Monday, September 15, 2014

Ode To Puffy


When Shannon (my wife) and I started dating, one thing we enjoyed doing together was to visit PetSmart to look at the cats that were up for adoption. Early in our relationship, we were in PetSmart and an ad for a cat caught our eye. This cat was beautiful. Grey and white, very furry, big green eyes; we were smitten. I called the number listed and left a message, telling them we were interested in adopting. I never heard back, so we assumed someone had beaten us to it. A few months later, however, we saw the same ad again, so I called again, got in touch with the person, and Puffin came into our lives. 

 One of the first things we were going to do was change her name, because “Puffin” seemed silly to us. We quickly discovered that Puffin was in fact perfect for her, because she was as puffy as they come. Just a tiny ball of fur. It didn’t take us long to fall in love with her name, and even less time to fall in love with her.

Before we brought her into our home, we researched how best to acclimate a cat to a new environment. We read online that it was best to give them a small room to themselves, before giving them run of the house. We put her in a tiny office, and of course went in every five minutes to check up on her, so it made very little sense why all of a sudden we couldn’t find her. We hadn’t seen her come out, but we didn’t see her in the office, so we assumed she must have gotten out somehow. I’m pretty sure we were all set to go outside and start looking for her when on a whim we decided to pull open one of the desk drawers. Sure enough, there she was, looking up at us and meowing because we had apparently disturbed her.

That was 11 years ago, and since that time she has been a constant presence in our household. She was only eight pounds, but she was everywhere, and now that she’s gone our house is a much lonelier, quieter place. Puffin passed away on Friday due to something called FIP, which came on suddenly and took her away from us. Three weeks ago she seemed fine. Now, she’s gone and we’re having a hard time coming to grips with that fact.

Puffin loved attention, but many times she also loved getting attention on her own terms. She would come to you for pets, but then walk away and expect you to follow her to continue petting her. She always hid when people came over, but she loved being the center of attention so it was only a matter of time before she came out and planted herself in a place where we could all see her, even if she wouldn’t let anyone (but us) pet her. Eventually she became more comfortable and would let visitors pet her, but she would also walk away to make them work to pet her.

Puffin sometimes slept with us, but usually she would just appear after the alarms first started going
off. If she wasn’t in the bedroom when I got out of bed, she would inevitably appear when I went into the bathroom to get ready for work. She loved jumping into the shower after I got out (sometimes, before I got out, giving me a loud “meow” to let me know that I was taking too long to exit). During the winter she would climb under the covers and cuddle with us, and many mornings we would wake up to find her either a) sleeping on top of one of us or 2) sleeping on top of our pillow, right next to our head.

Whenever I was eating on the couch in our den, she would put her front paws on my leg and duck her head underneath my arm, and no amount of pushing her away would get her to leave. She loved to roll around on the floor (probably to get our attention) and also loved to scratch carpets and furniture (also, probably to get our attention). She was perfect in every way, and we loved her.

There are no shortage of cute stories that we can tell about Puffin (and if you’ve hung out with us, you’ve probably heard all of them, multiple times). We were definitely that annoying couple who incessantly told stories about their pets. But in our defense, our pets are like our kids. Puffin was family to us. She was our first shared responsibility as a couple, one sign among many that our relationship was forever. It’s a strange sensation to know that she’s no longer around.

I don’t feel sad for Puffin. She was very sick and miserable and I know she’s better off now. Selfishly, I feel sad for Shannon and me, who will never be able to see Puffin again. She’ll never again greet us when we wake up, or when we get home. She’ll never again smack our dog across his nose, which she did numerous times, although she never used her claws. We’ll never see her again basking in the sunlight in one of the upstairs rooms, looking serene and beautiful and cozy.

Last Friday morning she seemed very off. She was wobbling when she walked and every movement seemed to cause her pain. Before we went to work, she was in our hallway, lying on her side with her eyes wide open. Both Shan and I, separately, told her that if she had to leave then she should go. We discussed during the day what we should do, and we decided that we should see how she was doing when we got home, but we both knew that we were going to have to take her to the vet to put her to sleep. In pure Puffin fashion, she did things on her own time, and she left us before we got back home.

Time heals most all wounds, and I know eventually we’ll move on and she’ll become a pleasant memory rather than a painful wound. But right now I don’t want to move on, because moving on means she’s really gone and I don’t want to accept that fact. Puffin was only eight pounds, but she was pure presence, and without her our house seems emptier. The only consolation I can take is that she loved us, and we loved her, and because she is in our hearts, she will never truly leave.