Today, there will be no comic. Today I write the words that I need to write, I need to get out there, to remember my friend. Tomorrow the comic will return to what it was. As a memorial, the banner will remain the same. I’d like to once again thank everyone that posted guest comics during this difficult time in my life; it was a reassuring reminder that the world contains many an excellent human being.
When Barnacle was sick…I made him a promise. I promised him I’d bring him home.
Yesterday I made good on that promise. I brought home his remains, inside a tasteful bronze urn. It has little footprints on it and everything. I’m going to keep it in my study, where it’s quiet…a place where I can go if I need privacy, or solitude. A place to think. Today, with Gemma’s help, I also took the pendant from his collar and had it affixed to a necklace, so that he’ll always be with me.
I got Barnacle in 2010. His birthday was on the 6th of April, and with the help of my good friend Donna, I bought him when he was 12 weeks old. He was already neutered and vaccinated, and was the last cat left; not just there, but anywhere. This was the only vet I could find that had a kitten for sale. When I walked in and enquired about him, they said that they’d only just put him out the back–normally they would have had him out in the lobby, but he was making too much of a ruckus. We would later realise that this statement indicated much about his nature.
The moment I saw him, I loved the little guy. I’m an animal lover anyway, and I’ve always loved cats…and I’m well aware that the events of the past few weeks have made all happy memories of Barnacle glow with an incandescent light. But I loved him then, even as he roguishly swatted at the pen we used to sign his forms, even as he began his incessant, keening meow on the ride home. This meow would become a soundtrack for the next few years. But I loved him.
He was a problematic young thing. He was needy and attention seeking, something I wasn’t used to in cats. All the cats I grew up with had the standard arrogant apathy inherent to the species, interspersed only with affection when a book or movie started to get really good, at which point they would arrive and demand a King’s ransom in pats. Barnacle had this, but in spades. He would get lonely at the drop of a hat, and begin long bouts of his signature meow, particularly at night or in the morning. Many times this coincided with hunger, but more than once, he would abandon his kangaroo mince mid-feast so that he could run into the kitchen and rub up against my leg.
He liked company, and he loved those close to him. Granted, his idea of affection was a combination of licking, biting and scalpel-like scratching, but it was affection nonetheless. His purr was a loud and powerful thing, incredibly comforting…and he had an odd kind of trill, as well. He made a lot of strange noises, when happy or upset, and especially when woken up. I have never met such a vociferous cat. Nor have I ever met a cat so happy to fall over onto one side. He would sometimes stop in a room, and just flop over. It got to the point where I could nudge him onto his side at will, an act I dubbed ‘floor-cat’. There was also ‘The Head-Grab Game’, where I would grab his entire head with my hand, my palm covering his face. He would become quite placid in this state. We had fun. He never stopped being a kitten, really.
The problems with his health began with a night of vomiting. My girlfriend Gemma and I were out, and my housemate Shannon and her girlfriend Cate alerted us to it. It was worrying, but not altogether odd…his digestion was always sensitive. Changing foods too rapidly never agreed with him, and he was prone to throwing up hairballs (though this was partly due to his affection for the other cat in our house, Charles. Barnacle would pin him down and spend long hours licking his lustrous mane. Irrespective of the time of day, not five minutes after vacuuming a room, the floor would be thick again with Barnacle and Charlie fur, a steady by-product of their boisterous antics. But I digress). We put Barnacle in the laundry for the night, and checked on him the next morning. It was clear that he had spent the night vomiting constantly. We took him to the vet, and thus began a long process of blood tests, antibiotics, ultrasounds and x-rays, all of which showed nothing conclusive.
There’s…a lot of detail, in this story. A lot of things we were told, a lot of things we considered. My memory isn’t flawless at the best of times, but especially in circumstances such as these, the days begin to run together. And writing this isn’t about telling the world the process we went through trying to diagnose and save my cat. This is about the cat that he was.
When I got Barnacle, I was in a difficult period. It was a difficult period that had lasted several years, and was an on-going state of affairs. The person I was, the person I had been, and the life I had lived (and at that time, continued to live) came with a price, a constant price, that I was finding it increasingly difficult to pay. I had wanted a cat for a long time beforehand, but circumstances hadn’t allowed me to get one until that point. I won’t say the change was immediate; he did not miraculously fix me. And without certain specific events and revelations, I may never have emerged from that dark place. Barnacle did not save my life. But he was there, a source of constant companionship and affection, during a time when I learned the hard lessons of fixing myself.
I did my best to do the same for him. The news worsened, test by test, day by day. But each time we visited him, he became much more chipper. He started eating and drinking again. He would purr, and cuddle, and while he would occasionally squirm and glance around, plotting his escape, he was happy to see us. We showed him how much we loved him, and I am convinced that we made his final days more bearable. I left him a succession of pre-worn shirts, knowing that he enjoyed the smell. I watched him paw at them, lick them, snuggle up to them, and it broke my heart. My heart breaks still.
The hardest time of all was when the pain and discomfort of his condition was too much, and no amount of affection could cheer him. In his final hours, we could not bring him the happy state of mind we had before. But we were there for him. We waited, as doctors gave him an emergency transfusion. And when that didn’t work, and things started to go wrong, we were there for him in his final moments. They did all they could. We did all we could. But in the end, as can be the case in life, it wasn’t enough.
He died young. He was only two and a half years old, in the end…and they still don’t know what destroyed his bone marrow so thoroughly. They have theories, but no tests gave enough data. It will always be a mystery. I wish I could know, but…it wouldn’t bring him back. And I would do so much just to bring him back.
I will always miss that cat. Barnacle was a scoundrel and a scamp, he was loud and he was needy, he loved his food, and while he was always nervous around new people, he would quickly become affectionate and trusting with those who gave him attention. He was exactly like his owner, really.
He was a good cat. He may have died young, but his years were full of love, and he didn’t die alone.
Goodbye Barnacle. I wish, I will always wish…that I didn’t have to say it.
I will miss you.