was an individual and if someone disagrees or thinks that’s silly, oh well.

  9. Sorry to hear about your cat! What a story!

    I’m going to add you to my blogroll, unless you’d rather not.

    Also, I thought I saw a response on my blog, but when I went back to answer, it was gone! ; (

  10. Thanks Coffee. I appreciate the link, and I’m adding you as well.

    Now that I look at what I wrote I want to go back and add about ten more pages to the story. He and I had some adventures together to say the least.

  11. You and Hank had many years, albeit some of them tumultuous, together. I went through an identical experience with one of my Dogs many years ago, and I still can’t talk of it without choking up.

    I encourage you to hang on to those good memories forever.

  12. I truly appreciate the kind words. I know I’m repeating myself, but I don’t really know what to say.

    Thank you

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