I was never a cat person growing-up. From the time of my birth through the present my parents have had between six and ten dogs. The only one we had at its death was a dog called Spunky, of whom I have absolutely no memory. I do remember the story of his death. Here's the abridged version.
We were living in the small town of Kernersville, NC. It's sort of halfway between Greensboro and Winston Salem. I was very young. No older than three. There was a wooded area outside my house and Spunky, who was the litter mate of our other dog Droopy, had not come home the night before. My memory is fuzzy on how exactly he was found. Either my father found him in the woods, or he made it home on his own will. Details aside, when he was found, in the woods or the yard, he had been terribly injured. His body had been opened up by a hunter's trap. They rushed him to the vet, but there was no saving him. My mother tells this story as being the first time she had seen my father cry. She uses this instance as an explanation for why my father never got too close to the animals. That, and the fact that he grew-up on a farm where the dogs are workers and not pets.
When Sarah first saw Teddy she cried. Later she would cry when she first saw dolphins. I love her so much. She cried when she saw Teddy because, being a full grown cat and an orange tabby, he resembled Tadpole her cat who had met his end while we were going to school in Asheville. He had been run over. Teddy was sweet, too. Incredibly. Almost un-catlike. I bought him for Sarah, but he very quickly became my cat. The people at the pet store had inexplicably called him Pepsi. We named him Ted. After Tad.
When I first took Ted home he was the typical scaredy cat, but I was soon able to coax him out from under my sister's bed, into my room, and under my bed. He would sleep with me in my bed at night, and with time he found the courage to make the house his own.
He didn't start out as the eater that he was for the last few years. At first we hypothesized that his lack of appetite was linked to him being scared. When that didn't pan out, we put it off to the sad fact that he just didn't have enough teeth left in his mouth to really eat dry food. As it happened, he had all his teeth. He had been a stray, and he came to us with an ear mite situation we knew about and a parasitic worm problem I had to find out about on my own. It was very traumatic for me.
Eventually Teddy would be saddled with a tooth problem, though. Over the period of a few days in the year 2000 or 2001 he began to develop a snaggle-tooth look with one of his canines protruding noticeably lower than the other. It was loose, and the vet had to put him under to remove it. That left him with three biting teeth (the two on the bottom and one on top). He got by.
When he woke us up yesterday Teddy was dying. He was struggling to breathe, and I was clumsily trying to help him. My first thought was that he was choking, and I was trying to push whatever was inside him out. Nothing came out, so I tried to stick my finger in there to clear his air way. There was nothing there, and Teddy, being scared and in pain bit the tip of my finger. "Fuck!" He had never really bit me before, but yesterday morning he had gotten me on the top and the bottom of my finger. By that point I had noticed that his tongue had changed color, and saw that as a sign for no hope.
In a matter of moments he stopped crying. He stopped trying to breathe. He stopped moving. His eyes were still open when I wrapped him in the sheet that Sarah and I had been sleeping under. I held him for a while while he was wrapped up. Then I felt him begin to stiffen up. I couldn't take it. We put him on a pillow in a box and waited until I could take him to the vet to be cremated. He woke us up and was dead by 5:40, but we had to wait until after 8:00 to take him in.
I loved that cat. Sarah and I slept on the futon in the living room last night. I don't know when I'll feel comfortable going into the bedroom again. Maybe tonight. Maybe tomorrow. It won't be long. Right now I miss my cat. And my finger hurts.