Louie — In Memoriam
This is to honor the best cat I’ve ever known, who passed a few weeks ago. He deserves it if any of us do, and his life proved once again — if we still needed it — that animals really are the best people of all.
I’ve never had much luck with women or money, but always the most amazing fortune to be found by the most wonderful cats. And you know, I’ll take that gladly. I had just lost the latest great cat in my life, Bubba, to old age. I was in no hurry for another; I had to go through the natural grieving process. I was pretty sure that when the time was right, the universe would bring the next one along. It had been about six months, and I was working at a futon store in a bad location. One of those days, you know, just dragging along with no customers. I did something uncharacteristic for me, went next door and bought a newspaper. Leafing through it, I saw the ad by the local Humane Society: Pet of the Week. “This is Lou,” the ad said, “a mellow fellow looking for a long-term relationship.” As it would turn out, “mellow” wasn’t exactly accurate; “frisky” would have been closer. I decided that maybe this is the sign, and decided to go and meet him.
At the Humane Society, I said I wanted to meet this Pet of the Week, Lou. I was led past row after row of cage after cage, each with a cat, bowls of food, water, and litter box, not unlike detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I was shown into a small room, and soon someone brought Lou in and set him on the table. He just reeked! I understood immediately. Here was this poor cat among over eighty others, and he’d just been marking his territory as best he could. As I introduced myself and petted him, I knew he was the one, just as surely as Morpheus knew Neo was his guy. It took a couple days to bathe him, give him his shots, install a chip, and of course that little alteration.
I picked him up on a Friday afternoon, after paying the $120 fee for everything, and took him home to my apartment. When I let him out of his carrier, rather than begin exploring his new surroundings, he just kept rubbing himself all over my legs. He was so happy to get out of that place! First order of business — here’s your litter box. Then a nice meal. Next, something had to be done about that name. Lou didn’t seem to fit; Louie was much better. He was a beautiful longhaired orange tabby (more butterscotch, really), with the requisite white boots, a white muzzle, and big round, expressive olive eyes.
The following Monday I was fired from my job. A couple young guys next door were party boys, going on into the night. I’d complain to the landlord, who would speak to them, and the next night it would be back to the same. Without sleep, my sales numbers had dropped, and that was it. The timing was terrible, I thought. If I’d known I was about to lose my job, I never would have paid that $120, and I would have missed one of the great loves of my life. So really, the timing couldn’t have been better.
He would be an indoor cat for awhile, till he got used to me. Later there would be outings, under my supervision. It only took a day or so for him to find a vantage point to view the outdoors, atop my bedroom dresser next to a window. About a week later I was talking to him there, and leaned my face close to him, telling him what a pretty cat he was. He looked at me with a tilt of his head, and before I knew it, he’d grazed my face with a right hook. It was just enough claws to lightly scrape me, not enough to scratch. He was saying, “Hey, back off! I don’t know you that well yet.” He was right, of course, and I told him so.
As the months went by, we got to know each other, which was fine, but my financial situation got worse. My unemployment insurance had run out, I couldn’t find work, and those guys in the next apartment were making life miserable. I banged the wall so hard I made holes, and still they wouldn’t stop. I got really depressed, and there seemed no way out. It’s said that people seriously consider suicide when they feel there is no alternative. I didn’t see one, either, and I was ready to do it. But first I had to do something about Louie, who I had grown to love. To leave him back at the Humane Society was unthinkable. Three business days and those cats are toast; there’s just no room. There were several foster homes for animals, where they could stay until a good home could be found. I called all of them, and every one was full. So there was no alternative. I had to somehow get through the darkness and come out the other side. A good friend let us stay rent free till I got back to work again and found a place. He was a life-saver, but it was really Louie who had saved my life, after I had saved his. That’s something very special.
He was quite the character. He was very affectionate, but only on his terms. If I pet him too much, he’d swat me or grab on and give me a playful bite. He never realized that his playful bites were drawing blood. And unlike most cats I’ve known, he didn’t like you playing with his tummy. He’d roll over on his back, inviting you to come in. I have names for all the cat positions. When they crouch on the floor with their front paws showing, that’s the Sphinx. When the front paws are folded under, it’s the Meatloaf. When they’re curled up with head tucked close to the back feet, that’s the Cinnamon Roll. Rolling over on their back, feet in the air, tummy exposed, I call that the “Cover of Cat Whore Magazine,” but with Louie it was the “Venus Fly Trap,” because if you touched his tummy he’d close in on you with four sets of claws.
Cats like to change sleeping places ever so often. One of Louie’s favorites was in the bathroom sink. Although he had to maneuver under the tap, the oval shape fit him very well, even if his body protruded above the surface like a muffin top. There would be a week or so when he just couldn’t stay off my lap. That’s where he wanted to sleep. Later, I realized that these times coincided with when I was feeling kind of down. Animals sense our moods very keenly. Now Max, who is usually content to sleep between my feet at the end of the recliner, wants to be on my lap. He and I both miss Louie. By the way, it was Louie who brought Max aboard. He’d been abandoned when his people moved out of the apartment on the next block, he wandered over here, and Louie invited him home for dinner. So Louie may well have saved Max’s life, as well as mine. What a guy. When I say they are really the best people, I mean that. We could learn a lot from them. They love unconditionally, not because they have some secret agenda. They also have total awareness, they live in the NOW, something Eastern mystics have been seeking for thousands of years.
He was also a finder cat, which I discovered by accident. I was looking for something one day, and I said, “Hey Louie — help me find this” and within five minutes I found it. I kept doing that over the years, and can’t remember it failing. Now you can say it’s a psychological trick, that my belief was what made it happen. He was a pretty magical cat, so who knows? And what’s the difference, as long as it works?
Louie looked at life with eyes wide open (my landlady used to call him Mr. Magoo). He was fully engaged in his existence, and no cat ever born got more love. And he had a beautiful yard to roam around in, with all kinds of hiding places, and a couple cat buddies, too. I gave him all I could, because he wasn’t just a friend, he was a soulmate. So when I feel the pain of his loss, I comfort myself with the wonderful ten years we had together. We’ve all experienced the loss of someone near and dear to us, and the pain can be so great you wonder how you’ll ever get through it. There’s something I’ve come to realize that has helped me, and that I’ve told others, that is elegant in its simplicity. We hurt so badly because we loved so much, and that’s a very good thing. It exemplifies our humanity, it affirms our boundless capacity for love, and is perhaps our best quality.
So here’s to you, Louie, my friend, my brother, my father, my son, my everything. We saw each other through the good and bad times. I’ve told you a million times that I would love you always, because love really is forever. Thank you for everything you gave me, the love, the friendship, the laughs, and yes, my tears too. I am a better human being because you were in my life.