Most excellent of kitties

Before we even had kids, there was Max. He joined us only a few months after Terhi and I were married, and lived seventeen of his eighteen years with us. Two weeks ago it was time to let him go.

I didn’t want a cat. We didn’t have cats growing up, and I was allergic to them. I had nothing against them, mind you. I just considered myself a dog person. I still am.

But Terhi wanted a cat, and so I agreed to let her get one for a birthday present. She came home with Max. I didn’t realize at the time she’d found the Senior Statesman of Felinedom. Nor did I guess that, because of Max, we’d go on to get two more cats and a dog. I am a dog person. But thanks to Max, I’m also a cat person.

Max seemed to know I liked dogs, and he used that angle. He would come when called. He’d play games. His favorite was to chase my wife’s sewing measuring tape. He loved to try to catch the end of it and play tug of war with you. If we let go of the tape he would drag it around the house as if taking a victory lap–even after we later tied the other end to a stick to allow us longer reach.

He wasn’t demanding. He would just quietly make eye contact and use guilt to get what he wanted. From me that was usually petting. He’d wait until I was kneeling next to the bed to pray and then come chew on my hair. He liked to lay in the bathroom sink, at least until we moved to a house where the sink wasn’t as comfortable. He enjoyed licking the water from the sink and would often ask us to add more water for him.

He would find unusual places to sleep; in the large mixing bowl atop the cupboards, atop the china hutch, on the plant shelf in the window. He liked to get into places that he sometimes couldn’t get out of. Once he somehow got into a drawer in the bathroom and it shut with him in it. He didn’t seem to mind when he got into such spots; once he decided he’d been there long enough (sometimes for hours) he’d start calling out until we finally figured out where he was.

He was calm and unassuming. Even after the other cats came to live with us he would patiently wait for “Max time,” which usually involved finding Terhi at the end of the day when she’d settle in to read. He loved to sleep next to her at night; sometimes with me, but not as often.

Max had a truly gentle soul, and though we love our other two cats, he was always my favorite. He was always there, somewhere in the house, ready to show affection, but seldom demanding it. He was the one who would tell when you were upset and quietly present himself to provide “furry, purry therapy.” Oh, and his purr–always clear, easily heard, and quickly evoked. He liked to knead, too, though very gently and without claws (would that Benny would learn that).

As he started getting up there in years we started speculating that he was surviving on love. He’d had so few health problems. This summer, however, even love proved insufficient to overcome the effects of advancing age. He started declining, and the vet began speaking in terms of quality of life. By the end of September we suspected it wouldn’t be much longer. And then we knew it was time.

Seventeen years is a long time. Nearly everything we’ve been through as a couple or as a family, Max has been there too. For such a little, quiet cat he had an enormous presence in our lives. He’s beyond pain now, for which we’re grateful. But we miss him.

Until we meet again, Max, you splendid kitty. I hope wherever you are there’s a nice, sunny spot with a pillow with your name on it. There’s certainly one in my soul.


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