Charlie and Me

Hey this is a page dedicated to my late cat Charlie who passed at the age of eleven in November 2019.

Here's a link to a gallery of Charlie pics if you just want cute cat pics!

Note: this is heavily a work in progress for now.

So, I've been wanting to write a proper eulogy for my best buddy Charlie since he passed, but it's been hard to find the strength to do so, I guess. When New Years passed, a lot of people talked about their past decade and it got me thinking about how lucky I was, as Charlie was with me the whole time.

Charlie was with me for a lot of big life changes, and since one of those changes was a move across the country alone aside from him, he's the one friend who was with me the whole time. I guess what I mean to say is that I'm extremely thankful and lucky that I got to share this past decade with such a good cat. We shared some really fun times, and took care of each other in the less fun (or more scary) times.

Here's one important thing you need to know about Charlie: if I yawned, he would too. There was a recent article about how the stereotype of cats not being as friendly and socially-linked with people was not necessarily true; it's more a matter of them not having any built-in hereditary/genetic human socialization that dogs have. It's thought that this means that if a cat IS social and friendly with you, it means they're doing this without any sort of biological prompting and are putting effort in. Charlie definitely put that effort in. More than I've ever seen a cat do!

Anyhow, here's his life story. Don't worry, it's mostly a happy story - if I end up writing about the bad times at all, I'll add a warning line first.

This story starts sometime in 2008, I think. My girlfriend and I had just gotten an apartment and she terribly missed my family cat, Max. We decided to get our own, and of course wanted to rescue/adopt. Eventually, we got word of a potential adoption situation:

In Miami beach there were some women working in a shipyard making boat parts and they had been taking care of two local stray cats, who had both had litters of kittens. However, they were planning to relocate their operation and were scared of what would happen to the kittens without their care. The first kitten up for adoption ended up being Charlie - the woman we met told us that Charlie was first because he was so friendly and nice and followed his cat mom everywhere - they figured he'd be an easy adoption.

Meeting Charlie for the first time, I didn't know what to expect. Neither did he. When the woman and my girlfriend asked me what I thought, I didn't know how to even collect facts to decide. I'd always been pretty friendly with cats, but not all cats! So, I just looked into Charlie's eyes. It seemed to me that while I was sizing him up, and unsure what to think, he was feeling the exact same thing. I ended up saying 'yes', and we made the drive back home, with little Charlie in tow.

It's worth noting that Charlie was technically a feral cat. We had asked about litter box training, and the woman said, "I'm not sure - his mother uses the litter box, and he followed her everywhere, so maybe..?" Well, I'm proud to say he basically litter box trained himself after one small accident. We didn't have to do anything at all.

Another thing I'll never forget is Charlie's first bath: he was so dusty and dirty from living outside basically in a car repo lot. He of course did not like his bath, but afterwards when we were holding him to keep him warm in a big fluffy towel and rubbing the water out of his fur, he started purring so loudly. This was a dude that loved to be cozy!

Anyhow, Charlie was a little guy that just loved to play, especially with string. That said, he was fairly scared of people, and really preferred my girlfriend - he seemed scared of my voice. The first time he ever sat on my lap, or spent any time on me in general was after he had been neutered and just wanted to sleep. I'm not sure that really counts.

The following years were full of Charlie becoming a social guy, as my girlfriend and I often had parties and cookouts. Charlie was always invited and was always involved. He even had a neighbor cat friend who used to come hang out with him! Along the theme of his litter box 'training', he was a perfect little guy. He was just a sweet, social guy, all the time. There was one instance where he had a medical problem, and the vet told us it was common in male cats and could/would crop up again in the future.

It did, when my girlfriend and I broke up. When we brought him to our vet, she didn't know what it could be and kept asking if there was anything that had changed at home. We were self-conscious about our breakup and fights, so did not mention it. He continued being sick, while we determined the end of our current chapter of life (moving out to separate places, etc) and poor Charlie's health wasn't great during this time. Eventually, my Mom brought Charlie to her own vet and mentioned the breakup, to which the doctor said "no wonder!"

I moved in with a good friend, and it was decided that I would keep Charlie. It was sort of tough, as I wasn't his preferred parent, but we knew I'd give him a more stable home, which seemed to be important to his health. Charlie did improve pretty quickly within a matter of weeks, and my good friend and new roommate actually had two cats, one of which was Charlie's childhood friend from back in the day! As relieved as we were about Charlie's improvement, my ex and I felt terribly guilty about our drama affecting our perfect little guy. I definitely felt a pretty extreme painful responsibility for him and vowed to try as hard as possible to keep his life stable, as he deserved. On the bright side, Charlie was having a good time with us, listening to records, and getting into trouble with his new (and old!) cat buddies.

