This is a personal post, not flower or wedding related.
Very early on Wednesday morning I lost my best friend of 17 years, my beloved cat named Mouse.
I found Mouse when I was going through a lot of transitions, though when you’re 19 years old and just dropped out of college, freshly fired from a job you loved and homeless due to losing said job and moving back in with your mom you might just say things were pretty shitty.
This was 1996, before we had camera phones to document every life event but I think it was July. I was still hanging out with my art school friends but by the end of summer that would change. I would say we grew apart but I put distance between us because I was secretly jealous that they were still in school and seemed to have some direction while I was so lost and struggling to figure out what to do with myself because college wasn’t working for me.
My friend’s car had been stolen and the police found it and called us to go get it. We went to pick it up at the South Philly police station but the ignition had been punched out and we had no way to turn the car off so we just drove around for a while. We ended up on Montrose St and 10th I think, we were hoping to find this friend who was a bike messenger and would have a big screwdriver to turn the car off but he wasn’t home and we were sitting on a stoop just waiting. Someone heard this squeaking noise and we found a tiny kitten shoved up in the bumper of a parked car right in front where we were sitting.
We eventually got a screwdriver so we could turn the car off and went to eat at the Melrose Diner, I brought the cat in with us and the notoriously surly waitresses gave us a saucer of milk and we tried to feed her drops of milk. She was maybe 3 weeks old and she had been abandoned by her mom for being a runt. She was the scrawniest little cat I had ever seen and she was all gray with a pink nose who squeaked instead of mewing. I called her Mouse.
Mouse and I returned to my mom’s apartment at about 3am where I had been living again for about 4 weeks with her, my younger brother and their 2 cats. My mom concluded that at 19 I was far too old to be bringing home animals but we agreed to go to sleep and take her to the vet the next day and go from there. I made Mouse a tiny litter box out of a quart milk carton cut in half and Mouse slept in my Adidas shell toe sneaker (this was the 90’s) but in the morning she was curled up with me. The next morning, my mom and brother were as smitten as me and we decided I would keep her but I would be responsible for all the vet expenses and her care. Responsible was not a word often used to describe me in those days but I took her to the vet and though she was underweight, something she would be for her entire life she was otherwise healthy and needed to be separated from the other cats until we could get her tested for FIV at 3 months. Mouse moved into my room and our life together began. After 3 months, she learned to coexist with the elder cats and earned the nickname Monkey for her ability to scale furniture, drapes, walls, paintings and back loofah brushes. It was not uncommon to find her stuck dangling from something with no idea how long she had been like that.
Mouse was the smartest, funniest cat I’ve ever met. She had facial expressions, including a smile that I loved to see and she had a way of looking at you that said she was sizing you up and passing judgment. If you didn’t pass, she’d let you know with a swipe but if she liked you-she could be the most affectionate, loving cat ever. Mouse helped ground me and helped me find my direction in life when I was pretty lost though it took a really long time to find my true direction. Mouse taught me to be a grown up and to take responsibility for a life other than my own. To not come home at all hours, to work hard so I could take care of her and her expenses. After about a year at home, we moved to our own place and Mouse was lonely without my mom’s cats for company. I adopted a 6 month old stray named Jack who was found by a friend of a friend. Mouse didn’t click right away with Jack but then she discovered she could boss him around despite being half his size and that’s the way their relationship has been for 15 years or so. Jack is as heartbroken as I am and I’m glad he kissed her goodbye before we went to Penn.
Mouse loved me through the ending of a serious relationship, my consequential move to Texas after the breakup where she loved the weather in Austin, she was happy with our eventual move back to Philly and loved our sunny loft on Bainbridge Street. Mouse was suspicious of Tim when we started dating, she wouldn't let him pet her but she loved to sit on his lap when he wore his vintage cords. Mouse eventually grew to love him as much as I did. Tim already had 4 cats when I moved in and it was a rough transition for everyone. Mouse grew to love being a suburban cat, especially our sunny patio that I built. Our big cat family was a handful but my time with Mouse was always special. Mouse tried to take care of Tim and spend extra time with him when we said goodbye to Lydia, Joe & Pepper over the last few years.
About a year ago Mouse was diagnosed with a type of lymphoma, I was devastated because I thought she would be one of those cats who lives to 24. Her disease was controlled for a while but recently she started to wind down. I would tell her all about our new house and how much I wanted her to live there with its big wide sunny window sills and warm radiators. We moved in exactly one month ago and she spent every day curled up near the radiator, in the window or on her favorite furry blanket. It’s been really hard to let her go and I know she was hanging on for us. I came home a little early on Tuesday to spend some time with her and we spent the afternoon and evening curled up together trying to say goodbye. I was hoping for one more night so she could get some sun in the yard Wednesday morning but at about 2am it became clear that it was time to say goodbye. We were able to say a proper goodbye and I believe she knew how much I loved her and how special she was.