I guess he was a Jessica Chastain fan.
Miss you, little guy.
I still have many pictures, and why should they languish?
I went to Florida in July, right before Monkey got sick, and whenever I’d remotely pan the camera, he’d notice. Immediately.
Oh my little Monkey Bunny…
I can’t put this off any longer, especially now that Sarah Silverman wrote this beautiful tribute to her dog, Duck. It’d been so hard to say it out loud, let alone write it down. But here goes.
When I got Henry two and a half years ago, I knew that one day he would die. Louis C.K. says that getting a pet is a countdown to sorrow, because unless you die first, you will have to watch your little one pass on. I just did not expect this to happen so soon. Henry was my first pet. I was leery of taking a chance on caring for an animal because I lost both my parents in my 20s and couldn’t stomach any more loss. But at 33, I was ready to care for someone.
So I went on Craigslist and found a listing from a woman who was moving and couldn’t take her kitten with her. It was a Thursday, and I begged her to wait til the weekend, even though people who’d seen his little creamsicle-colored punim were offering hundreds of dollars for him. And she did, saying she had a good feeling about me. He was shaking when she put him into my hands, but the second we got into the cab, he stopped, and promptly fell asleep. It was mutual love at first sight.
Henry was a home-wrecker, in the best possible way. He honestly thought he was a monkey, so I called him Monkey, much more than I ever called him Henry. He was a biter, destroying my arms with his teeth, and I still have the scars to prove it. He was like a dog, curious about everything, never scared of rainstorms, a little predator who stalked birds outside my window. He tried to kill my shoes - and my feet - on a daily basis. He drank mimosas and ate pizza. When he wanted love, he’d jump up on the bed and nuzzle his head under my neck, purring like a motor and nursing on my blanket, something the cat behaviorist Jackson Galaxy calls “smurgling.” He was an independent boy-cat with a sassy personality, and he did his own thing, and I loved him for it. I watched him grow, and I thought he’d know my children, if I ever had any.
Adam moved in with his 13-year-old tortoise-shell cat, Starr, in May. He had just lost Moon, who grew up alongside Starr, so a house that was supposed to have three cats now only had two. Starr hated Henry as much as she always hated Moon, hissing at the back of his head. But they co-existed for two months, and Adam and I went to Florida for a week in July.
When we got back, something was wrong with Monkey. His back legs were weak, and he wasn’t jumping up on the fridge and the cabinets anymore. He breathed with his mouth open and left puddles of drool everywhere. We took him to the vet, who said he’d lost weight too fast - we’d switched him to a low-fat diet a month before because he was getting way too big. We’d been glad it was working, but the vet feared that there were other things going on. She said that sometimes when a cat loses weight too fast, the liver overcompensates and gets overloaded and is unable to metabolize fat. She didn’t think a switch to a low-fat cuisine was enough to take off this much weight this fast, and we were still giving him ample table scraps, so he was getting enough calories either way. She sent him home and we kept an eye on him. His back legs were still wobbly - when he jumped down from a chair, he would spin out. Then he stopped being able to jump up on anything at all.
A week later, I was getting ready for work when I threw some treats out for Henry and Starr. Starr rushed over and began munching; Henry was nowhere to be found. I located him on the bed, and when I put a treat in front of him, he did nothing. This was not like him - Henry was a PIGLET. Then I noticed his back legs were stained with urine. I knew it was bad. I ran around, half-dressed and panicking, searching for the carrier to take him to the ASPCA.
When I got there, the vet said he was in liver failure. The only way to save him was a feeding tube, which we’d have to insert and feed him through for six weeks. “Fine, let’s do it,” I said, buoyed by his youth. I knew he’d bounce back - how couldn’t he? He was young and he called his own shots. No way I wouldn’t be taking him home. The bill to keep him overnight was nearly $2,000, and Adam charged it without a second thought. They wouldn’t even admit Monkey until the payment cleared. It’s frustrating, what we’re medically willing to do for humans but not for pets. Horrible as our medical system is, if I had to go to the ER, no way they’d demand my Visa go through before they stick an IV in my arm.
