Joey lived with me longer than any other man. He looked amazing in a tuxedo. He knew it, too. I miss ol’ Joe.
He came into my life in 1995. I was a student then, enrolled in the Development Services Worker program at Fanshawe College. This was part of a retraining package offered by Bell Canada when the company needed to cut 10,000 jobs. One of my roles as a DSW was to support adults in their homes and advocate on their behalf. I met with a young mother one afternoon. Just as I was preparing to leave, I heard a cat meow.
“You have a cat? I love kitties! Can I see him?”
She demurred. Both she and her daughter were allergic, as it turned out. “Sheriff” was kept in the basement until they could find a new home for him.
Super hero that I am, I said. “I’ll take him!”
And that was that. He came home with me that very day. I renamed him Joey, though I cannot recall why. He was two and he lived with me and The Performer and two other cats, Heidi and Aggie, eight-year-old sisters. For the most part, they got along fine. From time to time Joey would stalk and ambush the girls. Once poor Heidi ended up in the fish pond. One moment she’s minding her own business patrolling the perimeter of the pool and the next thing she knows, I’m hauling her out, duckweed and all.
Joey was quite the “lap-cat”, especially later in his life. The first time I held him on my lap, though, I thought would be the last. It was summer and I was in shorts. We sat together at the computer. I congratulated him on being such a good kitty, a good boy. He didn’t buy it and launched himself from his perch, taking a good quarter-pound of flesh from my legs. Ouch. Possibly I said something a degree or two more profane. Just possibly.
Joey moved with me from household to household. When I married The One, Joey was one of five cats. That combination was not successful. We decided to keep the original three cats at home and two cats at my husband’s store.
We just about lost our boy when we moved to the country. He loved being outside poking around the yard, investigating all of the nooks and crannies. One day he acted strangely, staggering, his eyes were askew. We took him to the vet and she could find nothing to explain his condition. She thought that maybe he found some poison. He recovered from that, but a week or two later, I noticed a red sore at the base of his tail. Back to the vet and this time, she found the culprit.
While Joey was out sniffing at the threshold of chipmunk holes, he picked up an opportunistic worm. It travelled through his nasal passages and up through his brain, which caused the staggering and intoxicated behaviour. It passed along his spinal column as it matured and broke through the flesh at the base of his tail. Warble or botfly are the quaint terms, Cuterebra the scientific. Look it up if you wish. I don’t want to post photos, they are too gross. Ick.
We adopted a couple more cats, Bubba and Singer. After the initial hissy-fits and pecking order firmly established, all three got along fine. I can remember watching Joey patrolling the perimeter of the one-acre property with the other boys in tow, a respectful distance behind their leader.
As the years and moves added up, Joe was my constant companion. The photo above shows him resting happily in my lap. He was always a thin cat, and later he turned into a heat-seeking missile. He slept under the covers with me at night and during the day, he asked up on my lap, sometimes under a robe. If the woodstove was lit, he slept in front of it, and on several occasions he tried to get UNDER it. Drove me nuts. If the stove was not lit, he sat on the heat registers soaking up the warm. Toward the end, Reiner mounted a heat lamp over Joey’s bed.
The day came. Joey had lost his ability to pee and poo and he was not eating. It was time. I called the vet, the one who makes house calls.
When the day came, the vet asked, “Are you sure?” She was doing her job, making certain that I had enough opportunity to change my mind.
Joey resisted being held. The vet said, “He still has the will to live.” She offered a new brand of pet food, something to try, perhaps?
I regret that, a little bit. I regret overpowering my cat. I regret having that power in the first place, and the burden of responsibility that comes with it.
I miss ol’ Joe. He was my buddy.
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