All I knew was I wanted an old cat. One that had been at the rescue for a long time and deserved a home. My crazy, misunderstood Orange Tabby (Saber-toothed tabby, if you ask Taylor), Spalding, had just died, and the house seemed empty with just my sweet Pee Wee in it.
It was love at first sight. We saw this overfed gray Tuxedo cat with a torn ear, a broken tooth, a leg that had been broken, a paw that had been squished in a door or something, and a tail that had apparently met the same fate. He was seven when his family moved into a place that didn’t allow cats and left him at Heber Animal Control. Sometime after that, Furburbia, a Utah rescue, brought him to their facility, and seven months after that we stumbled upon him.
Despite being injured and abandoned, Emmitt Smith was the definition of cool. Not too needy. Not too standoffish. He wandered around the meet and greet room, allowed himself to be brushed and petted, then hypnotized us with his olive eyes into taking him home.
Kathy, the incredible woman who used to run Furburbia, said, “You can bring him back in three days if he doesn’t work out.” Doesn’t work out? We let her know that she’d never see him again. He was ours. Forever.
It’s hard to fully describe what a cool cat he was if you never got the chance to meet him. He quickly became the Mayor of the Moose Lodge. He’d go for walks around the place with Patrick, without a leash or even much guidance. No dog could faze him. If they got too close or were too barky (Stella, Norman), he’d land a hard right, and they’d back off. He even walked alongside Patrick to his place, about a half mile away. We took him to Home Depot and the reservoir and Christmas tree shopping and to Love Your Pet, where we get the raw elk that our (spoiled) cats eat. Once, he let us put little dog shoes on him. Didn’t flinch.
Once, he drove us to Home Depot. That’s our story and we’re sticking to it. Him, too.
They loved him at the vet, and he didn’t really mind going. He’d wait in the waiting room, checking out all the dogs and feeling sorry for the cats that had to be in carriers. So humiliating. Dr McDonald said he’s the coolest cat he’s ever met; he probably has a few dog chromosomes in him. The girls in the front got used to him walking around loose, and the vet techs in the back got used to him not even flinching, no matter what they had to do to him.
Which was more and more in the last few months and weeks. Dr McDonald said Emmitt Smith had Hyperthyroid problems, so we gave him Tapezole every day. The problem was the Tapezole made his kidney problems worse, so it was a delicate balance of how we treated him for the last year. Then, his kidney values started going up up up. He was going in to renal failure. For a few weeks, we would give him IVs of saline because even though he was drinking what seemed like gallons of water, none of it was staying with him. We took him in to get IV fluids all day long one day, and he perked up significantly. He wasn’t the old Hall of Fame Emmitt Smith who won the Moose Lodge Dancing with the Stars, but his eyes were bright. For about 3 days.
Then he stopped eating.
I’ve had a lot of cats. I’ve had to put down a few of them, always after they stopped eating. I know that’s when they’ve decided they’ve had enough. I knew we were there. I knew he was never going to get better. But I still made a vet appointment for 3:45 in the afternoon so I could talk to Dr McDonald, who would give me the miracle cure that he’d forgotten to tell me about the week before. We spent all day with Emmitt Smith, holding him, crying on him, trying to convince him that the Rachel Ray food he ate just a couple of days before was still as gloppy and smelly and yummy as he thought it was then.
Dr McDonald didn’t have a miracle cure. He said that when cats have one kidney enzyme value of over 5, they feel pretty terrible. “What is Emmitt Smith?” we asked. He was at 8. The other kidney value they measure was also high enough to make him feel terrible. Dr McDonald assured us that Emmitt Smith wasn’t in pain, but he felt like he had the worst hangover ever. Every second of every day. We could put him back in the hospital for another day or two of IV fluid, but he wouldn’t be able to support it.
That’s when you think, who am I keeping him alive for? At this point, it would be me. As painful as it was for us, I couldn’t do that to him. He’s been too good of a friend. If I can’t give him a good life anymore, he deserves to have a good death, not an extended one, where he suffers a terrible hangover until it comes. So I held my sweet Emmitt Smith as he got the first injection, which Dr McDonald said made him feel like he was chasing butterflies. And the second, when he drifted off and his huge heart stopped beating.
I still can’t believe he’s gone. He deteriorated so quickly, slipped away from our big gray handsome boy into an old feeble man in two weeks. I suspect he had been feeling pretty shitty for quite a while, but in typical Emmitt Smith fashion, he kept it hidden.
I miss him sitting next to my computer while I work (or check Facebook or fact check something that Patrick had passed along as true). I miss him squished up against the door, trying again to hypnotize me so I’ll take him on walkabout on 15th Street. I miss his food falling out of his mouth as he ate because we’d eventually had to have all but one of his fangs taken out.
We only had him four and a half years. That’s the downside of adopting a senior cat. But in that time, don’t doubt for a minute that we didn’t grow to love him as much as we would have if he’d bounced into our lives as a kitten. I can’t tell you how many times we said we couldn’t believe that someone would give him away after having him for seven years. I can’t believe there’s a human alive who wouldn’t be hypnotized by those olive eyes into doing whatever he wanted.
I couldn’t have loved that tattered old gray cat any more. I just wish I could have loved him a little longer.