Friday, March 18, 2011

I lost a good friend today...

Smokey Hughes Oct 1994-Mar. 18, 2011

Today, I lost my good friend of nearly 17 years, Smokey.  He was a damn good cat and one of the family. 

When he found me in 1994, I wasn't really a cat person.  I had dogs when I was a kid with the exception being a cat that my stepmom had when I was in junior and senior high school.  Smokey was a stray who was born in the apartment complex where I was living.  I had never seen him before the day he walked into my apartment.  He had been sitting on the porch and walked in with me and my then girlfriend.  He was about 10-12 weeks old at the time and very friendly.  We tried to adopt him out but were unsuccessful.  After a week of trying to have him adopted, I had grown attached to him and decided to keep him.  I am eternally greatful that I made that decision.

While Smokey quickly adapted to life as a house cat, he still had his street smarts and scavenging ways.  Several times, I'd come home from work and find him digging food out of the dumpster including chocolate chip cookies and cheese pizza.  He used to hang out with a Calico mix in the complex and they used to chase squirrels all the time.  One time, his buddy caught a bird.  Within a couple of minutes, Smokey stole from him and took off running with the Calico in hot pursuit.

During the Summer of 1997, I was living solo in a studio apartment with Smokey.  It wasn't the best place for him because he couldn't go outside.  He took some of his frustration out by shreding open a case of bagels that I had left sitting on the kitchen counter.  For you see, Smokey loved his carbohydrates!  This case of bagels was from Costco.  It contained around 6 packages of bagels.  The packages in turn were shrinkwrapped in a cardboard box.  While I was out shopping with a friend of mine(who is now my wife), Smokey jumped up on the counter and tore through the shrinkwrap.  He then proceeded to tear open 2 or 3 of the bagel packages and ate pieces from about 6 different bagels.  Even though I was furious, I couldn't help but laugh about it.

A couple of months later, I went away for an extended weekend to visit my parents.  I left Smokey alone in the apartment as my friend and future wife was going to feed him and give him water while I was gone.  While I was gone, my upstairs neighbors left some snicker doodle cookies in a plastic bag for me on my front door knob.  Julie saw these and took them into my apartment for me when she came in to feed Smokey.  Like the bagels, she left them on the counter.  When she came back the next day, what did she find?  Yep, you guessed it!  A ripped open bag of snicker doodles with bites taken out of most of the cookies.  Since he was also adept at opening kitchen cabinets, she ended up putting them in a sauce pan with a lid over them.

Smokey would continue this habit of trying to get to cookies, bread, etc.  Anything like that couldn't be left out on the counter.  Even last Summer, he was still at it when he tore open a package of saltine crackers.  He even went after a bag of marshmellows.  Crazy-ass cat!!

Everyone in the neighborhood knew Smokey.  He'd always be out on the sidewalk in front of the house rolling around in the dirt or in the gutter when it was dry.  When people would walk by, he'd always go an greet them.  Like so many cats, he loved laying outside in the sun.  He also loved to hunt and was responsible for many a dead mouse and gopher in our front yard during the past two Summers. 

When not laying around outside or attempting to eat a bagel, he loved being with his human family.  He was quick to jump on your lap and lay down if you were watching TV.  Many times while I was at the computer, he would be in my lap sleeping.  He loved being scratched, especially around his ears.  If you stopped before he was said so, he would usually jam his wet nose into your face or under your chin to let you know that he wasn't finished with you.

We have 2 other cats in our family.  Katrina was my wife's cat and is a Siamese-Persian mix.  When Smokey was introduced to her in 1998, they couldn't stand each other.  Smokey bullied her all the time, always picking fights.  They eventually learned to tolerate each other but not without the occasional blow up.  The fighting essentially ended in early 2008 when we adopted a 12 week old kitten. 

Dolce was a little bit skittish when introduced to her new home.  Katrina avoided very quickly and probably wondered what we were trying to do to her.  On the other hand, Smokey took Dolce under his wing almost immediately.  He played with her and groomed her.  The grooming came as a big surprise to us as he was never around any kittens.  As Dolce got older and bigger, they wrestled all the time.  They also hung out together and took care of each other.  I often think that the introduction of Dolce helped Smokey live longer as he was constantly active with her.

Last Summer, Smokey gave us a big scare when he was clipped by a car.  Fortunately, he got away with only some stomach bruising, a few pinched rear toes, and missing fur from his tail and back.  In order to clean him up, the vet had to give him a bit of a shave.

While he was laid up, Dolce played nursemaid to him by grooming him and keeping him company while he was restricted from going outside.  Of the other 2 cats, Dolce will probably feel his passing the most as Katrina won't have anything to do with her.
2011 started off fine for Smokey.  He was healthy and happy.  The picture below was taken in the middle of January. 

Smokey became lethargic a couple of days ago and wouldn't eat.  Yesterday, he had an extremely violent seizure and went nearly comatose.  By this morning, I could tell the end was near.  At the urging of my wife, I left work early and spent the rest of the day with him, talking to him and trying to comfort him.  This afternoon, I told my children and sister-in-law to say their goodbyes to him as he didn't have too much time left.  Just as my wife came home from work, he had another seizure.  She was able to say goodbye before he took his last breathes and he died in my arms at around 5:50pm.
May you rest in piece my friend.  I'm going to miss you terribly.  I love you and I will NEVER forget you!!  

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