Hodge is gone. We put him to sleep yesterday and gave over his body to be cremated. It was a painful, gut-wrenching decision because of all the pets, he is the most loving and committed to us. He is the one that spent every day in my office, the one that was eager to cuddle up if you took a nap, the one that walked up the bed purring in the early morning to squeeze between us or commandeer a pillow, the one who would stand on my chest in the morning, purring and nuzzling until I got up, the one that would loop those long arms around your neck if you picked him up and then he’d nuzzle your ear until it was wet. That kind of love is hard to come by in this world and it is even harder to say good bye. The pain is so raw I do not know how I can write of it.
The name Hodge comes from one of Samuel Johnson’s cats, immortalized in the “very fine cat indeed” passage in James Boswell’s Life of Johnson. Hodge himself came to us fourteen years ago, a kitten that had yet to grow into his looks. Carjo would tell him, after he was grown, “Daddy said you were an ugly kitten” and he kind of was. A big nose, no ruff, a little on the gangly side. The face grew to catch up with the nose, he grew a thick ruff with the chest being a brilliant white, and the gangly kitten grew into a wide receiver of a cat, lean, long. and strong. He was a clown that would drape himself over the backs of sofas or chairs, tease the other cats, play with an intensity that was inspiring. Carjo would sing to him this insipid boy band ballad and he’d purr and nuzzle. Eventually he got sick of that song, which was a sign of his good taste. But the bright love of this cat burned hot throughout his life right up until the end.
Yesterday I had a terrible gut ache so I stretched out on our bed. I didn’t think Hodge was up for company but my wife laid next to me and then covered him with a blanket. And the purring began. For the last week he hadn’t been laying down, just sleeping in a crouch. But he gradually fit his back along my side and stretched out, purring and nuzzling my hand, stretching out his long front arms and hooking a paw around my hand. Carjo laid on the other side and he was ecstatic. It was our last hurrah, our last great memory of what he was to us.
As I have written, he’s been troubled by failing kidneys but we were combating that with fluids and probiotics. But he had a severe decline in the last week, losing mass and hanging over his food, as if trying to remember what it was for. His personality was still there but he was struggling and the quality of his life was sinking fast. We would not let him linger and suffer. At the vet it was determined that the fast growing lump on his side might be an abscess or maybe something worse. Even more telling, something foreign was growing in his abdomen, which is exactly what happened to his mother a few months ago. I think his body could have recovered from the kidney issues but it couldn’t fight two wars. So while Carjo leaned over him and whispered sweet nothings, the vet gave him the injection. He was gone.
Some say there is a heaven, some say there is nothing beyond. Some say pets will be there to greet you, to be as unconditional as they were on this place. And some will tell you when a soul leaves this world it rains. As we were driving away from the veterinary office, a fine rain fell. I think it was Hodge taking the first flight up.