Duke, R.I.P.

14 December 2006 · 13 comments

Amy Jo, Frykitty — go away. You don’t want to be here today.

When I got to work yesterday, Jeff gave me news I’d been dreading. “Those dumb cats came from across the road this morning.” He meant that the kittens (who are no longer kittens) had discovered the wide open field across from the shop. For the six months that they’ve lived with us, our babies have stayed close to the office. We gave them a base of operations back in the tool shed, far away from the road. They have a warm, dry place to sleep there, as well as plenty of food. The eventual fate of most cats in this neighborhood is a resting place on the road, so we did our best to discourage them from going near it. And for a few months, it worked.

“That’s not good,” I said. “It’s only a matter of time now.”

“I know,” Jeff said. “Plus, when I was pulling into my parking spot, Max was in the way. He froze in my headlights. He just stood there. I had to honk my horn to get him out of the way.”

A black cloud descended on the kitty-cat side of my brain. “Their days are numbered,” I thought. “Should I try again to convince Kris that we can take them home?”

This morning as I left for work, I told Kris about my worries. She’s not attached to my boys like I am, though, and to her it was just another story of life at the box factory.

It was a wet drive to work. The rain came down sideways in thick sheets. As I pulled into the parking lot, I breathed a sigh of relief that there were no little cat bodies on the road. My relief was short-lived. “Did you see Blackie?” Jeff asked.

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“No,” he said. “I put him on the side of the road, near the number marker.”

Though I’m dressed nicely today in order to play Santa Claus to my customers, I trudged out into the monsoon, grabbed a shovel, and found Duke’s body at the side of the road. It was rigid, like a board, which I take to mean that he’s been dead several hours at least. Like most cats that are hit here, he only seemed to be sleeping. There was no blood. Except for the fact that he was soaked through, he looked exactly as he always did, sleeping on the chair in my office.

I will miss how Duke slept on that chair (one of those from Mac and Pam) all day long.
I will miss the way he’d shriek in protest when Max woke him from a nap by chomping on his neck.
I will miss his soft and gentle trill, the way he always talked to me.
I will miss his passion for Chee-tos.
I will miss the way he barged open my office door when he wanted in — no tapping it open for him!
I will miss the way he forced himself onto my lap if I was sitting in his chair.
I will miss the way he was scared out of his wits of the new cat.
I will miss how every week the cleaning lady told me, “He’s so cute.”
I will miss the way he couldn’t figure out the water faucet — Max will drink from the stream, but Duke just climbed in and licked the sink while the water poured on top of his head.
I will miss how he and his brother were bonded like no other animals I’ve ever known.

I will miss that little cat. I didn’t know him long, but I knew him well.

Good-bye, little Dukie.

(Duke’s death brings to the forefront a huge moral quandary for me. I love Duke and Max. They’re great cats. I want to bring them home. Kris refuses. But if Toto were not there, she might be open to the idea. Toto is old an unpleasant. Ought I to get rid of her? But I’m bonded to her, no matter how much of a bitch she is. I’ve known her since the day she was born. She’s my familiar. But wouldn’t it make sense now to bring home Max and get rid of Toto? Which is more heartless? Leaving Max at the shop or abandoning my cat of thirteen years? Max loves it at the shop, though I don’t think he understand that Duke is gone. If I knew he’d be safe, I wouldn’t mind leaving him here. It’s a tough call.)

1 mrs darling December 14, 2006 at 08:10

What would you do with Toto to get rid of her? You mean her to sleep?

And I hate cats! Ive said it here before but…today I felt a little emotional about Dukes passing. I really did.

2 J.D. December 14, 2006 at 08:24

No, I wouldn’t put Toto to sleep, though Lord knows it would be a blessing for the world if we did. I’d probably give her to Mac and Pam. Or bring her to the shop. Or I don’t know what.

Jeff, who loves Duke’s brother Max, but has a “no cats in my office” rule, is letting Max sit next to him today. Max is happy and oblivious.

3 J.D. December 14, 2006 at 08:25

I should say: if you can’t tell, I’m very busted up over this. I loved that cat. He was the sweetest cat I knew. Almost too sweet. I have a hole in my heart.

4 Blogeois December 14, 2006 at 10:55

I am terribly saddened by Duke’s passing and would be even more so by the thought of future tragedy if Toto were taken to the shop and the same happened.

Is there any reason to believe Toto and Max won’t get along, after the obliqatory ‘I hate your guts’ 2 week period of time of course, or better still, that they could find peace together from separate areas of the house? As someone with 7 living under the same roof, I know it can work.

5 Mom December 14, 2006 at 11:43

Oh, I’m so sorry to hear this! He was just fine at the shop last night — happily self-feeding out of the bag with Max. I saw him near the front of the office building as I left. He was tremendously sweet and I’m going to miss him very much!

6 Amanda December 14, 2006 at 13:52

No no no. I dreaded this day. I’m so sorry for your loss and am not embarrassed at all to say that I started crying right here at work. :-(

7 Leslie December 14, 2006 at 15:09

I’m just an interloper who reads often – but as someone involved in animal rescue, this saddened me immensely. The kindest thing to do would be to take Max to the local animal shelter. Yes, he might end up being put down (and he also might end up being adopted by a wonderful family), but a needle is a far kinder way to die than being hit by a car.

I’m sorry for your loss.

8 Pam December 14, 2006 at 15:15

Kudos on the joke – give Toto to Mac and Pam – I almost laughed Ramen noodles out my nose!

Sorry for your loss. Offing Toto might ease your pain; I know it would certainly make me feel better. :o)

9 Amy JO December 14, 2006 at 18:08

maybe you should bring Max over for a visit, to just see how Ruby reacts . . .

10 J.D. December 15, 2006 at 07:34

Thanks everyone, for your kind words. (And I’m glad Pam noticed my joke, which I did put in just for her.)

We’re test-driving Max at home right now. He’s adjusting fine, as am I, but the real question is will the other cats (besides Toto) and Kris adjust fine? Max is a sweet boy, if ornery, but we’re both worried that four cats is Too Many.

If four cats are too many, then we’ll try some combination of Amy Jo test-driving Max and/or Tiffany test-driving Toto. (Toto’s really driving Kris crazy right now.)

11 Joe Fowler December 17, 2006 at 05:46

Do you have a video of “The American Cow Dog”? We watched this in the 1980s I think. It’s a great song that we still cannot get out of our heads

12 Lee December 17, 2006 at 10:41

Sorry to hear about Duke. He had a short life, but he was obviously happy and loved. He was luckier than many cats who live longer.

I hope Max fits in well with the household cats.

13 John December 17, 2006 at 13:48

I am truly very sorry for your loss. When our first kitten was killed by a car, and I found her on the road at night after a long search, and then buried her in my sweater in our garden, while my wife wept out loud, we were inconsolable for days – and I am a psychologist – aren’t we are supposed to be able to deal with this stuff? My advice is just to wait a few days. You will know what to do with Max and Toto. It just takes a few days. Good luck. P.S. We now have two new cats! Anyway, thanks for sharing about Duke – he sounded wonderful!

John.

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