Sunday, March 16, 2008

Well, He’s Gone

I’ve now lost two cats in two months, both to sudden illness. I think its appropriate, and almost a metaphor for his life, that while Sadie slid almost peacefully and quietly in to death, Mortimer literally went kicking a screaming. He died, just as lived. There was no way he would go unnoticed.

It started last night about 4:00 AM with a single, load meow that echoed through the house. I went down to the kitchen where he was laying in front of the heater. He had kicked the towel that I had covered him with off to one side. At first I thought he was just cold, but he was in front of the heater. I covered him back up and sat with him for a while and gave him some water through an eye dropper. His breathing was very shallow and slow.

After about 10 minutes his breathing quickened. He was almost panting and soon he let out another single, load meow. His back legs began to pump again and it was obvious he was in a lot of pain. After about 10 seconds the pain passed and his breathing stopped. I thought he was dead, but then the slow shallow breath started up again. This went on for about an hour and a half, and ever 15 or 20 minutes he was wracked with another round of pain. By 5:30 it was all over and he let out his final breath.

Below are two of my first posts on this blog. Its the story of how I found Mort. I’ll just finish with that.

Sunday, April 10, 2005
His Name is Mortimer

Everyday when I get home from work Mortimer runs out to my truck to greet me. I park on the street and have to make a U turn at the corner before I can pull in. As I pass by the house he starts down the steps of the front porch. By the time I’ve made the turn and am pulling up to the curb he is already at the sidewalk. Before I can get out he has come around to the driver’s side and is sitting in the street waiting for me. I scratch him on the head and ask, “How’s it goin’ buddy?”. Mortimer is my cat. This happens every day.

I took Mortimer in as a stray about 4 years ago. He is 10 or 12 years old, jet black with a few gray hairs. He was a feral cat and was mean and ugly. When I first saw him he was so skinny it was hard to look at him. His big head with the jowls of a tom cat was out of proportion to his starved body. He was missing a lot of fur and had a few scars on his face. His right eye was permanently dilated. No doubt the result of some past injury he sustained in a fight. He was mean. He was the king of the alley behind my house. To him the world was put in to two categories. Everything was either food or competition for food. Other cats ran when he came by.

He was not afraid of me at all. He never ran from me if I approached but he would just hiss and then slowly walk away, occasionally looking back to make sure I wasn’t following too close. My yard was completely fenced and I had no dog so he usually took refuge there. One day while I was mowing the lawn he was sleeping under the honey suckles. As I approached with the mower I figured he would move. I got closer and closer and he didn’t move. I had the mower less than a foot from him and he still didn’t move. I thought he was dead. I pulled the mower back and touched him with my foot. He lifted his head and hissed at me as if to say, “Just go around me you asshole”. I turned off the mower and went inside and got him some food.

I opened a can of tuna and put some on a plate. I took it out to him he immediately started to devour it. I slowly put two fingers out and scratched the top of his mangy head. I then made the mistake of running my hand down his side. When I got past his shoulders he attacked. It was quick and vicious. His attack lasted no more than 3 seconds and then he quickly moved off just out of my reach. My arm was shredded. There were deep, purple puncture wounds, long scratches and lots of blood. He slowly inched back in towards the food keeping his good eye on me the whole time. That would be the last time I would touch him for several months but I still fed him every day.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005
Mortimer Part II

When last we left our hero he was eating tuna and I was bleeding profusely. This was about 4 years ago. As I said, it would be a long time before I would try to pet him again but I continued to feed him everyday. After a few weeks of this I decided to see just how much he could eat. I had been slowly increasing the amount of dried cat food I left for him. He would eat it all no matter what. One day I was in the backyard sitting in the sun and Mort jumped over the fence expecting food. I obliged. I gave him a big hand full and watched him eat it. I gave him another handful and another and another. He continued to eat everything I put down. I would say he ate about 4 cups of food in one sitting. All that food in his skinny body made him look like a snake that had just eaten an ostrich egg. I figured he was just going to get sick so I stopped. He eventually waddled over to the honey suckle bushes and fell asleep fat and happy.

