I woke up Sunday morning without a cat on my bed. That may be the usual state of affairs at your house, but I cannot remember the last time it happened at mine.
I’ve had cats since I was about 4, I think. The first one was named Dinah, after the cat in “Alice in Wonderland,” which my mother was reading to me at the time. Dinah was a Denver cat who became a Palo Alto, California, cat when my family moved there so Dad could finish college. I don’t believe she made it to Bend when we settled here in 1953, but I could be wrong.
Dinah was followed by a succession of cats acquired in a variety of ways. Among them were George, the guaranteed-male gift from a family friend, whose kitten became George’s Kitten. Pencils “followed” me home from Kenwood School when I was in the fourth or fifth grade, and Billy Butch was named after the neighbor boys. There were others, too, though I cannot recall their names.
My Rhode Island cat from the late 1960s was a beautiful gray feline called Major Grey, named both for his color and the chutney. Christie arrived when my daughter Anna was about 7, and Charlie became the ranch cat when I lived in Wamic, in Wasco County.
We moved back to Bend in 1998, left Charlie at the ranch and took on Lucy and Ethel, a 10-week-old pair of Siamese sisters or half-sisters. About a year later, I watched a white cat in the window of a pet store at the Wagner mall for several weeks. He was clearly older than the store clerks though he was, and I finally bought him because I feared for his future.
Thus Chuck, more formally, Chuck Chuck the Kitty, entered our lives.
Chuck was all white, with green eyes. He was a handsome fellow, though several months of living in a pet store window, and a period of time before that as a foundling, left him with quirks.
He could never get enough to eat, a sure sign he’d been hungry at one point. I had to keep his kibble in a heavy plastic container so he couldn’t get at it. When he put on too much weight, I bought one of those “light” cat foods, divided his meal into small amounts and hid them all over the upstairs bedroom. At least that way he had to exercise a bit to eat.
Chuck was a reasonably happy cat until LB (Little Bald or Little Black) Kitty arrived. She was a stray, and Chuck simply could not stand her. It had never occurred to me that cats could be insecure, but Chuck clearly was. The problem didn’t go away until a couple of years ago, after LB Kitty and the two Siamese had died.
I do think Chuck thrived from 2014 on. He became a lap cat, so much so that I began to invoke the Chandler rule: Someone else had to go let the dog in, answer the phone, or whatever if you had COL — cat on lap, and I frequently did.
As old age overtook him so, too, did deafness. Chuck had never been particularly quiet; for the last couple of years he was downright loud. But his appetite was good, he and my poodle got along well and he seemed content. He spent many of his days on my bed and many of his nights curled up beside me.
Chuck took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks ago. He’d had minor surgery, and while he bounced back for a few days, he quit eating not long after Christmas. He was clingy and too quiet.
Saturday morning I took him to the vet. His kidneys were failing, a pretty common problem in cats, and the vet and I decided the best plan was to euthanize him.
I miss Chuck. His death strikes me as the end of something I wasn’t ready to have end. I miss his yowl and his purr and his oh-so-soft fur and beautiful eyes. I know my decision to end his life was the right one, but that doesn’t make having him gone feel any better.
— Janet Stevens is deputy editor of The Bulletin. Contact: 541-617-7821, firstname.lastname@example.org