It was a time of big transition… professional, emotional, mental… I had just come through a very intense couple of years, and the symbolic step forward was getting out of an increasingly bad situation in the suburbs and renting a great house in the city owned by a good friend, alone.

Moving day was a little hectic. Mom insisted that she come help out despite my gentle protests. Its not that I didn’t want her around, but I thought Dad and I could just get the move done simply and efficiently. I figured (correctly) that Mom would offer help, then realize she couldn’t offer much, then feel bad about not being helpful enough. I just didn’t have much time or energy for that emotional static. Ask anyone who I’ve helped move… moving is not a time for emotion or feelings, its a time for pushing heavy shit around.

So emotion ran high as patience and energy ran low, and instead of dutifully reassuring mom that her presence was help enough, I recall saying something to the effect of “I didn’t really want you here anyway.” Words that will haunt me until the day I die.

Unsuccessfully recovering from that asshole move, I recall Mom and Dad heading home, and I spent the rest of the night just setting the place up. It had a lot of room, almost too much. I called Tom and asked if he’d mind me getting a pet.

The next day after work, I swung by a shelter and met Shirley (then Suzy). A demure little ~5 month old kitten rescued from deep southern MD, sharing the cage with a larger orange male from the same rescue. Our family has never had good luck with male cats, and I wasn’t really thinking about 2 pets… but as I held Shirley and talked to the shelter coordinator about maybe taking her home, Otis (then Toby) had discreetly opened the cage door, and began crawling up my pant leg. He made it all the way up to my shoulder, and sat down like a pirate’s parrot, completely content, purring away, confident and clear about the fact that they were going together, and they were both going home with me… that night. Who was I to argue?

They were barn cats, but their transition to Baltimore life was relatively quick once they realized everything was safe and food and love were plentiful. Less sickly by the hour and putting on healthy weight, I took a few pictures and fired them off to family members, hoping the frustrations of the previous might be forgotten with the good news. Two nights later, kitten playtime was interrupted by a phone call from dad saying that Mom had just had a fatal heart attack. They were about the only things grounding me that entire week. At one point Dad made sure to mention to me, “Mom was so happy to see the pictures you sent of Otis and Shirley.”

and I thought I had rescued them…

He was a ladies man… with more human swagger than feline. The consummate “bro” with good looks and an excess of machismo, but clearly insecure inside. Like his daddy, he yearned for affection, but preferred to be alone. Loyal, though stubborn, he always knew when to come home. Despite being one of only a handful of cats who have been lucky enough to actually see both the Chesapeake Bay and Puget Sound… he grew more and more unhappy after the move to Seattle. I tried letting him out more, but it only seemed to amplify his unhappiness when he was indoors. He also developed some strange health issues, including the discovery that he had an abnormally small heart (a fact that would be debated furiously by anyone who has met him).

This morning, on a walk around the neighborhood, I was shocked to find his body two blocks away from home, lying on his side in the middle of the sidewalk. No sign of external injury, maybe he could have bounced off of a car, maybe it was completely natural? (turns out he’s been sneaking out for a while – I found an Otis-sized corner of a screen window carefully pushed out)

After letting the initial shock sink in, I went back to the apartment to get a sheet. When I came back, Animal Control had just shown up. I feel infinitely grateful that I was able to find him… as uncomfortable as that is, I can’t imagine how terrible I’d feel spending the next week searching in vain for him and never knowing his ultimate fate. I waved Animal Control on and took him to his vet to be cremated. We usually bury our cats in their favorite places, but the urban flower beds Otis rolled around in are all only inches deep and on other peoples’ property… not that that’s a surprise.

The good times

(MP3) "Tramp" by Otis Redding and Carla Thomas

rest in peace, Oat

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