Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Rooter Dog

As many of you already know, we had to put our beloved boy, The Rooter, to sleep on July 3, 2009. He was an older gentleman whose health had been failing, but even so, the loss of him is extremely devastating to David and I. There are cats and then there are Cats, and although we may be quite biased on the subject, we thought The Rooter was an Extraordinarily Special Cat, and to us, there will never be anyone as Fancy as him. This is his story and I hope you enjoy reading about him. The Tale of the Tale
of the Tail of The Rooter Dog

The Rooter was our grey tabby cat and he was 16 years old. He had a fish scale pattern on his sides and rings on his tail, a white possum mouth, a terracotta nose and plum colored toes. We thought he was so fancy that just looking at him made us happy. Countless times during the day, we would have to stop and marvel at his Extreme Handsomeness. We especially liked to look at him while he was sleeping and because he could be so rotten, we used to joke that it was the only time that he was being good. Although David and I say that we are happily child-free, The Rooter was our son and we doted on him. He was born on the streets of LA and came to us when a friend begged me to take him in. I hesitated, as I didn't want to upset Trini, my old lady cat, but the boy and then his sister Mishi, a stocky tuxedo, soon joined us. Partners in crime, one was never far from the other, and Mishi, feeling more street-wise, protected her bonehead brother until she died of cancer 3 years ago.

The Rooter always liked to be in the thick of things. He was very curious and extremely nosy and he wanted to see what was going on, what you had, what you were eating and he had to give everything a thorough sniffing. He was both our house and studio cat because we live where we work, and he was involved in the shop as much as the rest of us. He was around in the morning when my crew came in and he saw them off at night. Never one to skip a meal when it could be eaten twice, he rarely missed their lunchtime and a chance to beg for a few bites of something tasty.

He slept in solder boxes, on tables, on piles of towels. He made himself at home and he was comfortable anywhere. He kept us company and was never too far away lest he miss out on some important business that might require his immediate attention. He felt it was his job to meet and greet everyone who came into the shop and would come running when he heard the doorbell ring. He didn’t want to be petted until he could give them a thorough once over with his nose and I learned early on to ask visitors to "Please, let my cat smell you." He would make a nuisance of himself until they did and it was duly noted when someone was less than accommodating, but most people saw that he was a force to be reckoned with. He was a real character and he loved to show off, expecting everyone to notice that he was being quite furriocious. The Rooter could be very contrary and he would always look away when I tried to take his picture, but I still managed to take hundreds. A great many of his photos were used in our frames and his image was sent all over the world. This is his most famous picture. He could be quite willful and he would make a huge fuss if he was thwarted in any way. He knew what he wanted and where he was going, and we would often see him marching by, his head and tail held high, a determined look on his face as he headed out on some new mission. He was very sure of himself and he knew that he was Extremely Fancy. Several years ago, he "discovered" his dad’s studio across the alley. He hadn’t been interested in going there before but once he got it into his head, his dad’s was where he wanted to be. He got very excited about it too, his tail would get fat and he would purr up a storm and rub around and we would have to give him lots of pets. "I’m at my dad’s. I’m at my dad’s. See me? I’m over here. It’s so exciting!" He and his dad used to play the piano together at least once a day. The Rooter would jump up on the bench and then come around and rub his head under his dad’s arm as he played. I don’t know who looked forward to it more. Finally, he would settle down and find himself a place to nap, usually in a tent we’d made for him on top of a piano. He wasn’t afraid of any noises and being an experienced shop cat, he took his duties seriously. He knew his dad made loud sounds while doing manly-man things, saws or drills or heavy hammering never made him jump. Back and forth across the alley he’d go and many times his dad would find him waiting on his steps when he went back after lunch. Most nights, his dad would carry him home, tucked under his arm like a football, his chest nestled in his dad’s palm, his head held high and his tail wrapped around his dad’s back. He loved his dad a lot.

In January, his kidneys began to fail and later, a tumor was found. We tried everything, foods and fluids, various pills and powders. He was a very good sport about it even though he suspected his mother was dabbling in torture. Watching our porky son waste away before our eyes was truly heartbreaking. And yet, as thin as he was, he still went about his daily routine, sleeping on the patio like a tiger in the jungle, going over to his dad’s, sitting under the truck in the late afternoon sun. He still seemed to feel good enough so that he was able to enjoy his life and he showed us that you must live in the moment and be happy with what you have. We tried to follow his example but seeing someone who had so much life in him become but a ghost of his former self was often more than we could bear. As his condition deteriorated, his silly antics and trademark behaviors slowly disappeared, as bit by bit, he began to leave us.
He is gone now and we won’t see his handsome face looking up at us or find it peering out from under the fence. We won’t hear his rusty "Maaaaa" when he makes a fuss or be surprised by his ferocious bark as he races up the stairs. There will be no more hearty shakes of that meaty tail, no muscular body to squeeze ‘til it pops, no more bony head to rub and kiss, no velvety ears to gently tug. No clicking toenails as our fierce tiger strides most purposefully by. No more worrying over where he is and there will be no more walks down the alley to hunt him up when he goes out inspectorating and wanders too far for our liking. He won’t be found in any of his favorite spots because he has gone to find his sister. She will look after him and there will be lots of fighting and biting and cuddling around, just like before. He was everything to us. We are lost without him, the soothing patterns of our routine are broken by his absence. We miss him terribly but he will remain forever in our hearts. He was a good boy and we love him very, very much. We will always remember him and tell the stories of his adventures for years to come. We are honored to have known The Rooter. He was such a fine and fancy fellow. It has been 8 years since we lost the Rooter and the thing I miss the most is hearing him complain. The slightest little inconvenience would cause him to growl out his special "maaaaa" of protest. I loved to grab him and give him a big hug, just to hear him make that noise. There was something very satisfying about teasing him like that and I could play him like a squeezebox because his growls were never anything more than hot air. He never scratched or went crazy and despite the terrific fuss he made while at the vet, he never bit in anger. He just didn't want to be bothered, dammit, and he wanted to be sure that you knew it.

Thank you for taking the time to read his story.