As spring turned to summer and summer to fall the weather turned cold and wet. Mortimer took up residence in the little recycling area I had set up in the corner of the yard. There was a small shelf with a roof and a burlap cover where I put cardboard. It was the same height as the fence rail that it sat next to so he had easy access. I would go out every day after work and lift up the flap and there laid Mortimer curled up on top of the cardboard. I would put down a handful of food and then carefully scratch him on the head as he ate. I had progressed to an opened palm on the back of his head and neck but still stayed above the shoulders.

One day I heard a dog barking in my backyard. I must have left the gate open. I looked out the window and saw Mortimer making his way along the fence rail to his cardboard home. The dog was barking at him every step of the way. It was a medium sized dog with short white hair. Easily 4 times Mortimer’s size. I figured I’d go out and chase the dog out of the yard. As I walked out the backdoor Mortimer saw me. He jumped off the fence over the dogs head and started trotting across the yard to me. He acted like the dog wasn’t even there. The dog took out after Mortimer and I took out after the dog hoping to get in-between them before the dog shredded Mort’s behind.

As the dog bared down on Mort his instinct must have kicked in. Just before the dog attached Mortimer swung around and jumped on to the dogs head. He started to tare in to that dogs head the same way he tore in to my arm several months before. It was all over in a few seconds. The dog yelped and backed off a few yards. I could see blood coming from 2 or 3 scratches on the dogs face. It wasn’t too difficult to chase him out of my yard after that. I gave Mort his handful of food in his cardboard home and went back in the house.

We went on like this and Mortimer was gaining weight and looking good except for the fur. He still had big bald spots. I thought is was a skin disease or something but I would find out later he was doing it to himself. In his aggressive attack on his fleas he would pull out clumps of his fur. I’m still not sure if he pulled out his fur in order to get to the fleas or if the fur removal was just a byproduct of him trying to kill the fleas. Once the fleas were under control his coat would come in thick and shiny. To this day when ever I see large clumps of black fur around the house I know it is time for more flea juice on the back of his neck.

Regardless of the fur problem he was starting to look good. He had a little home and a steady supply of food. He was able to clean himself on a regular basis and he had put on a few pounds. I was thinking about bringing him in the house but he never seemed interested and to be honest he still seemed very aggressive and I really didn’t trust him. One evening I went out to give him his food and he wasn’t there. I left it for him and didn’t think much of it. The next day after work I went out to feed him and last nights food was still there. The next day the same thing. I started to think maybe he had been hit by a car or picked up by the pound or something. I took a walk around the block hoping I wouldn’t find him dead in the gutter.

That night it rained very hard. This was in December or January. I had been feeding him for about 8 or 9 months now. I still hadn’t seen him in a few days and I was starting to think I would never see him again. I was watching TV and I heard a cat meowing on the front porch. I opened the door and it was Mortimer. He looked fine except the tip of his right ear was missing. He looked up at me as if to say, “I’ve had enough of this crap. I want in”. I opened the door wider and he walked in. I sat down on the couch and he made his way around the house checking everything out. He eventually came back to the couch and jumped up in my lap. I still didn’t trust him. I leaned back to keep my face a safe distance from those claws. I slowly petted him on the head and carefully ran my hand down his back. After a few minutes he began to purr. We sat there for a few minutes and then I got him some food.

That night and for several nights after that he slept in the bathroom. I still didn’t trust him. I would find out later that he had been trapped and neutered. The ear was clipped so if he was trapped again they would know he was already fixed. Slowly we gained each others trust and he has turned out to be one of the best pets I’ve ever had. He is always there when I’m working on the house. Everyday he runs out to my truck and greets me when I got home form work. He also knows a trick, or maybe it’s a fetish. Whenever he sees me holding a paper bag his eyes bug out and he gets down in to a crouching position like he wants to pounce on something. As I put the bag on the floor his butt begins to wiggle back and forth and he takes out for the bag. He hits the bag at full speed and most of his body goes in. His back feet continue to run and he pushes himself along the floor inside the bag until he smacks in to the wall or a piece of furniture or something. He sits there for a few seconds in the bag and then climbs out. I pick up the bag and move it across the room and he races in again – smack! This continues until I get tired of it.

