I’m supposed to be writing something else right now. Unfortunately, I can’t seem to get my mind on it. So, I decided that sometimes the best way to focus on something is by focusing on something else. I had been wanting to write a blog about Alacrity for the past couple of weeks but just haven’t been able to get around to it.
Well, that ends now.
You see, Alacrity died over a week ago. His death was not sudden or unexpected. He was very old and very tired.
I should probably explain to those who don’t know. Alacrity was a cat. He was my cat for just about 18 years of my life and he was my friend through some of the worst times and some of the best times. I’ve included a picture of him here, taken many years ago.
To take my mind off the thing I have to write today, I decided to list the first five memories that entered my mind when thinking about Alacrity. They’re not the “top 5” or the “bottom 5”… they’re just five things that stand out. I list them here in chronological order.
#1. The first day we met.
Alacrity was never really supposed to be a part of my family. Back in 1995, I had gone to the vet with my ex-wife to adopt a new kitten and we had found a beautiful, golden kitten who was just perfect. When we returned to bring him home, however – something got in the way – the kitten was gone. They told us he had mistakenly been given to another family.
So, we decided to select another.
I went to the cage where several kittens still awaited adoption – and this tiny, white thing came running to me. He just ran to me like he knew me right away and that was it. There was no need to decide. He picked me!
And then, the vet found the little, golden kitten and we returned home with two cats that day. We named one Bandoo Lelala, after a character in a book I had written. And we named the other Alacrity Fitzhugh, after a character in a book I’d read.
#2 The Claw
Some years later, after my marriage had gone to shit and I was on my own, Alacrity had an appointment with the vet. A checkup.
Alacrity had never been the kind of cat who liked being picked up. It just wasn’t his thing. But I had to pick him up to put him in the cat carrier.
So, I picked him up with one hand, held the carrier in the other – and as I moved to drop him in, Alacrity somehow twisted around and dug a single claw deep into my neck. It was impaled in there!
I dropped the cat carrier and pulled on his paw, but the claw was not coming out!
I had to extricate it almost like a fish hook, very delicately, as Alacrity continued to struggle…
Let’s just say… it wasn’t pretty.
#3. Doing the crawl.
Sometime shortly after that, I got to see Alacrity swim for the first time… on dry land.
My friend, Cindy, had come over to smoke some pot one night. We were tremendous smokers. We’d fill up the apartment with thick, white smoke.
I didn’t realize cats could get high from second-hand smoke. Sure enough, however, we watched as my cats got a contact high like I’d never seen. They wobbled and played like they were in a field of catnip!
Then, out of nowhere, Alacrity entered my peripheral vision and I turned to see him doing the backstroke on my carpet. He crossed the room on his back almost like he was swimming.
When he got to me, I reached down and found him purring like crazy. He was having a great time.
As unintentionally ironic as the title might be, the next big event was when we had to give Alacrity IV medication.
This happened many years later, long after Vicky and I were married. Alacrity had suffered from a very bad kidney infection and the doctor had given us some IV medication to give to Alacrity at home. We had to give it to him for about a week, if memory serves, and Vicky and I had to decide who would administer the IV and who would hold Alacrity.
Now, this might sound like a no-brainer. Holding the cat would sound like an easy job, right? But Alacrity had shown me just how adept he was with his claws and he was by no means a senior citizen at that time. As much as I did not want to administer the medicine, I also didn’t want Vicky’s body left bloody by two fistfuls of claws.
So, I chose to hold Alacrity – and was pleasantly surprised to find him absolutely docile. He even purred.
Mind you, as Alacrity got older, the two of us became… well, what can I say? We’d known each other for over a decade by then and I had become comfortable in our relationship. I know I took him for granted.
So, when I held him and pet him, I guess so much time had passed that he was just happy for the attention, despite the needle in his butt (or wherever Vicky had put it).
#5. Saying goodbye.
Alacrity was about 18 years old when we had him put to sleep.
He was old and tired. In the final month, he stopped moving a whole lot. Most of the time, he slept. Then, in the final week, he stopped just about everything else. He stopped using the litter box. He stopped going outside. He stopped eating and drinking.
We knew he was done and we didn’t want his final days to be filled with pain.
Vicky is very good at dealing with sick and dying animals, though she’s warned me that when our dog, Suki, dies she will be completely useless. And she’s been terrific with other pets. But Alacrity and I had known each other for so long, I knew this was my job.
So, we went to the vet and explained what was going on and I told her we wanted him put to sleep. Mind you, they weren’t recommending any drastic, life-saving measures. Clearly, the time had come.
Vicky and I sat with Alacrity for a moment before the vet came into the private room with the injection but I didn’t want to drag it out. Whatever discomfort Alacrity was experiencing needed to end quickly.
He died right away, almost as if he had been waiting for just that moment.
When he was gone, I thought about everything we had been through. All of the times we had cuddled late at night. All of the times he had howled and kept me from sleeping late at night. All of the treats he’d eaten from my hand. All of the puke I’d cleaned up.
For better and worse, he was okay. A pain in the ass? Yes. Everybody’s friend? Yes.
He was okay. And I was glad to have known him.