Sunday, October 26, 2014

Goodbye to a Good Friend

The handsome Colbert, at our Esplanade apartment in Montreal
My dearest Colbert has died. He had a heart attack last night, after coming to the bedroom door to get me. This is his story, as much of it as I know. 

Colbert's kittenhood is a mystery. I think he was born and raised in Montreal. His first owner (who named him) was a lady who had him and another cat, and who died and left the two cats without a back-up care plan. They ended up at the Animal Rescue Network in Montreal, where I found him. I don't know who the other cat was, or what happened to it. 

Colbie in 2008 in my studio on Pine Ave in Montreal
I decided at Thanksgiving in 2008 that I wanted to adopt a cat. I started looking online, and came across the ARN's website. Colbie was on there with a handsome photo, and I decided to go and see him. The staff were overjoyed that someone had come to see him, and after locating him in a room full of cats (all out of cages, roaming around) in a corner, facing the wall, they thrust him into my arms. He was drooling, had a big mat of fur along his back, and seemed overall pretty grumpy. The other cats around were cute and friendly, rubbing against my legs. I had a moment of doubt about Colbert, but then I felt like I had made a commitment to him by asking for an appointment to see him, and he was in such need of a home. The staff weren't sure how old he was - between 7 and 10 they thought - but told me that he'd been in the shelter for three years. I had to take him.

A blurry Colbie tests out a shoe-box in the kitchen at our Esplanade apartment
The vet at the shelter cut off the matted fur and trimmed his nails. I ended up with an optimistic, curious, and somewhat ugly kitty. His eyes smiled, but he drooled, he smelled, he had a bald patch, and he had other mats and tufts in his fur that he really didn't like me trying to brush out. I would have to sneak up behind him with scissors while he was eating to snip out mats, and even then I could usually only get two or three before he got really mad. When I took him to my vet, it turned out that he needed to have dental surgery to have teeth removed - and that he was older than the shelter told me. My vet estimated between 9 and 12. His painful mouth was why he was drooling and smelly. He had five teeth taken out that Christmas, and after that he was much happier.

Blurry Colbie on the motel bed in Sackville, NB
From the very first night, Colbert slept beside me on the bed. He didn't sleep at my feet; he preferred to be at the top of the bed, just below the pillow, always on the left side of the bed (when you're lying in it). If I slept on my left side, he would tuck into the space beside my tummy, and curl up with his enormous earthquake purr. I called it his smoker's purr. 

Camping cat! Checking out our gear in a campground near Moncton, NB
From the first night of cuddling each other to sleep, we were besties. Colbie was invaluable company to me when I was writing my MA thesis from the fall of 2008 to the summer of 2009. He made me feel comfortable being home alone so much, because it was like there was another person around. I didn't get as stir-crazy, and could focus on my work more, knowing that there was a purring, playing creature somewhere in my apartment. He always woke me up to feed him breakfast, and he never let me work through dinner time. 

Camping cat strikes again, in a tent this time at Fundy National Park
In the summer of 2009, I went to Easton, Pennsylvania to teach summer classes at a CTY summer camp, and Colbert went to Ottawa to stay with my friend, Amy. She had offered to take him, because I didn't have anyone in Montreal to look after him. When I unexpectedly got an offer to go to Switzerland for a six-month internship, Colbie's 2-month vacation became an 8-month stay. This was too much to ask anyone but my Mum to do (thanks Mum!), so off to Fenelon Falls he went, to live with my Mum's two cats. When I returned in March 2010, Drew and I (we had started dating in the spring of '09 and did long-distance this whole time) found a place to sub-let, and Colbie came back to live with us. He loved the apartment we had, except for during the crazy heat wave that summer when he had to seek cool refuge by sprawling on the bathroom linoleum (oh, and that other time that I had to take him to Cafe Olimpico for four hours in his kennel while they sprayed our place for bedbugs because the neighbour brought them in).

Colbie is very helpful. Here, he helps me paint a picnic table for my sister's birthday
That August, Colbert came to the East Coast with us for the first time. We drove out in a rented car, and we stayed at the Tantramar Motel in Sackville on our way to Charlottetown. We had to sneak the kennel in because we didn't think pets were allowed. He was wonderful, though. He didn't mind being in the car, and he got comfortable at Drew's folks' condo in Charlottetown right away. When we got back to Montreal, it was time for all three of us to pack the moving van and head down the highway again; Drew was starting an MA in Kingston, and I was moving to Toronto for a new job. Our days in Montreal were over.

A little play time with the spinny-ball-thingy
If Colbert ever missed Montreal, he never showed it. He quickly became the ruler of our apartment in Toronto. It was carpeted and sunny, meaning there was no limit to how comfy he could get in all the different areas of floor. The next four years went by quickly. Far too quickly. Colbert was always there. He woke me up in the morning, he slept with us at night. He played with his toys and napped in sunbeams, and chased squirrels outside the sliding glass door. He danced with drew, and played piano solos, and endured all of the silly songs that we made up about him (Drew was especially good at this: Play time - Kitty! Living in the city!) He came to the East Coast with us a second time, for a friend's wedding, and camped with us in Fundy National Park. He wore a bow-tie for the wedding - what a dapper guy.

Helping to open presents - mostly so that he could lie down on the tissue paper
 And now, as I face a number of new life changes, including starting a PhD program, an unexpected and heartbreaking change is sent my way with the death of sweet Colbert. His life was an adventure, and he bore it calmly. It always seemed that as long as I was with him, he could handle whatever move we were making or trip we were taking. Or maybe that's the other way around. 

Colbert and I just had our six-year adoption anniversary - just two weeks ago. It has been such a great and rewarding six years, I wouldn't have missed it. I'm so glad I didn't let myself be tempted by those other cats that day in the shelter. Colbie was the kitty for me.

I will miss you, Colbert. I love you. Goodbye.

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