In 1999, we were living in Boston in a fourth-floor walkup studio. My coworker had adopted a cat from a shelter south of Boston. At just nine months of age, this little cat was terrorizing her first cat, a cat twice his size. Near tears one morning, she told me she had to return him to the shelter.
We had wanted a cat for years but our lease wouldn’t allow it. But we were worried about this feisty cat’s fate and didn’t want to see him returned to the shelter, where he might not have had another chance at finding a home.
We couldn’t get official approval from our landlord, but he lived below us (with his dog) and gave us unofficial approval. And so we took my co-worker’s cat home.
Theo was his name and we never considered changing it.
He was a holy terror. He was missing two toes from his back leg. Had been hit by a car was the official story. But it was clear he had been starved as well. So young and so sadly obsessed with food. Got us up at all hours of the night. We tried free-feeding, but he nearly doubled his weight in month. So from then on he was on a controlled diet. I remember thinking at one point we should have just had a child as eventually they let you sleep the night through.
And then it occurred to me that we did have a child.
Ira, our friend who is now with Theo, once said, as he watched Theo walk into a room, “That cat oozes testosterone.” And did he ever.
From Boston to San Diego, Seattle and then Ashland, he traveled with us, wanted to be with us always.
We had our challenges along the way. We could never adopt other cats or dogs because he had such a hot temper; he barely tolerated us at times. And then there were the emergency room visits. A urinary blockage one year. Diabetes a few years later. A torn ligament in his knee that had to be replaced. In the end, it was a tumor in his jaw that he couldn’t overcome.
We started Ashland Creek Press on a whim. Not knowing where it would lead us. We adopted Theo on a whim as well. Funny how those things you do on a whim end up changing your lives for the better. We regret not a single day. We only regret that we did not have more of them.
He made us more patient, more flexible. He gave us so many wonderful memories. His stubbornness inspires our writing, our publishing, keeps us going in the face of rejection.
He was an indoor cat all his life, but boy did he love to go on walks.
So we will leave the position of GM open for now. We think it will take 3 or 4 felines at least to fill his shoes, or paws. And, after a time of mourning, we will try to fill them.
We had eighteen wonderful years with Theo. Right about the time many parents are sending their children off to college, we had to send ours off as well.
Such is life.
And such an empty nest.