I think if he wasn’t completely cross eyed he might have been quite a scrapper. When I adopted him the agency told me he was “part domesticated lynx” and, while I’m still not 100% sure what that was supposed to mean, there was definitely something different about him. He was big, muscular, fast when he wanted to be, and he had the most amazing claws. As Addamatic will tell you, he loved to show off those claws. He had a habit of walking up to people he liked, stretching out one arm, popping out all the claws on that paw, waiting until you noticed, and then doing the same thing with the other side. I always imagined him saying, “Look at my beautiful claws.” When he was done he would go lay down on a blanket and go to sleep knowing that you knew he was beautiful and dangerous. One time Jenny and I decided to try to find out what Lynx sound like in the wild. Apparently they’re super quiet and the only thing we could find was a recording of a cry from a distressed mama Lynx looking for her baby. Ender responded desperately and immediately. It was the most heart breaking thing. I snuggled him mightily that afternoon.
This is the part where I’m crying again.
Those cats were with me through some of the toughest times of my adult life. Grad school, the long drawn-out horrible end of my terrible co-dependent relationship with Bryan, picking up the pieces from that, and more grad school. So many late nights of writing were punctuated with cat snuggles.
When we all moved in with Dave (that guy I like) they liked him right away. Some nights I would wake up to find Shirley gently smelling the top of his head and looking like it was the most soothing aroma therapy she could find. Ender would bite his toes too. Dave would tell me daily of some new weird quirk that he had discovered that I had known about for years. His heart is broken too.
We could not have imagined, five months ago in an exam room where we decided to make sure that Shirley wouldn’t suffer, that we would have to make the same decision for Ender. Her cancer was easy to see filling up her throat and mouth. Ender hadn’t eaten for 48 hours when the vet discovered his cancer. Throughout Thursday and Friday his diagnosis escalated from a rotten tooth and a heart murmur, to end stage kidney disease (untreatable) or maybe a kidney infection (treatable), to cancer. The ultra sound the vet had expected would show shriveled kidneys instead showed enlarged shapeless kidneys, full of cancer.
When Shirley was put to sleep we were taken to a room that was designed for the purpose. Dave called it The Platitude Room, I called it The Rainbow Bridge Room. Neither of us could stand to go back there. Twice we were offered the room again for Ender’s last moments. We refused it both times and attempted to explain that, while we wanted to be present for his death and we were comfortable with it, that room was not designed for our experience. It turns out another couple was in the exam room next door having the same experience. We ended up hugging in the parking lot.
I realized yesterday that Ender was everyone’s favorite cat, but Shirley was my favorite. I expected Shirley not to live long though. She was elderly at 9, at least in attitude. In my mind I had decided she was 18 or 19 when she was actually 13. I expected Ender would live a long long time. In retrospect he had been losing weight for months, we knew the food was not disappearing from the bowl, he started eating pumpkin when previously he thought it was the most gross thing ever and left his portion for Az. We even told him how good he was looking slimmed down (an important reminder never, ever to say that to anyone, ever). He was dying. During the part where we thought it was kidney disease the vet said something along the lines of, he’s probably been drinking extra water for years due to the disease and I felt so guilty for not noticing. I feel less bad that he had cancer. I know he suffered, but not for very long.
The house is quiet, too quiet now. Az crawled under the covers and quietly purred at Dave and I this morning, only trilling once to announce that I needed to lift up the blanket so she could crawl in. She needs a companion soon.
Shirley and Ender, if there is an afterlife, I hope you two are enjoying your favorite things together now. I miss you.