Adam arrived with his credit card, and as they took Monkey away, he stuck his head though the little peep-hole in the crate and met my eyes and looked at me for several seconds. He then put his head back in.
That was the last time I saw him.
The vet called the next day, a Saturday, and said he wasn’t getting better. She talked about giving it another day and another $2,000, but she wasn’t hopeful. “No,” I said. “It’s enough.” I know when the battle is over; it’s happened to me twice already. I sensed that when Monkey looked at me that last time, he was saying goodbye, and I didn’t want Adam to have to spend $4,000 to get the same result. She agreed with me. She theorized that perhaps he had an underlying condition like lymphoma. He was, after all, purchased from a pet store in Brooklyn before being handed off to me. And animals from pet stores are known to have health issues.
Adam didn’t take it so well. He’d just lost Moon, who dropped dead in the vet’s office during what he thought was a routine visit. He’d just moved in with us and couldn’t believe he was saying goodbye to a kitten just a few months later. A house that was supposed to have three cats now had one. It was inconceivable.
But he went to the ASPCA to say goodbye. I just couldn’t say goodbye to my baby. The thought filled me with terror, and so much pain. I was there when both of my parents breathed their last, I watched their jaws go slack and their lips turn white, and I couldn’t do it again. It was too much loss packed into too few years. If Adam hadn’t been there, I would have gone, but he was here, so he went. And I wandered the waterfront for hours, wondering why everyone I love in this world has to die.
A few days later I had a panic attack thinking about Henry not being alive anymore. It gripped me for hours - usually panic attacks last no more than 20 minutes. The few people I told about Henry’s passing suggested I get a new kitten. I’d love a new kitten, but when I think “kitten,” I think of Henry, because he was my one and only. I can’t imagine making new memories with a kitten who isn’t Henry. Am I going to post my new adventures with a new kitten in this space? I haven’t even been able to look at this blog until today, and I don’t think I’ll be able to look at it again for a very long time. The reason it has taken me so long to write this is because the second I post it, it makes this real. But it was 7 weeks ago already, and there’s no denying it now: Henry is gone. The only thing that brings me comfort is this:
When Henry was a baby, my dear friend Monika stayed with us for a week and experienced his kittenhood right alongside us. When her younger sister came to visit from Poland in August 2011, the first thing Weronika wanted to see was Henry. It was all she talked about. And she fell in love with him. She called me “cat paparazzi” because I snapped so many pictures of him. It was a perfect description - I followed him with my iPhone incessantly. On July 3, Weronika died in a car accident in Poland. She was 18. I had been in Florida when I got the news, and the second I got back, I laid down on the floor next to Henry and whispered in his ear, “Werka died.” He stared at the floor as I cried. And 17 days later, he, too, was dead.
Is Henry with Weronika? It’s the only thing that makes sense to me. It’s the only thing that would bring me comfort - that this young girl has the company of this young cat as she waits decades for her family and friends to join her. It’s a long wait, and if she has Henry, maybe it won’t seem so long. By that logic, maybe he’s with my parents, too. Maybe all the things we’ve loved and lost are waiting for us at the end of our lives, and I’ll see Henry sitting on my mother’s lap. She loved cats.
Last night I had a dream that my father, Henry and I were in my old apartment on 103rd Street. Henry had been brought back to life, and I understood that I was getting another chance to keep him alive - to try to subvert his death. I did everything I could - kept an eye on him (which we did in real life), took him to the vet twice (which we did in real life). I didn’t leave his side for a second, but he still died. “I keep trying to save him, but it keeps coming out the same way!” I told my father through my tears. It was agonizing. But I don’t know how else we could have saved him. We were watching him like a hawk, and he still died.
But that was Henry. He never listened to nobody. Just like a gangster.
TH-THEY JUST SHOWED UP OUT OF NOWHERE