Thursday, February 12, 2009

Farewell to Vito.

If you were expecting a "things to do in Pittsburgh" post, I'm sad to say that you are going to be disappointed. There isn't much going on this weekend in the Pittsburgh arts community. I suppose that's for the best too, because I wanted to take the time to write about something that is bound to come out sounding overly sentimental. So if you aren't in the mood for melodrama, you should probably just move on now. Because last night we had to put down my favorite cat, and I'm none too happy about it. I understand that no one can really understand what Vito meant to me, and I expect that the typical reaction will be "Oh, that's too bad", and stop right there. I think that's entirely justified, and I'd probably react the same way if we were talking about someone else's pet.

But my reality is that I've lost one of my best friends. I know that sounds utterly ridiculous to anyone that hasn't formed a close bond with an animal, and it would have sounded a bit silly to me before Vito showed up on our back porch in Lawrenceville about eight (or so) years ago. He was as skinny as a rail, and desperate to gain entry to our house. From the look of him, I guessed he wasn't even a full-grown adult yet. Whenever I would get home (we didn't have a key to the front door), he'd be waiting for me, loudly protesting my intentions to leave him outside. If I sat down on the ratty couch, he'd jump up on my lap and bump heads with me. Every time I entered the house he would try to beat the closing of the screen door. I caught him in it a few times.

At the time we already had a cat (Altaires) that we believed preferred his isolation, and we had no intentions of taking in another roommate. But somehow Altaires seemed quite chummy with the interloper. They'd actually hang out together whenever we let A. out. They ganged up against a female bully in the neighborhood. One day M. was in what served as her changing room on the second floor and she heard a mewing beyond the closed window. There was that pesky cat, pretending that he couldn't come down from the porch roof, which he no doubt had little trouble scaling. M. fell for it and let him in, and chased him around for awhile trying to expel him. She was unsuccessful, and he stayed for good.

It didn't take long for Vito (we named him as if he was a hired henchman for Altaires... he was briefly called "psycho-kitty") to wend his way into all of our hearts. Even visitors who disliked cats tended to like Vito. M. was initially dead set against having him stay, but eventually she too fell in love with him. Although he still had his front claws, he was gentle on people and furniture. He was social with humans his entire life. We took him to the vet, and learned that he had about five kinds of parasites in his system. Apparently he had been close to death. And we learned that he was already about 7 or 8 years old. He was certainly old enough to express to us that he was thankful that we took him in permanently. He never seemed to forget what we had done for him.

I'm not exactly sure how long we had Vito. It was about 8-9 years I guess. During that time he was an unfailing companion, quick to take his position on a pillow between M. and I on our bed while we slept. Often he'd perch above me over my head as I read on the couch and lick my hair or lightly nip at my skull. He never lost the habit of head-butting me when he wanted to demonstrate his affection. He was also extremely vocal, always letting me know that he was there, waiting for attention. Over the last twelve months we could tell he was in advanced age, but for the most part he maintained his essential character. At the end he lost a lot of weight and his kidneys failed.

He was obviously in pain, and tried to get outside to find a place to die. M. took him to the Animal Rescue so he could pass quickly, painlessly, and with dignity. I'll miss him and remember him with love forever.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm truly sorry. He was really a nice cat.

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad to hear about your loss. You made his life better than it would have been had you never taken him in. see you around.

9:11 PM  
Blogger Dagrims said...

Farewell, Vito. It's just over two years since I lost my dog, and blogged about it (one of just a dozen or so posts I ever made there):

10:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry for your sadness. It is amazing how much we learn about ourselves from an animal. I've buried too many dogs. I would have cats also, but like all of my family, I am highly allergic to them. During the summer I feed the dangerous ferrel cats that hang out on the island before they get shot. I figure that their short lives shouldnt be spent starving.
Think about what you learned from Vito and get another buddy for your other roommate.
My grandmother always had a viewing of a dead animal. She thought the other animals should know what happened to their friend. My grandmother also never warmed up to people to didnt have pets - they were just missing something. I'm glad to know that you are an animal lover. That hurt from his loss really is the price we pay for loving, but you will do it again and again. Take care. JM

10:53 AM  
Blogger Merge Divide said...

Thanks a lot everyone for leaving comments. I completely appreciate them. It's been a rough couple of days, but I'm feeling better. My stomach was tied up in knots for awhile.

8:24 PM  

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