Once upon a time, the SO had a cat named Velcro – ‘Vel’, for short. Vel was a one-person cat. If anyone but her ‘mom’ tried to touch her, she’d hiss and scratch. So it surprised the hell out of the SO when, one night when I was visiting, Vel jumped up on my lap and let me pet her. The SO-to-be moved across the country, and Vel developed cancer. The SO had to have her put her to sleep. After a year, she decided it was time for another pet. That’s when she met Harvey.
Harvey caught her eye at the shelter. She wasn’t sure she wanted another cat, but she went home to sleep on it. She had a dream that Harvey had been de-clawed. Since her furniture was expensive, she decided that if Harvey was in fact declawed, then her dream was a message she should adopt him. And Harvey’s front claws were indeed gone. She took him home.
Harvey seemed to be about six months old, but she was never sure. Though he’d been neutered and de-clawed and obviously well care-d for, the shelter listed him as a stray. She didn’t know his real name. She called him Harvey after the giant invisible rabbit, since he would be her constant friend. I met Harvey at the end of 2004. We had just become engaged, and she came out west for a visit. Harvey was a sweetie. The getting-married idea didn’t work out, but we kept in touch. I’d see Harvey on a couple of occasions after she moved to this side of the country.
Two years ago she and Harvey moved in. Harvey liked the house, and enjoyed watching the squirrels and birds. He was never a playful cat. He liked to lounge around. Occasionally he’d play with one of his toy mice, or just tear around the house. He knew he had no front claws, so he’d pounce on his mouse and go at it with his hind claws. But being declawed and not very playful did not reduce his hunting ability. A bird flew into the house through the open front door this Summer, and he made a mighty leap to catch it. Another bird flew in on another day, and he would have caught that one to if ‘mom’ hadn’t gotten there first.
Harvey liked to climb on me as I lay on the couch. He’d prop himself up in the crook of my knees, or come all the way up my side and get in my face. I didn’t mind. He’d purr, and purr, and purr. He also liked to sleep with me, apparently immune to my million-decibel snoring. And he was a nag. When bedtime came around, he’d start pacing about and looking at me, occasionally meowing at me. ‘Go to bed! It’s time to go to bed!’ If either of us got up, he’d follow us. When I got up to get a Zantac, he’d know it was time. I’d put a shoe behind my door so that he wouldn’t swing it wide open. We had our ritual, you see. I’d take a pill and go to the bathroom. He’d follow me to the bedroom door. I’d close it to kitty-width and put the shoe behind it. I’d invite him in, and he’d run away. I’d lightly close the door and crawl into bed. After a few minutes there’s be a light thump as he pushed open the door and it hit the shoe. He’d sharpen his non-existant claws on the railing of my bed and then jump up. I’d pet him and he would purr and purr, then he’d lean against me and take a bath. Sometimes he’d sleep with me, and sometimes he’d sleep with mom. Or he’d go to bed with me and then go to mom’s bedroom.
I’ve never seen such a polite cat. He wouldn’t wake the humans. No meowing, not nudging; he was very patient and polite. He didn’t get into things or make messes (aside from the occasional hairball). He’d often come to the door when I came home from work. He was a real sweetie. The SO says I spoiled him. And she’s right. But I’m glad I did.
Before they moved here, Harvey started having seizures. The SO watched him like a hawk. If he looked like he might be in trouble, she was right there for him. He was on phenobarbital, and the seizures were less frequent here than they were down in Oregon. They worried his ‘mom’. There was a very bad one last year, and she thought ‘This is it.’ He came out of it, and only had a couple of very mild ones since then.
Wednesday morning I mixed his medicine into some soft food before I left for work, as usual. I didn’t have time to ensure he ate it and put down his dry food. ‘Mom’ could do that. When I came home, the TV was off and harvey was sitting in the rocking chair in front of the heater. The SO said that he was sick, and that he was breathing shallowly and fast and his heart was beating rapidly. We decided I’d take him to the vet first thing in the morning, as she had to work Thursday and I was working at home. Harvey did not follow me to bed, but stayed on the blanket with ‘mom’. When she went to bed she took him with her. He slept with her that night, and when she got up in the morning he hopped down and lay on the floor. She picked him up and put him on the chair by the heater. His condition was unchanged. I took him to the vet, and the vet was worried. I got a call an hour or so later, saying that he’d had a crisis and she’d almost lost him. I called a couple of hours later to check on him, and the receptionist told me the vet was working on him. Five minutes later the SO called and I gave her a report, and said that the vet said she could call her. Five minutes after that, the vet called to tell me the sad news that Harvey had died. The SO had told me not to call her if that news came, so I didn’t. It was 11:40 in the morning, and I was alone with my grief. The vet’s office is closed from noon 'til two. The SO called them at 1:59. She was home about half an hour later. Harvey was eight years old.
As I said, she kept an eagle’s eye on Harvey. And she’s a nurse. She suspected that first night that Harvey would be leaving us, but she didn’t say anything to me. I thought I’d take him to the vet, she’d give him a shot (after I saw the X-ray, to clear out the fluid in his lungs), and he’d be OK. We’d get through the crisis, and we’d deal with this new condition the same as we controlled his seizures. She was prepared. I wasn’t. I tried to maintain an even strain, but I started sobbing when she hugged me. She told me later that she was worried about me, and that helped to distract her grief over Harvey.
She would not be able to stand seeing Harvey’s body. She would have had him cremated, and his remains would have been disposed of by the vet. But she thought I’d like to have him here. So she arranged to have him cremated singly, and his ashes returned. We’ll bury them in the yard, and put a stone over them. The vet is very nice, and takes it hard when she loses a patient. The SO will buy her a gift basket, which she can share with her staff. She’ll call Cat Country Resort to cancel Harvey’s reservation for our vacation next month.
Harvey is free from his seizures. But there’s a hole in my heart, and every time I see movement, such as a tissue blowing when the heater fan comes on, I look to see him. He was the sweetest, most polite cat ever. I’ll never stop missing him.