Anyone who knows me in real life or who has followed me on various forms of social media knows that Andrew and I were loving owners of a sometimes grumpy, always adorable Siamese cat named Archer. Actually, I was the interloper in the relationship – Archer was devoted only to Andrew and loved him in the massive way that Siamese cats are known to love their owners. Andrew could turn Archer into a dissolving purring furball by simply looking in his general direction. Archer tolerated me, and recently I had been convinced that he actually liked me. He spent most nights curled up by our heads, trying to inch his way towards Andrew while also benefiting from my body heat. He hogged my pillow a lot.
Here are some things about Archer.
He chatted with us in a gentle, hoarse meow. When he was hungry, he jumped up on the bed beside Andrew and tapped him on the shoulder. I didn’t believe it until Archer did it to me one morning – light, persistent taps until you opened your eyes and saw his furry body sitting beside you, expectant. He would come darting across our place in Montreal if we let him know there was a visiting cat (his “friend”) at the window. Whenever Andrew played guitar, he would sidle up next to him, sit down and listen, his eyes half-closed, purring. In Archer’s slimmer days, Andrew could walk around the apartment with him wrapped around his neck like an awkward, squirmy shawl. He was known to play fetch. We once had to leave him at the vet overnight because he got into Portuguese chicken leftovers and swallowed a bone. He once fought against the vet so violently that he broke his toe, and then limped around the apartment pathetically for a month until it healed. He once caught a bird off the balcony and dragged it inside for us. He liked drinking water straight from the glass. When he was relaxed, he would sleep on his back and stretch his bottom legs out straight, like a human splayed out at the beach. It was the cutest thing. Houseguests tended to be amused by Archer, and more than a few people were greeted with a paw swipe when they leaned over to pat his head, but he mellowed out as he got older and in the past year was downright social.
Basically: he was a cat. He did cat things and these things were endlessly amusing to us and we delighted in them.
He also hid the fact that he was ill from us – gaining weight when he should’ve been losing it, purring on command until almost the very end – and so by the time the illness really made itself known (diabetes – the bane of all privileged fat cats), it was too late, and anything we could’ve done to keep him alive for a little bit longer would’ve been unfair and painful to him.
The sadness of losing a pet is uncomplicated. You loved them; you miss them. There are nuisances that come with being a pet owner, but there are no messy, conflicting emotions, no dramas, just a consistent, steady stream of love. And so the sadness when they’re gone is pure and sharp and stunningly and painfully simple.
We are sad that he’s gone. We’re sad that he’s not going to see our new house, because another thing that happened the week he passed away (yes, it was a big week) was that we put an offer on a house and got it. We’re so happy and excited to live in this house – it’s cozy and bright and in a neighborhood we can’t wait to live in. There’s some carpet in the basement, and when we visited the house and decided that it was our house, we had joked about how Archer would love this basement. So it will be so strange to move into it without him. We move next week.
One street west from our new place is a street that has small, cute houses on one side and a fence running along it on the other side. Pieces of art, mostly naive paintings of cats, are pinned to the fence, and it’s charming and lovely. We can’t bring Archer with us to this neighborhood, but don’t be surprised if later on this summer you’re walking down the street and notice a little painting of a grey-faced grumpy applehead Siamese pinned to the fence.
He was our best cat.