38 comments:

Eureka Observer said...

Well I am sitting here in Ashland, Oregon at a B&B and am feeling really sad. I can't believe you lost both your great cats in such a short time.

To say you have my condolences is an understatement. I am so very sorry.

jagolbec said...

I'm so so sorry, Greg.

Heraldo Riviera said...

Sorry for your losses, Greg.

Tex Macrae said...

Well, I'm sitting here with tears running down my face.

I remember reading the Mort story when I first discovered your blog, in early 2005. So, I feel like I've known Mort for a long time. Thanks for writing about him for all of us.

One of my favorite picture on this blog was Mort hiding in that bubble wrap box in the attic.

RIP, Mortimer.

darazzberry said...

My heart just breaks for you Greg. It is so hard to lose special buddies like Mort. Thanks for re-sharing his story.

beachcomber said...

I believe I remember your telling me about Mort once when we worked at BP. I recall you being a little unsure of him but I could tell he was staying. My condolences once again this year.

Why S? said...

I'm so, so sorry. I was so sad to read this. So sad for your loss, losses. I'll be thinking of you.

Jenni said...

What wonderful stories and memories. There is something extra special about pets that find you.

Jennifer said...

May he rest in peace.

Rebecca said...

Greg, I am truly sorry for your loss. :::hugs::: to you.

The Boy Most Likely to ... said...

I write on my blog about King George, a cat I took in last October. He is the first cat I have had since I had to put my cat Pancake down over two years ago.

Your story reminds me of my times with Pancake. We were never very close, and she hated to be touched, but there was a bond. I will always rmeber that no matter where I was in the house, Pancake would be right behind me, and would lay in the doorway, or close to it. She would just watch me.

The day I came home from work, and found in the bedroom lying motionless on the floor, I knew she was in bad trouble. I wrapped her up in a blanket and checked on her throughout the night.

The next morning I had to take her to the vet and have her put down. One of the worst days of my life. Nine years she lived with me, and I still miss her. George has helped me heal a little.

I am very sorry for both of your losses. I know people who are not pet owners get a little weirded out by our reactions, but man, the power of pets is just that...powerful.

Thank you for the post.

-boy

moggiesten said...

Rest In Peace, Mortimer.

Marilyn

J Auclair said...

Mortimer was very lucky to have found you.

N-Pync said...

Greg,
I am so sorry about Mort. Thank you so much for sharing your story. Somewhere in this world there's a cat that needs to be loved and there's a spot in your heart for that cat. I hope when you're ready that you find that cat and both of you will nurture each other. There will never be another Mort, but they'll be someone who needs you as much as he did.

I understand your pain and hurt only too well. I lost my Bailee nearly three years ago - he was the love of my life. If you're ever bored you can read about him here.

Bailee aka Wiskers: http://www.dogster.com/dogs/109025

He was a good soul who didn't get to enjoy a long life, but in the time he was here, he definitly left a mark on mine.

Warmest regards, Shirliana (shirliana.com/blog)

Kathy from NJ said...

I am so sorry for your loss. You and Mort were such good friends and I'm sure he was very thankful that he found you.

kathy said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, Greg, but you must know that Mort has now become part of your story, and the Petch house story, and he probably wouldn't have wanted it any other way. That's why he found you and made himself part of your life. As I posted yesterday, pets have shorter lifespans than humans so that we can love many of them. You have loved two of them well, and I hope you will love many more.

kingstreetfarm said...

I am so very sorry, Greg. :(
There's really no way to express the depth of sadness that we feel when we lose a beloved pet...but friends and fellow pet lovers always understand, and I do.

Kathleen said...

I'm so sorry to hear you've lost him. Sounds like a truly great cat.

Greg said...

Thanks to everyone for the nice comments.

