Leo: In Loving Memory of One Great Cat
by Mike Stanfill, owner and operator of the Infinite
Back in early 2002 my girlfriend's 20-year-old cat, Mopsey, passed
away due to the rigors of time. She was so heartbroken by her loss that
said she wouldn't consider getting another cat. But as her birthday was
imminent I figured it was up to me to prove her wrong, so I visited the
local animal shelter and chose this little guy, a 4-month-old brown tabby,
as a birthday present.
She loved him
immediately, naming him Leo after a night's contemplation,
and he turned out to be
One Great Cat. Bright, endlessly curious, and
times. Wherever we were, Leo was there trying to figure out how to
get in on the action. Wherever we slept, he slept next to us, and on
Sunday mornings we had our choice of either the newspaper, our breakfast,
or one insistent cat on the table, but never all three at once. We
called him "The Bulldozer" because nothing could stop him
once he'd made up his mind.
Strangely, he seemed to be born part cow, determined to eat anything that
was green and growing. No house plant was safe from this voracious little
devil. No shelf was too high and no door protected house plants well enough
from his ninja-like attacks at unguarded moments. His proudest conquest
was a 6-foot yucca plant which he systematically disassembed leaf by
leaf, mostly at night while we slept. In short
order his home offered nothing but plastic imitation greenery, but
of grass from the backyard and plenty of green tid-bits from our salad
And not just grass, either. We used to give him some long lengths of braided
to play with, but we'd wake up the next day to find it mysteriously missing.
It didn't take us long to figure out he was eating it like a kitty Twizzler.
This desire to gnaw on things almost killed him. At some point in his life,
before we acquired him from the pound, he had ingested a large wooden bead
emergency surgery. We always considered this Life Number Two of his nine
lives, the First having been spent escaping the pound alive.
Life with Leo was good until about year ago when, at the age of ten, he
broke his right hind foot. However, even after two months in a cast, which
really healed. One day soon after the cast came off we noticed his hips
wouldn't support his weight properly, then his back legs gave out completely.
Many tests later revealed the worst: he had FeLV, feline leukemia. Cats
with this disease rarely make it to even four years of age, much less a
robust eleven. As I said, Leo was special.
For the past six months his body continued to deteriorate, his muscles
wasting slowly away with each passing day, but he still remained
the same gentle, happy soul. Though barely able to crawl he always let
to the litter box (well,
always) or when he was hungry, and he always loved snuggling
next to us as we watched TV or read books, purring contentedly.
For quite some time he managed to function as normally as possibly with
what seemed a miraculously invulnerable right arm, but even that eventually
failed him. When at last he could no longer lift his head to eat or drink
was time to set him free. Eventually it was clear that he was shutting
down all on his own so the girlfriend hired a local vet to come to the
house to help him
his way as humanely as possible.
The vet administered two shots, the first of which we were told sent Leo
into a deep, dream-filled sleep. The second shot neutralized his lower
brain functions, releasing him forever from the burden of his ruined,
away quietly in his sleep on a beautiful Wednesday afternoon, cradled safe
and warm in the arms of the woman who loved him best.
We buried him in a small garden surrounded by a spray of fragrant herbs.
The view was his favorite, a patch of lawn just outside the patio door.
I have no doubt that he'll enjoy watching the grass grow while waiting
for unwary birds to come too close, if only in spirit.
You don't get many Great Cats in a lifetime, and we will always hold this
one dear in our memories.
cry because it's over; smile because it happened."