Like Heidi, Sugar, and Spicey before him, Toonces, an 18-year family member passed away this morning.  I was greeted by a grim-faced Becky after returning from running errands Saturday morning.  “I think we need to take Toonces to the vet,” she said euphemistically.  For the third time that day, he’d thrown up his food.  Unable to keep food down and generally uncomfortable, we both knew it was time.  The only time he seemed content anymore was when he was held, like an infant while swaying.  It was time.

He’d been struggling over the past year – but especially over the past three months.  He had always walked like a raccoon with his back arched up severely – but more recently, he had also started walking gingerly on his hind legs.  I used to conjecture that he had arthritis and that it was painful to walk.  But walking was hard for whatever reason.

I purchased a heated dog bed a year ago which he loved.  He spent most of this time sleeping in it.  When he wasn’t in the bed he was (slowly) walking to his water and food – or the kitty litter box.  In the last three months, he had to take several breaks, laying down awkwardly for a period, before traveling the remaining distance.  It was a tough dozen yards in which he slept, crapped, ate and rested.

In the summer of 1999, Becky was talking with a neighbor in the front yard when she heard the sound of a small cat meowing (is that a word?) across the street.  Michelle and Becky took the cat into our backyard and fed him there.  At the time we had two cats – Spice and Sugar as well as a Heidi our dog.  I was not enthusiastic about having another pet in the house.  I relented when Michelle insisted on holding the cat outdoors as a thunderstorm swept through our town.  On July 12th, we took him to the vet for his shots (still have paperwork) and he officially became our fourth pet.  18 years later we took him back to the same vet to be put down.

But Toonces was an easy cat to love.  He was a rare lap cat who enjoyed jumping up and curling up on your lap.  He tolerated incredible injustices, dressed up in Christmas clothes or boas.  As a younger cat he had been carried around the backyard – only occasionally permitted to wander the backyard eating grass so he could come back inside and throw it up.

We are now petless and will stay that way for a while.  Combined with the two cats (Max and Erma) who had shared our early time together, we have been cat and dog owners for 30 years – longer for Becky.  I’m sure at some point we’ll get pets again, but we need some time before starting over with pets in the house.

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