Wednesday at 4:45 in the evening my best friend Bob died in my arms. I lost the best buddy I ever had. I’m a big enough man to admit that I’ve cried like a baby.
About 4:30 I was taking a nap when I was awakened by a howl of pain. Bob was struggling to get up on the bed but his hind legs were paralyzed and he was too exhausted to make it. I learned later that his ulcer had burst and he had bled out through his stomach. Ever the gentleman, he had made it off the carpet and onto the bathroom tile floor before puking blood. He knew he was dying and was trying to get to his best friend.
I held Bob in my arms as his life seeped away. He gave me a last pat on the cheek with his paw, put on his Cheshire cat smile of contentment, relaxed and with a couple of sighs, stopped breathing.
Under a stormy sky, I buried Bob behind my cabin here in the Tellico mountains, the spiritual center of our universe. The falling moisture was only partially from the sky. One of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do was to shovel in the dirt. If my wishes are fulfilled, my ashes someday will be buried right there beside him.
I found Bob in the most unlikely of places, a scrap metal yard. I was buying scrap air conditioners and had gone to the proprietor’s office to pay when I found Bob, still attached to his moma, along with his practically identical sister. I asked the proprietor if I could have one of the kittens. He said “Take all three if you like”. In one of the biggest mistakes of my life, I left two behind and only took Bob.
Bob’s mom was a big orange Tabby/Persian mix. His dad was pure Manx and Bob got all his traits and build from him. Only his markings came from Mom and then only subdued. His little stub of a tail made his name obvious. His nickname was “Hijacker” because of those long strong rear legs.
Bob was so small that I could close my hands around him, small enough that his head would fit in a single portion Beenie-Weenie can. Yet when we got in the truck to go home, he hopped up on the dashboard and gave me that “let’s get it on” look. Rarely thereafter did one of my vehicles move but what Bob wasn’t on the dashboard navigating and bossing. Such a pleasant change from Frosty, my Himalayan Persian kitty who cowered under the seat, howled and puked at even the merest hint of a car ride.
Bob quickly took command of my apartment, my restaurant and my heart. Huge eyes like none I’d ever seen in a cat. But the personality. My oh my. One of the first things I learned was that he LOVED Beenie Weenies. At first he’d go diving in the can to get the goodies. When he got too big for his head to fit, why, he simply started using his paw as a hand to scoop out the goodies. He could get a can almost as clean as washing.
Bob pretty much went everywhere any of my vehicles did. If I rattled my keys before going out, he’d almost trip me getting to the door. No way I was leaving without him.
He quickly became one of the family, even at night. When my wife was still here, his normal position was under the covers, either between us or laying on my side. He LOVED that electric blanket! Never one to do things the easy way, he would likely as not tunnel under the covers from the bottom as from the top. After Doreen left, his normal position became between my arm and chest. What a guy!
A few years after Bob came home, I got a motor home. Just a little one but good enough for the three of us. Bob quickly owned the thing. He could tell when it was time to go camping. I could come and go from the apartment and he’d just lay on the bed or his window condo and watch the world go by. But the first time I went to the RV, he was on alert. Many times I’d just put him in the MH’s bathroom first thing so that I’d not have to dodge him underfoot.
Bob was perfectly content to wear a harness and be on a leash at the camp site. He walked well on a leash. Almost no training was necessary. Just a couple of tugs and he got the idea. As you can see on his page, he was quite adept at getting back in the RV when he tired of the great outdoors.
A couple of years ago I decided to see the country while getting paid so I got a CDL license and went long-haul truck driving. Bob, of course, went with me. He and I both loved being on the road. He’d perch himself either on the dashboard in front of me or in the co-pilot’s seat, depending on what he wanted to see. On sleep breaks, he’d assume his normal position under the covers, either at my back or under one arm.
Bob never met a stranger and he practically never got excited or skittish. If a new acquaintance came into the apartment or the MH, Bob would be in his lap in a heartbeat. Occasionally I’d let him up in the restaurant even thought that’d give the health nazis cardiac vapor lock if they’d known about it. He’d select a customer and walk right up, giving them his famous “Hi, how are ya” chirp. I swear that some customers came to my restaurant just to see Bob.
Blue was his favorite color. I think that he developed an association with the color from the electric blanket. In any event, he’d make a bee-line toward anything cloth and blue, as often as not merrily humping away. They say that animals are mostly color-blind but in Bob’s case, I’m not so sure.
Probably most remarkable was Bob’s communications skills. He developed a whole vocabulary of chirps and yips and each had a specific meaning. One for wet food time, one for “clean the litter box”, one for “flush the toilet” (he like toilet water far better than the nice fresh water I kept for him!), one for “I want a bath” (!), another for “there’s a mouse in the restaurant that I need to catch” and so on.
Gestures were another set of tools. For example, when he wanted to direct my attention to something, he’d stand pointing away from me, looking back over his shoulder while chirping. When I’d look he’d look back and forth between me and whatever he wanted me to look at. Or if the object of interest was in another room, he’d walk a little and look back to make sure I was following.
One afternoon I was napping after having closed the restaurant for the day. Bob suddenly appeared on my chest and gently pawed my face until he woke me. He jumped on the floor and did the “follow me” maneuver. I followed him into the bathroom/laundry room. He jumped up on the washing machine and did the “look here” maneuver toward the back side of the washer. When I looked I found one of the water hoses swelled up and weeping water, just about to burst. He saved me a huge mess.
Another remarkable instance from several perspectives, was one night when Joy, the little opposable thumbs devil that she was, managed to open her cage and get out. Bob was a champion mouser. Yet, even though Joy looked close enough to a mouse for practical purposes, he didn’t enjoy an early morning snack. Instead, he woke me, again with that little pat to the cheek, and directed my attention to Joy who was walking on the ceiling. Is that amazing or what? I could write a book about his exploits but you get the idea.
On the night my Dad died I was camping in my RV on the Ocoee river. I normally don’t have any cell service at all in that campground but amazingly, that night a call from Mom came through. Bob instantly perceived that something bad had happened, for he immediately got out of the navigator’s seat and climbed into my lap, purring loudly. He never left my side as we packed up to go. Even though he usually almost never did it, he rode the whole way back in my lap. I knew that it had to be uncomfortable, as I more than adequately fill the seat, but he was there nonetheless.
At the hospital, he sat vigil on the dashboard instead of his usual sleeping on the bed. I took my MH to the grave-side service in case any of the elderly people needed relief from the heat. Bob sat at attention on the dash and watched the whole ceremony.
Some folks will inevitably sneer and tell me that he was just an animal and to get over it. Naw, I don’t think so. I’ve had bunches of cats and dogs and other animals over the years. Frosty was a wonderful cat but he was just a cat. Bob transcended that boundary and very much blurred the distinction between man and mere animal. We communicated on so many levels. Oh, if he could have talked, what conversations we would have had! He was far and away my best friend in this world.
I can’t help but believe (or at least hope) that friends like Bob gain souls as they partner with humans. He is one of the few creatures, two legged or four, that I hope to see in the afterlife.
Godspeed, little buddy. I’ll love and miss you forever.