Max Brown-Wyatt, 1995-2011.
First, a few fun stories about Max that I never will forget:
1 - Several years ago when I was still single, my friend Christine came over to my place for dinner with her boyfriend John. As was his normal custom, he sat down in my living room to watch some college football while Christine & I chatted in the kitchen. Coming out to check on him, I saw that my cat Max had jumped into his lap. This was also normal - any time someone sat down, Max would magically appear to take over the lap. But it seemed to happen to John all the time - I had seen this happen with Christine's kitties, another friend's cat, my sister's cat, and now Max. Without really thinking about, I called out to John, "What, have you got like a giant cat magnet in your pants?"
John looked up at me slowly, and grinned.
People like to mock me. I get it. I think I make it easy for them.
2 - When Max was about a year old, I left a package of chicken to thaw in the sink while I was at work. I came home from work that evening, and for once, Max was not there to greet me at the door. I put my stuff away and went to search for him. I finally located him under the bed with that package of chicken upside down in front of him. He had chewed through one corner of the styrofoam and had chewed on some of the raw chicken.
I panicked and called the emergency vet clinic to find out if he would be okay. General advice was "if he acts funny, bring him in." Okay. So I headed back to the bedroom, where Max was still camped under the bed. As I reached in and dragged him out, I noticed he had a bag of hamburger buns behind him (they were on the counter as well). He had chewed through the plastic bag and gnawed on the bread.
Essentially, the boy made himself a chicken sandwich while I was at work. I was pretty impressed by the sheer strength he had to drag all of that out of the sink, down the hall and under the bed. He felt guilty enough to stay in hiding, too. What a cat. I laughed all night about that one.
3 - I lived at home with my parents for almost a year in my mid-20's. This was the absolutely dream home for my cat. Lots of windows, 3 times the lap potential, and "grandparents" who brought him toys from the grocery store, EVERY SINGLE TRIP. There was also a screened-in porch where he would camp out all day and check out the birds and trees and bugs and even tiny lizards that would crawl up the brick and slide between the wood posts on the deck. But I was in strong denial that he was eating them - I really thought he was carrying them like toys and playing with them. One day he came racing inside from the porch with a lizard tail dangling from his mouth. I ran after him upstairs to discover half of a lizard on the bathroom floor. He was pretty ticked at me for taking it away, and I quickly realized why I could only find HALF a lizard. I interrupted a tasty afternoon snack for my carnivore pet. Shortly after that, Taco Bell came out with their Godzilla movie tie-in commercials, where the chihuaha would say, "Here, lee-zard, lee-zard." My dad used to say that to Max, just to get me riled up. Max was a pretty good hunter, though. He dashed the hopes of more than a few lizards that year.
Back to the present -
After 6 months of sliding downhill, I finally came to terms with the fact that Max was not getting any better. He took a big turn for the worse over the past 2 weeks by basically not eating. His weight dropped considerably, and he spent his days and nights camped out on my kitchen counter. Clearly, he was trying to get my attention by staying at eye level. I came to the realization last night that I needed to do something sooner rather than later. I made an appointment this afternoon to take him to the vet.
Today I got to explain the Circle of Life to a 6-year old, just in time for the appointment. I'm sure all of us can remember the first loss of a pet in our childhood, and you may also remember that it took you about 10 minutes to ask when the family would be getting a new one. Helen stayed on script. After crying a good bit of the morning, she calmed down in time for the short trip, but then melted down again in the parking lot. And in the vet's office. As hard as it was for her, I was so glad she was with me because I could spend my time focusing on making sure she understood what was happening, and why, and helping to comfort her. Later, she told me that she thought I was brave. I know sometimes the best thing you can give a pet is the gift of freedom from pain and suffering. But it still is a tough choice to make, when you'd rather have them around.
We've picked out a couple of nice spots in the backyard and plan to decorate a rock to mark it. I think the tears might take some time to taper off. Helen, on the other hand, seems to be almost cheerful about the art project. Kids heal so much faster, don't they?
But I really feel sorry for all the lizards Max is chasing right now. I'm pretty sure they all packed up and headed south for the winter this afternoon, when he arrived on the scene.
Goodbye, Maxer-buddy. You were a champion among pets, and it will be very hard to fill your paws.