On a sunny Sunday in May 2006, I drove to the animal shelter “just to look”. I was newly single and had just transferred from my old 411 operator job to working in the sales and billing call center of the phone company, and with that job came a bunch of overtime hours that I was grateful for because I needed the money but that left my Siamese, Angel, alone for 10+ hours every day while I was at work. I had convinced myself that in order for this new lifestyle to work out, Angel would need a new friend.
Of course I didn’t “just look”; I adopted a spunky little orange kitten that I knew the minute I laid eyes on that I had to have in my life and that I would name Oliver after the Disney movie Oliver and Company. He was just too cute. He would eventually grow into his ears but at that stage he definitely hadn’t yet and he looked a little bit like baby Yoda.
Angel was not even a little pleased at the new arrival and made her introductions to her new brother by biting his neck and trying to carry him around. For the first few weeks that Oliver lived with us, I had to separate them when I went to work so that I didn’t worry that she’d hurt him. Luckily things got easier as we adjusted to being a family of three, although Oliver proved to be a very mischievous little kitten. He liked to jump up on my kitchen counters and then get behind the stove. This was problematic because once he got back there he couldn’t get out, and I had to stretch out across the stovetop, stretching my arm as much as I could to try and reach him, all the while thinking that maybe this time he’d learn it was a bad idea to go back there but at the same time knowing he probably would learn nothing at all. I was relieved when he finally got big enough that he couldn’t fit back there anymore.
Oliver kept me on my toes for sure. Once he was too big to get behind the stove, he would amuse himself by opening the bottom cupboard door to my pantry and chewing a hole into the bag of cat food so that he could help himself to snacks, and getting up on the table and grabbing the dining room light fixture and ultimately pulling it out of the ceiling one night while I was at my parents’ house for my mom’s birthday celebration. He was awfully lucky he was so cute and that I loved him, because more than once his hijinks had me in tears. But looking back, I know that part of the problem was that I had never had a kitten before and didn’t know what kinds of toys and puzzles and things to give him so that he could channel his energy in ways that didn’t make me want to pull my hair out. He was a very loving little guy and was super patient with me, even when I didn’t feel patient with him. I would affectionally call him my handsome lil’ man, even as he grew up and at one point was over 20 pounds.
Oliver had a lot of personality and he was very sure of himself and what he wanted. He was very talkative and would wake me up in the morning with his meows for his breakfast. Whenever I left the house, I knew that when I returned he’d come marching to the front door to tell me hello and receive pets (and, if he had his way, food). He loved napping in the sun and when I started working from home I learned that he had a routine of going into our room mid-day because that was when a sunbeam shone through the skylight in our bathroom onto the bedroom carpet. He knew exactly what time of day the sunbeam could be expected, and on cloudy days he would yell at the floor because he wanted his sunshine. When Bill and I started working out in the mornings, Oliver would march over to Bill and wait expectantly to be placed at the top of the cat tree so that he could get some morning light and snooze while we exercised.
My orange boy’s best friend was our Maine Coon, Saturday. I have countless pictures on my phone of the two of them snuggled up together, fast asleep. Earlier this year I got into the habit of letting them have a paper grocery bag to play in, and once they had had their fun of hiding in the bag they would squish it down flat and nap on it. I can’t say I understand the appeal of sleeping on a paper bag, but Oliver and Saturday believed it was one of the best places ever to nap.
Last year, while Bill and I were on vacation in Chicago, Oliver suffered what our friend and pet-sitter initially thought was a stroke but turned out to be vestibular disease. We rushed home to be with our boy at the emergency vet, scared that he wouldn’t even know who we were. But the minute he saw us he began talking to us. The first few days of his recovery were really hard; he was incredibly dizzy and couldn’t stand or walk on his own, so we would hold him up while he ate, drank, and used the litter box. I slept on the couch next to him each night so that he could wake me if he needed to get up. We weren’t sure that he would ever get well again, but slowly the dizziness subsided and he began to be able to do things on his own again. The vestibular disease left him with a permanent head tilt and his balance was never quite as good again, but every time he relearned to do something we were overjoyed. He was so brave and determined through the whole ordeal. Slowly he started being able to get up on the couch by himself, and he began to play again. As he continued to get better it was such a joy seeing him loving life and doing all the things he loved again.
Over the last year, Oliver’s health declined and particularly in the last couple of weeks he definitely wasn’t feeling well anymore. He spent most of the last week under my desk in my room, where he could be by my side while I worked and could see me when I was in bed at night. He would get up briefly to have a little bit of food and some water, but his energy was gone and he would go right back under the desk afterwards. I moved his little bed under the desk with his favorite blankets, his special little pillow, and the stuffed squirrel that was his favorite toy.
On Tuesday we made the very difficult decision to say goodbye to Oliver. We took all of his favorite things with us when we loaded him up to take him to the vet for the last time. His last few moments were peaceful and warm, as I snuggled him and told him what a good boy he was and how much I loved him.
Since Oliver died I’ve been so heartbroken. I miss my lil man desperately and I hate it that he’s gone. I know time heals all but right now I can’t make it through the day without crying, without thinking I see him lying in the hallway before remembering that I will never see him again.
I want to remember the happy times I had with my first boy, and the times that certainly weren’t funny to me fourteen years ago but make me laugh now. Oh how I loved my Oliver, my lil man, my orange squish. He changed me forever in the very best of ways.
Forever you’ll see
We two can be good company
You and me
Yes, together we two
Together, that’s you
Forever with me
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Yes, together we’ll be
Together we’ll be
Forever, you’ll see
We’ll always be good company
You and me
Just wait and see