January 12, 2011

My Love/Hate Relationship With Hootie

When Hubby and I moved in together, I suddenly went from never owning a pet in my life to sharing a space with two cats. Elwood took to me immediately. From the minute he saw me, he wanted to get to know me, sit on my lap, eat my food. Hootie, however, was a different story.
Hubby's parents found Hootie when Hubby was in high school. They were driving at night and their headlights illuminated something in the road. Hubby's dad thought it was an owl (hence the name they gave him). He got out of the car and found a wounded cat, most likely hit by a car. Hubby's parents took him home and eventually to a vet. Considering the amount of money it took to fix him up (including a pin in his leg), Hootie became a member of his family.
Hootie stuck to Hubby like glue. He considered Hubby to be his and his alone. So when I came into the picture, I was nothing but a threat.
In the beginning, Hootie refused to acknowledge me. He didn't want me to pet him. He didn't want to sit near me. If I sat near Hubby, Hootie would wedge his way in between us. I have a rocking chair that was either my great aunt's or my great grandmother's. The back has caning and had a tiny, tiny hole. Hootie hated me so much that he chewed through that hole and ruined the caning, which I still need to fix. Hubby's parents were stunned when I told them that story. This was not the gentle, caring cat they knew.
Eventually, Hootie figured out I wasn't going anywhere. Slowly, we forged a bond. I learned to love him. He learned to tolerate me. In the time that I knew him, I don't remember him every voluntarily sitting on my lap, but he did allow me to pet him and he always came around when I had something tasty to eat.
Hootie was a smart cat. He never once bit anyone or lashed out at anyone. He knew right away not to mess around with our girls when they came home from the hospital. As the girls grew, he tolerated their rough pettings and hugs. He let us dress him in goofy outfits. If he were a person, he would be mortified by the picture I used for this post, but it shows how tolerant he was. He pretended like he was above chasing a laser, but every now and then he would join the younger cats in the fun. He was the "top cat" in our house. He let the "young whippersnappers" have their fun, but if they got out of line, Hootie was right there to put them in their place. The other cats weren't scared of him, but they definitely followed his lead. Back in the day, he was better than having a watchdog. If I heard a noise, all I had to do was look at Hootie to see if I should be concerned. If he went about his business, all was well. If he had his ears pointed and a bushy tail, I knew something was wrong.
It's hard to say exactly how old Hootie was. Our estimate is 22 to 24 years old. (FYI, if Hootie was 24 that apparently equates to 104 in human years!) A few months ago, his age started to show. He began losing weight. He walked like an "old man." During one visit to the vet, she recommended some work on his teeth for a whopping $600+. Hubby and I had a long discussion. It was a hard decision for Hubby to make, having had such a long relationship with Hootie, but we decided not to sink that kind of money into a cat if it meant only prolonging his life by months, rather than years. (How many cats do you know that have made it to their 20's? Our vet couldn't think of many).
A few weeks ago, it became obvious that Hootie wasn't doing well. He started snubbing the special food we bought to fatten him up. He preferred a "liquid diet" consisting of cat milk, pea juice and the like. Still, he was fighting to live. He could get up and down the steps to our bedroom, to the cat box. He would come to the kitchen and plop down in front of me, demanding to be fed. As long as he fought, we were willing to do what we could to help. 
Overnight it all changed. On Monday, Hubby woke up and Hootie could barely walk. He tried to eat, but just slumped his head over the bowl. This is not the same cat who just the day before had readily come around for food. As much as we thought he would simply go to sleep and leave us peacefully, it was time for us to take action and say good bye.
As I got the girls ready for school, they asked why Hootie was walking funny and barely walking at all. Then one of them asked a loaded question "Is Hootie going to die?" As much as I did not want to send my daughters to school on such a sad note, I sat them down and told them Hootie was very sick and was going to be leaving us that day. The tears flowed freely. I promised them they would be able to come home from school and say good bye... as long as they promised me they would go to school and not be sad.
The good byes were hard. Last week it was easy to make light of goldfish Rocky's passing. He had been with us for 2 1/2 days. There was no time to bond. Hootie had been in my life for nearly 11 years... and about twice that long for Hubby. He was an integral part of our family and he is dearly missed.


Stephanie Barr said...

It is never easy. My deepest condolences.

MaryAnne said...

Rest In Peace, Hootie. I love the strong personalities that come with cats. Your Hootie reminds me of my grandma's CooCoo, who lived to be probably 23 years old. My grandparents found him in the middle of a snowstorm the winter before I was born, and he died when I was 21 or 22 years old. I remember him catching birds when he was both nearly blind and fully deaf. I'm sorry you've lost your wonderful cat.

Christina said...

Losing my dog sent me to a dark place. It's tough when pets are like family. I'm so sorry to hear you lost a special friend. :(

reanbean said...

I am so, so sorry for your loss. A few years ago, we had to put my husband's cat, Madeline, down. Madeline was not a particularly friendly cat. Had never really shown any affection towards me and never lived in our house (she stayed with my in-laws). But I cried as though I'd just lost a close friend. Like it or not, she had grown on me, and it had been so hard to watch her deteriorate and then finally pass. My heart goes out to you and your family. Let the good memories be with you forever.

Holly Ann said...

I'm so very sorry for your loss. I'll never forget when my first cat died. I was 16 years old and he had been in our family since before I was born. That was one of the only 2 times I've ever witnessed my father cry. My sincere condolences...

Meg said...

So very sorry for your loss, Quadfamily. It's so easy for pets to become true family members, especially when they've been around so long. I hope your girls (and you!) are feeling better about the whole thing. (I'm commenting a few days after the fact.) One of our two cats was killed by a dog (the circle of life in action) a little over a year ago. Our girls were too young to really understand but of course I still get teary-eyed thinking about her!

MandyE (Twin Trials and Triumphs) said...

I'm so sorry to hear of your loss. We had to say goodbye to our Misha Boy in April, and the thought of that still brings tears to my eyes. Our furry babies are such a part of our families. My thoughts are with you, your hubby, and your girls.

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