I eventually got my own place again, and Charlie loved it. We had definitely gotten closer over the past few months and I think he felt he could rely upon me more for safety and security. He loved when I had guests over, and also just loved relaxing together with me. Within a year of this life, I got a job offer all the way across the country. It was a tough decision, but I had to take it - making sure that my cat was part of my relocation plan.

Charlie was perfect on the long trip, and he was fine with the temporary housing in California as I looked for my own place. It seemed that he was happy as long as I was, and he was always very brave as long as I was nearby. I got a great apartment near work, with big windows and a patio, and he was quite happy. Years passed like this, until I had to quickly get a new apartment. So quickly, in fact, that we had to spend 4 days in a motel while everything was readied. It was very stressful for me, but it was infinitely more stressful for Charlie. I felt horrible - when I would be in the motel room with him after work, he was so skittish whenever somebody would walk by the door. He'd run and hide when it was just me entering the hotel room.

He also had to go back to the vet, over and over, and even after we were fully moved into the new apartment, the poor guy was having constant troubles. I realize that I'm writing a lot about negative things, and I didn't really want this to be that sort of a eulogy, so I'll just say that he eventually required surgery, and we are lucky enough that many good people offered their help in a variety of ways, and the surgery was a success. Seriously - thanks to everyone that helped during this horrible time - word can never express how much that meant to us. It was a very scary and risky time, and I had gotten a lot of advice to not even go through with the surgery. I was also told that there may be problems afterwards, but there were not - aside from a bit of a hunger strike that perplexed the vet, but upon a combination of great advice from more great people and my own research, I was able to nurse my buddy back to health.

More and more happy years went by - I was so glad to have a healthy guy, and thanks to the surgery he would never have that particular problem again. I'm sorry for spending so many words on his various health problems over the years - they were totally offset by what a good cat he was, and what good friends we were. Charlie was the kind of cat that would rush to the door to tell you about his day when you came home. He was the kind of cat that would play fetch with you, run around the house with you, sit on your lap when you were relaxing (he did this a lot for comfort when not feeling good), and sit as close to you as possible if you were working from home. He was happy as long as he could see me nearby, basically. He also loved to sit on the couch listening to whatever record I was playing at the time - but Pavement was his favorite, I think.

I don't really believe that there's such a thing as a perfect friendship, relationship, pet - stuff like that. But I do think that sometimes what you do in the bad times can lead to the good times being even better.

I know I didn't do a good job of explaining this, but hopefully it goes without saying that Charlie and I had become best buddies. I think this was really cemented after his surgery. I rushed to visit him afterwards, even jamming my car into a too-small parking spot, tearing the bumper off, and not caring because I just needed to see my buddy. He looked up at me and headbutted me and I thought back to when we first looked at each other, unsure of whether we were going to be buddies and unsure of what the future would hold. This look (and headbutt) was one of love, thanks, and relief. What could have been a VERY premature end to my little guy's life ended up giving him years and years of more time enjoying his favorite things and being with me!

Hey! Stop right here and look at cute Charlie pics if you don't want to read maybe sad stuff.

Anyhow, I'm extremely thankful that Charlie got like 4-5 more years of good fun life after the surgery - however, he did eventually develop an unrelated, but common, problem that many older cats do. I'm extremely thankful that I was at a place in life where I could fulfill my promise to him: that his living situation would be stable, and I would be able to pay for whatever treatment he needed, no matter the cost. This allowed him to get the best possible care, and for me to have the best possible information to know when it was his time. He never got so old that he stopped loving to play - he would always be ready to jump around and chase a string - I guess that is a little detail I hold onto; he never got too old to enjoy life.

Charlie passed peacefully on my lap on November 18th 2019. A few days before that, when I (and I'm convinced he also) knew he didn't have too many days left, he climbed up his cat tower, hopped onto the window sill, and meowed quietly to me. I asked if he wanted me to open the window and he 'said' yes.

I opened the window and he proceeded to do some of his favorite things one last time: smell the air, watch the birds fly round and around overhead, and look at the colorful sky, painted as it was by the sunset.