I lost a friend yesterday.
After a short battle with an indeterminate disease, our cat of died peacefully in our arms yesterday.
Owen was an incredibly healthy cat until his final month, and he lived a life filled with love and leisure. Our hearts are aching today. He will be missed.
Making this loss doubly difficult was the loss that our children experienced. For both of them, this is the first death that they experienced.
Owen's life was an interesting one.
Though he was 16 years old at the time of his death, he only learned his name in his last year of life.
About ten years ago, he took a fancy to wool and began eating through Elysha's cashmere scarves and sweaters. He would eat the clothing right off your body if you let him.
One morning he sat in my lap and ate a hole in the front of my wool pants which I only discovered at school after I removed my sweatshirt. I was standing in front of the class, teaching, when a girl in the front row said, "Mr. Dicks. I can see your underwear."
Assuming a little bit of my waistband was poking from my band, I said, "Knock it off," and started reaching around my waist to tuck in the offending bit of cotton.
"No," she said, pointing at my crotch. "I can see a lot of your underwear. Like a lot."
She wasn't kidding. It was a hole the size of a softball.
I was putting clothing in the dryer one day while listening to music on my headphones. Once all of the clothing was loaded, I closed the door and turned the dryer on. I walked away, listening to the music blare through my headphones, but just as I was about to turn the corner and leave the room, I heard a bang. Then another. Then another. I removed my headphones and realized what was happening. I ran to the dryer and opened the door. A wet, frizzy, terrified Owen leapt from the dryer and sprinted away.
Had the music been a little louder or I had been a little faster, I shudder to think what could've happened.
Owen threw up a lot. He was a cat who loved to eat enormous amounts of food and then purge. He also routinely ate plastic, ribbons, paper, and a host of other items and would later (and thankfully purge them as well. It was only through the purchase of the Bissell Spot-Bot, a small carpet shampoo device that Owen was allowed into any room with a carpet.
For years, Owen wanted to get outdoors, and it was a constant battle to keep him inside. One day he finally managed to escape for an indeterminate amount of time. When we found him, he was standing by the back door - which was made of glass - desperately trying to get back in. For a cat who took 16 years to learn his name, he learned this lesson quickly. He never tried to escape again
Owen once caught a mouse in our old apartment and would not let it go. He held it in his mouth and made a strange huffing sound as he walked throughout the house with it. Finally, I got Owen to go into the bathroom. I locked myself inside with him and went to battle with him over the mouse, finally extracting the disgusting thing from his jaws.
It was a battle unlike any other.
Owen had a brother named Jack who he loved dearly. Jack died back in 2009, and soon thereafter, Clara was born. Losing his brother and suddenly having to share attention with a baby was difficult for him. He lost his mind for a couple years. His grief was palatable and tragic. It was a terrible thing to watch, but eventually, he seemed to accept the loss of Jack and find a new spot on the pecking order that was acceptable for him.
In his last few years, he became a truly sweet and tender boy.
Owen was easily over-stimulated. Pet him for more than a couple minute and he would bite you. It wasn't a bite born from aggression but from love, but it still hurt like hell. To his credit, though, Owen never bit either one of our kids, no matter how much petting, tail pulling, and hugging they did. He bit Elysha and me hundreds of times, but he knew better than to bite a child.
Owen didn't love Clara at first, primarily due to her constant pulling of his tail and crushing hugs, but over the past few years, the two grew incredibly close. Owen began sleeping with Clara for a portion of the night, and she fell head over heels for the big boy in his last couple years, making his death even more difficult to bear.
Owen was an enormous cat. He weighed about 17 pounds. My friends often made fun of me for owning a dog smaller than my cat.
Owen and Kaleigh, our dog, got along well unless food was involved.
Kaleigh is an asshole when it comes to food.
Kaleigh is 15 years old, so she and Owen grew into old age together. They weren't best friends but more like amicable roommates with occasional moments of surprising affection. I suspect that she will miss him.
Owen loved us all, but he loved Elysha most of all. She adopted him from the same animal hospital where he died yesterday, and they were together longer than she and I have been together. Owen was fond of sleeping at Elysha's feet every night and lying on her chest when we watched television. He purred so loudly that we sometimes couldn't hear the TV. He would wake her up with a nuzzle in the morning and do everything possible to sit in her lap when she was sitting.
It was a love story like no other.
Losing Owen was tough on all of us, but the kids have been surprisingly resilient and strong. We told them on Thursday that Owen was sick and could die any day, giving us one more precious day to love him. This was an especially difficult 24 hours for Elysha and me, and at one point, I was weeping. Clara took my hand and said, "Daddy, try to think of all the good memories we have with Owen. Tell me an Owen story and you'll feel better. Stories always make people feel better."
She's so wise and strong for a seven year-old.
Charlie doesn't understand death as well. But since Owen's death, he has said:
"Owen's gone and we can't have him back."
"Is he gone forever?"
"What does it mean to die."
It hasn't been easy on any of us.
Owen's last day has hard. Elysha took him outside for a final moment in the sun. The kids said goodbye as they left for school and playdates, unaware that they would never see him again. But they knew that he was dying, so these last farewells were touching and meaningful.
In his final moments, I told Owen that I loved him, and I thanked him for all that he has given to us and our family. I've known Owen for 13 years, and he has been a friend and companion who I will always remember.
Readers of this blog might know that I do not deal well with death, and this was no exception.
Rest in peace, Owen. I hope I am wrong, and that there is a heaven, and I hope that you and Jack are there now, curled together once again.