I turned and saw tears in his eyes for the first and only time in almost fifty years of love and friendship. I said, "This is really hard, isn't it?" I'll never forget his reply. He smiled and said, "Yeah, it is, but I signed on for the whole load, and most of it was pretty good."Four years and eight months after he contracted diabetes, three months and three weeks after he was given one month to live, and eighteen years after he was born, Terri's and my Maine Coon Mittens finally gave up and died this afternoon.
---Bill Clinton, My Life
The last few months have been both difficult and wonderful, as he had continued to fight both the melanoma that was eating away at his face and the diabetes that usually kills cats in less than the four-and-a-half years he had it. As recently as only a couple of days ago he was still eating and drinking and even jumped up into my lap while I was watching The West Wing (something he only started doing early this year).
But it was also very obviously near the end. He was moving more and more slowly, only remaining in one of his three spots (the couch in my office, the bathroom floor, or the middle of the living room; it was at the last of those that he finally died). The tumor was spreading to the left side of his face (it had pretty much taken the entirety of the right side).
Mittens first came into Terri's life when he was six years old and he was acquired by her then-roommate Heidi from a family that had raised him along with six dogs. I think Mittens always believed he was a dog, which certainly explained his very un-cat-like friendliness and desire to constantly be scritched. When Heidi left Boston to move back to Chicago, Terri kept Mittens, along with her own cat Marcus.
When Terri moved down to New York with me, Marcus and Mittens were part of the package, which I had no problem with. Mittens loved everyone, and everyone loved Mittens--if you didn't, he'd head-butt you until he did. Mittens became a constant companion, regularly wandering into my office, plunking down next to my chair and either Mrow-ing at me or batting my leg with his paw until I scritched him -- then Mrow-ing and batting at me again when I stopped. Or sometimes he'd crawl up onto my office couch, wander over to the end, and get me to scritch him from there.
He was a huge attention slut, right up to the very end. The sweetest, most good-natured cat you ever wanted to see. And adorable as all heck.
Terri dubbed him our Klingon tribble a while back, as he continued to defy the odds and keep living just another day, another week, another month.
In a lot of ways, Mittens was my first cat. Marcus took a while to get used to me and, I don't really remember the cats my parents had when I was an infant, before my mother's cat allergies became too overwhelming.
I will miss him terribly. Rest in peace, big guy.
[First posted on my Live Journal on 13 August 2004.]
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