My El Grande Lovebug

22 jack musicLinda Burton posting from Arkadelphia, Arkansas – Today is the first day of autumn, normally a happy time, but today, it’s not. Jack died this morning at 9:01. This may be the hardest post I’ve ever written. It was a sad day when Alex died in March, but I didn’t write about it till more than a week had passed. “I didn’t expect to have my heart broken twice in the same year,” I told the family, as I explained the events that caught us all by surprise. Yes, he was too fat. And no, he didn’t exercise much any more. All visitors this summer were charged with getting Jack to “roll over.” Dangle the play-strings across his back, count how many times he’d respond with enthusiasm. Not many; he much preferred putting his 22 jack ellis lindahead in your lap while you stroked him. He was diagnosed with onset kidney disease in June, and we changed his diet, though his numbers weren’t that far out of line. He remained a people cat, snuggling against anyone who’d allow it. He followed me from room to room; cozy on the office sofa while I worked; taking one end of the living-room sofa while I took the other as we watched our favorite TV shows in the evening. When I got into 22 eyesbed at night, I’d call his name, and soon I’d hear his toenails clicking on the hardwood floor. He’d jump on the bed and start circling round, then suddenly he’d jump down again. Just like old folks. “Darn, I forgot to go to the bathroom.” He’d trot off to his litterbox and then jump up again, this time for the night. Jack never demanded anything; for the ten years of his life he was simply lovebug sweet. My big fat black cat, El Grande, someone called him once.

22 blue eyed JackIt happened in 2009, on a cross-country move from Seattle to Alabama when we’d spent the night in Salina, Kansas. It was not unusual for Alex to hide under the bed at departure time, but that morning, when I got back from breakfast, no cats were visible. Of course they were under the bed, and I quickly retrieved Alex and put him in his carrier. Jack, however, was too far from the edge for me to reach. I coaxed and cajoled, but he simply looked at me. I called the desk for some help in moving the bed. Two maids arrived, non-English speakers. I tried to explain what I needed, with gestures. “Lift the mattress so I can get my cat. El gato? Under the bed.” I pointed. The two tiny ladies willingly moved to the edge of the bed, but I feared the giant black cat underneath would scare the bejeebers out of them and they’d drop and run. I needn’t have worried. As soon as the mattress was lifted and the giant black cat revealed, one of them exclaimed with great delight, “El Grande!” They stayed for a while, loving on this amazing cat, and refused the tip I offered for their help.

22 on the deckEl Grande, indeed. He was so tiny he fit in my hand when I brought him from son Scott’s house in June 2004; six weeks old. Mama Cleo had a litter of five, four girls and one boy. Cleo was a soft gray color, tiny herself; the girls were spotted orange, and gray, and white. Jack was solid black. “Your Daddy was a panther,” I teased him over the years, as he grew larger and larger (finally reaching twenty-five pounds). His hindquarters were thick and strong like a kangaroo. Alex was a sedate seven-year-old the day Jack came to live with us, and not interested in company. That didn’t bother Jack; he tirelessly jumped and played cat-to-cat, no matter how 22 sleeping catsmuch Alex ignored him. By the time Jack was a year old, they were about the same size, and seldom left each other’s company. How many pictures do I have of those two, curled together silk on fur, sound asleep by the fire. Jack’s sleeping made everybody laugh. He was so unconcerned with the worries of life he often slept flat on his back, legs sticking straight into the air. Or, hanging head down from the back of the sofa, gravity be damned. He was a happy cat. Lovebug sweet.

I could have loved that cat another ten years, at least. It was just a week ago he lost his appetite. When I took him to the vet, he gobbled the treats she put out. We laughed, and came home. But his world began to sink inward; he chose a spot under my desk, and stayed. No TV in the evening, no jumping on my bed at night. I thought it was a temporary thing, but it was 22 cats in austinnot. Last night he had a seizure; it left him paralyzed. I eased him onto his favorite blankie and waited for dawn, brushing his beautiful black coat, talking about our Journey and all the sights we’ve seen. Dr Coleman was gentle with him this morning and Stephanie joined us in the room; the three of us stroked him softly as he left this world and went on to the next. I’ll put his ashes on the shelf by Alex, my El Grande lovebug Jack.