Mau was an odd cat. I’ve always found him a bit difficult to describe to those that haven’t met him, but I loved the way everyone who had met him would try to pitch in to the description. “He’s a total punk, but … a gentleman.” “Think, a very small greek man.” “Or Humphrey Bogart.” “A lawless rogue in a tux.” “I’m pretty sure he’s a spy.”
Everyone had their own nickname, their own variation on his name. “Max,” “El Mau,” “The Chairman,” “Maximus,” “El Presidente,” “Mau-mau chicka mau-mau.”
I’m sure every pet is special to their owner, but it’s warmed my heart to know that he wasn’t just special to me. And he was everything everyone said he was. He was a punk. He demanded to be heard and treated as an equal. He was protective, like a dog. It might sound funny to say I felt safe with my cat, but I did. He’d lick tears off my cheeks, he’d wake me if he smelled smoke, or if anything felt wrong. He’d come by every night when I went to bed, to sit on my chest for a little while and say goodnight. He looked out for me, he clearly felt I was his responsibility, and I tried every day to make sure he knew I’d do the same for him. I didn’t own him. We were friends. We were family.
The day came on Monday when doing the right thing for him was to let him pass peacefully. The tumor had grown so that eating was now a messy struggle, and as his weight began to drop with his energy level, I know I’d be letting him starve, or suffocate, if I didn’t intervene. It was a choice between the unthinkable and the even more unthinkable.
We took a last nap together, and I told him everything. I told him what his friendship had always meant to me. I told him I was so, so sorry medicine couldn’t do anything more for him. I told him I’d always thought he’d die at age 98, of spontaneous combustion. I asked him to trust me in what I was about to do.
I held him in the vet’s office, wrapped up in a blanket, and cuddled him close. Mau hates that office, hates being wrapped in blankets, and has never been much of a purrer anyway, so when he started purring, I knew he was trying to comfort me. I sobbed into the fur on the top of his head, and as he slipped away I whispered, “Thanks for being my friend.” His head dropped onto my arm.
We buried him under a tree in Jesse’s yard. I’d dreaded the moment of putting him in the cold and dark, but having watched him die actually made it easier. He wasn’t in that fuzzy little body anymore, I’d watched him go.
I’m not sure whether there is an afterlife or not, but then I think about the day I found Mau, by chance, in a strange city. And the thought that two little souls could find each other, exactly what the other needed, it’s almost enough to make me believe there’s some cosmic power working for our good. And certainly enough to make me believe I possess a strange and wonderful luck. That hope, with his little purr, is the part of him I’ll carry forever.