Even though we’ve been broken up and officially ‘just friends’ for years, there was one part of my relationship with Only Child that lived on – our cat Tino. When we moved in together, I was convinced that my cat AppleButt, who had a kitty roommate in my previous place, was lonely. So I insisted on adopting another cat to keep her company.
Only Child resisted the idea and, in fact, didn’t even come with me to pick him out. Instead I brought a friend and we fell in love with the most handsome male cat in the shelter. He was frisky but loving, beautiful but rugged and, according to his profile at the upscale coastal shelter, was found “in the bad part of town.” I insisted that OC come to the shelter to meet him and, just as I thought, we brought him home that day. We named him Valentino because of his sheer handsomeness. He quickly became “Tino” – and a member of the family.
Not that everyone was thrilled with his presence. AppleButt had apparently decided that no other cat could replace her previous friend and did her best to ignore Tino’s playful attempts to engage her. To her credit, I can see why she didn’t take to him. He was a bit of an oaf and didn’t really know his own strength. He played rough and AppleButt is just a little too prissy to put up with that.
And Tino was also pretty insistent about his demands. He had to go outside when he wanted and if you didn’t let him out immediately upon request, there would be a nice ammonia-smelling wet spot on your favorite leather chair or, if he was really mad, on your mattress. After awhile, we just let him win and he became an outdoor tomcat, even though I hated the idea of what that could mean for his lifespan.
As we all settled in together, it became apparent that there was a gender line being drawn in the house. AppleButt was my girl. She slept on my head, allowed me to snuggle (some say smother) her like a baby, and pretty much gravitated towards me. Meanwhile, Tino leaned towards Only Child. He liked the more “distant” physical attention Only Child gave him (read: no baby-style cradling) and slept at OC’s feet in bed. It grew into an understanding who belonged to who.
So when it came time for me to move out and get my own place (the first step in a long, drawn-out breakup process that, in hindsight, seems ridiculously obvious), it kind of went without saying that AppleButt would come with me and Tino would stay behind in the bachelor pad.
That was six years ago. During that time I would get updates from Only Child about Tino’s latest hunting achievement or his new phase of excessive meowing at 5 am. He still had a place in my heart and, even though I didn’t see him often, he was still “my boy.”
Then yesterday I got the call from Only Child that Tino was missing. He often spent the night outside but always came home the next day. OC had just returned from a trip and had the neighbor taking care of the cat, but no one had apparently seen him in two days. I was usually the one to panic when the cat was gone for even five minutes, so the fact that OC was calling in the middle of a workday to tell me this meant things were not looking good. I tried to be reassuring, all the while feeling dread at what this might mean and, of course, guilt for having left Tino behind without even getting a chance to say goodbye. I advised OC to put up some signs around the neighborhood, call the shelters and talk to the neighbors. I hung up feeling shaky.
An hour later he called back. The first thing I heard was sniffling and then a quiet, “He’s dead.” Apparently OC had gone to talk to the neighbor who lives one street up, where Tino would often visit, and she rather coldly informed OC that animal control had just taken away his body. She then went on to describe in unnecessary detail the condition in which she discovered his mangled, half-eaten corpse (an apparent coyote attack, which may sound weird to some of you city folk but, even in the densely populated beach area where OC lives, happens all too frequently). OC was clearly upset, as was I.
I didn’t know what to say. Or feel. I kind of went numb. My boy was dead. My boy that I hadn’t seen in at least a year. Does that even make him my boy anymore? Does that make him “our” cat anymore? As sad as it was to hear of Tino’s untimely and violent death, the greatest amount of sorrow I felt (and still feel) was for Only Child. They were family to each other. They slept together every night. They bonded. There’s a reason I call him Only Child –he’s a bit of a loner. So this is a particularly hard loss for him. Or at least I think it is anyway. I worry.
But I’m not his girlfriend anymore and there’s only so much comfort I’m allowed to give him. I spoke with him for a little bit on the phone, but he had to hang up-- I suspect because he needed to cry in private. I called him back later and shared my grief. He seemed thankful for it but at some point we had to get on with our day. After we said goodbye, I was left with my sadness and, more than anything, my hope that OC’s current girlfriend of over two years (who sometimes reads this blog and I hope is not upset at my writing this) is willing and able to give him the sympathy, love and companionship he needs right now.
Anyway, if you don’t mind, say a little prayer for Tino. I know he left this world doing what he loved, wandering the shrubbery-covered hillside, hunting and sleeping in the dirt. He was willing to piss on everything that was dear to his owner so he could have that freedom. Too bad he had to die for it. Damn coyotes.