One sweltering afternoon in August of 1994, I walked into the Tucson Humane Society, and told them I was looking for a cat.
I was living on my own for the first (and, so far, only) time in my life. My apartment complex didn't allow dogs, but they allow cats, if they were front de-clawed. (I was a graduate student living in a furnished apartment.)
For reasons I don't fully understand, I had my heart set on an orange cat.
So, when I walked into the kennel that day, I said, "I'm looking for an orange cat, front de-clawed, neutered."
The woman working was excited - because while I was describing a potential ideal cat, she thought I'd come looking for a particular cat.
In their possession was a orange tom cat, neutered, front de-clawed, who had been dropped off 7 days before.
His number was up, so to speak. It was his last day before he would be "put down".
So, when I walked in with such a particular request, they thought maybe his prior owner had had a change of heart.
$40 and some signatures later, I walked out with that tom cat.
His prior owners had relinquished him to the pound because he chewed on things on night and cried because he wasn't allowed to sleep with them.
I had no interest in keeping the cat out of my bedroom, so I wasn't concerned.
His prior owners had named him...and at this moment it seems important to remember what that name was. But I can't. I cannot remember what his name was before he came home with me. I do remember that I tried to call him that name and he didn't respond at all.
So I renamed him.
I declared his new name to be "Johnny" Nolan, but I never called him Johnny - just Nolan.
He was named after the character Johnny Nolan in the book A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is my favorite book of all time.
Nolan rarely chewed on anything, provided he wasn't left alone too long and he was allowed to sleep in my bed.
A few months later, he took to Husband immediately, (even though he was Fiance and not Husband yet).
He was a smart cat, and a good mouser, and a flycatcher, too. (And he once caught a bat, but I really don't like to think about that day.)
He rode across the country in the back of my Ford Escort, sitting in a laundry basket, watching the cars on the road.
He could jump high, and liked to hang out on top of the refrigerator. He once stole a jalapeno from a pizza and rarely tried to get "people food" after that.
We tried to camp with him, once.
Cats, let it be known, do not like to camp.
When I adopted him on that sweltering August morning, the vet said he was "at least 1, but not more than 3 years old" - when means he was born sometime in 1991-1993. Which means, this morning, he was between 19 and 17 years old.
He was a big cat - at one point hitting 23 pounds.
He had been sick for about a year.
On the morning of J~'s death, he had a mini-seizure. I yelled at him, told him he was not allowed to die that day.
And he didn't.
This morning, at 12:45, he stood next to our bed and cried. I pulled him into bed and laid him between Husband and I, because that was where he liked to be - right next to Husband's head.
He slept so deeply that at 6:00 AM, we weren't sure he was still with us, but then he lifted his head sleepily, and yawned.
At 7:40, I put him down on the floor as I got dressed.
He fell over, his whole body shaking, and he was unable to stand.
I think he used all the energy he had in him to make it up our stairs in the middle of the night.
He tried to drag his body to his water dish with his front paws.
I called the vet.
I called the judge I was supposed to be in front of at 10AM.
The judge's clerk told me to go to the vet and that the judge would call me if he needed to talk to me.
I wrapped him in one of Gabriel's baby blankets and drove to the vet's office.
At 10:00 AM, in the vet's office, he mustered the last bits of strength he had and threw himself off the examination table and landed on his head. His whole body shook, and the vet and I gently put him back on the table, and she said he was hurting and there was only one thing she could do for him.
At 10:20 his face was peaceful and for the first time I realized that his muscles had been bunched up in pain for weeks.
As I held him, cradled in the baby blanket, as he slipped away, I thought how far my cat had come, and how far I have come with this cat always by my side. I wondered if he missed the desert where he had been born, I wondered where he went when his body went limp. I like to think he is with J~ now. Maybe they are both chasing lizards in some heavenly Sonoran canyon.
Rest in peace, old friend. He is missed.
* Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers, Americano