Boy, the only left now is me and a house plant. I hope nothing else dies this year. I remember getting the house plant the same time I got the cats.

Sandy said...

I am so very, very sorry Greg. I wish there was something I could say. My heart just aches for you.

Al said...

Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. Poor Mort, RIP little guy.

Green Fairy said...

I've enjoyed your stories of Mortimer, and your video of him coming out to meet you at the car just makes me smile.

Mark said...

That is just horrible Greg. I am so sorry for your loss of another great friend.

John said...

I'm very sorry.

M. A. said...

Greg, I am so sorry to read that you've lost Mort. I had been following the last few posts and was really hoping I wouldn't have to read this one. I always got a big kick from the video of him attacking your leg in the upstairs hallway. And I used that picture of him standing in the kitchen pass-through as wallpaper on my desktop one time. He was definitely tuff stuff, the Mort Man.

I feel so bad for what you're going through. Take care.

Greg said...

MA,

That was a great shot. Thanks for reminding me. And the one in the bubble wrap filled box, that someone mentioned earlier. He was a character.

I keep thinking I should go to the front door and let the cats in.

StuccoHouse said...

Sorry to hear about Mortimer.

Beth said...

Greg I am sorry to hear about Mort's passing. I had to laugh though reading the past posts about the lawnmower. My FIV cat would have acted the same way. Mort picked you and that is the highest honor when an animal picks you. Fell comfort in the face that he knew you would take care of him and love him when noone else would. When you least expect it another cat will pick you.

Norah said...

You did a good job, for cats to love you so much. They're picky. I'm so sorry Mort and Sadie aren't with you now, because it's a sure thing they didn't want to leave you.

Pets who find you are the best, in my experience--and people who welcome those pets into their lives are some of the finest people anywhere.

Fargo said...

I'm sorry to hear about Mort. It's so hard to lose one furry pal, much less two in a short time. I recently lost my cat Shadow, my best pal of 18 years. Life isn't the same without her, but I have a lot of great memories. Enjoy your memories of Mort. Those will be with you forever.

n-pync said...

No one can ever replace Mort - it's obvious he was a one-of-a-kind. I don't know if you're ready, but if you are, maybe there's another one-of-a-kind to to take another spot in your heart. I hope you don't get offended, but I did a search on petfinder for where you live. I kinda thought "Rachel" might need someone like you, but they all seem like nice cats. Anyway... here it is for someday when you're ready... and again, I hope you are okay with me sending you the link.

http://www.petfinder.com/search/search.cgi?pet.Animal=Cat&pet.Breed=&pet.Age=&pet.Size=&pet.Sex=&location=95503+

Larry said...

Sorry for your loss Greg...I know how you are feeling.

My wife and I lost all of our pets we moved into our house with, as well as the two new ones we adopted after we moved in, all in less than a year.

Our thoughts will be with you.

Katherine said...

Boy, that really sucks. I came upon your blog on youtube because of the kitchen tour clip, but I stayed to read because of that clip of Mort attacking you. I'd never heard someone cuss with such shrill freedom and abandon and at the same time be affectionate ("meanspirited...little cat").

I know that there is no point to losing both your pets so quickly, but then, maybe there is a point.

Diane said...

See above on all the comments, and adding my own 2 cents. He was a good cat, and I am sorry I won't get to read any more of his exploits. hugs from afar...

Josh said...

When I go, I hope I have a loved one at my side the way Mort had you, Greg. My condolences on your loss.

Jocelyn said...

Thanks for sharing Mortimer with us and I'm sorry to hear about this. He was lucky to have you for an owner and it's nice you could be with him in the end too.

Job's Friend said...

Hi Greg - I want you to know that this weekend I read your entire blog.

I love your house, and the way you talk about your house and your life...it's like watching a DIYcomidrama...

I'm sorry about your kitties, pets are such an important part of our lives.

Greg said...

Job's Friend,

I'm glad you're enjoying the blog. I promise it won't be so somber after this. I've run out of cats.

And thanks to everyone once again for all of the nice comments. It means a lot.