Every Sunday, the local newspaper showed pictures of pets available for adoption at the Humane Society. That’s how Cindy and I adopted our first cat, Oscar, in March 2005. And it’s how we found out about Frodo in January 2010.
At that time Cindy and I were working opposite shifts – she worked first shift, I worked second shift – and we still were trying to figure out the best way to navigate through the uncertainty that came with Nolan’s Autism diagnosis. We loved Oscar very much, but there were times he was an afterthought with everything that was happening in our lives. We thought adopting another cat might be a good way of giving him something he needed: a buddy. Enter Frodo.
Now, Oscar’s demeanor was similar to that of his famous television namesake from “Sesame Street.” He definitely was not a lap cat, and about the only time he wanted to be my friend was when he woke me up at 4 a.m. requesting breakfast. Oscar made it very clear the night we brought Frodo home that he wanted to have little to do with this new cat. And it stayed that way the 9½ years the two of them lived together with us.
I went to bed that evening a little disappointed. But shortly after Cindy and I had said goodnight to each other, we heard a noise and felt this small impact at the foot of our bed. It was Frodo, who had come looking for attention and a place to sleep. We could see he was a friendly cat when we first visited him at the Humane Society and started the adoption process. We quickly discovered we’d welcomed the very anthesis of who Oscar was into our family.
Frodo craved attention from me, from Cindy, the therapists who used to work with Nolan at our house – pretty much everyone who walked through our front door – and nearly everyone couldn’t help but want to pet the chubby cat who’d flopped at their feet. And he was more potent than the strongest sleeping pill. One minute we could be sitting on the couch watching television when Frodo parked himself on one of our laps, and the next thing we knew it was midnight or later and he was still there. If I was stressed about something – Nolan’s struggles in school, my job, whatever – and having trouble sleeping, there was Frodo jumping up on the bed and getting comfortable on my legs. Knocked me out every damn time.
Frodo always took excellent care of us. We tried like hell to do the same for him. It just wasn’t enough.
He’d survived thyroid cancer in early 2019, but only because we’d gotten him to the veterinarian in the nick of time after he’d started having accidents and was lethargic. As happy as I was that he’d made it, he was in his mid-teens and I always knew deep down he would get sick again one day. He started losing weight this past spring, his once-healthy appetite almost vanishing. He urinated and defecated where he wasn’t supposed to. He started spending hours hiding in the furnace room, then in our bathtub. Last week he all but lost the use of his hind legs.
I came into the house last Thursday evening after mowing the lawn and pulling weeds to check on him in my office, where I’d put him earlier that day. He was sprawled out on his side near my chair. His eyes were open, but he’d stopped breathing sometime after the last time I’d checked on him that afternoon.
Preparing yourself for the death of a pet is one thing. Actually seeing something you love cease to exist is soul-crushing.
We’ve now lost three cats in the span of one year. Oscar was 17 when he succumbed to kidney disease last July. Jeffrey, one of two 1-year-old cats we adopted last August, died last December of FIP, which caused plaque to form on his intestines that leaked fluid into his abdomen. Walter, Jeffrey’s brother, is the lone cat left in the house. He shares some traits with Oscar; he typically lets me know between 4 and 4:30 a.m. he’s hungry by sticking a paw in my face. He also can be affectionate as Frodo was, but he’s still young and has a short attention span.
Maybe in time Walter and I will forge a strong bond, but it will never be as strong as the one I shared with Frodo.
I didn’t mind cats when I was a kid – I grew fond of the two my grandparents owned – but I gravitated toward dogs. I also didn’t get emotional when a pet passed away. I didn’t cry when my parents had to put to sleep the Siamese cat – the one mom liked to tell me I’d attempted to throw a soup can at when I was a toddler – they’d adopted the year before I was born. I was the one who comforted my mom when the dog we’d owned since I was 7 developed pancreatitis and died when I was in college. I was sad when the cat mom adopted from our neighbor died when Cindy and I were engaged, but that sadness passed quickly.
Cindy and I both cried the day we had to take Oscar to be euthanized – he was our first kid, after all, as we adopted him a few weeks before Cindy found out she was pregnant – and we barely got to know Jeffrey before he died. The tears have come much more frequently with Frodo’s passing. I’m glad he didn’t have to die in a veterinarian’s office, and that he passed away at home with the people who loved him. Still, I’m glad none of the neighbors saw me sobbing in the driveway early Friday morning as Cindy loaded the box we’d put him into her car to take his remains to the veterinarian before she went to work.
Pets really do become family members, and there is real pain associated with losing one. Given the current shitty state of the world, not to mention the never-ending pressure cooker called Autism that has taken up permanent residence in our house, right now I’d give anything to find the mythical “Rainbow Bridge” Frodo has crossed and follow him across it.
Even as he grew weaker and became less like the cat we’d first brought home 10½ years ago, he still seemed to know when Cindy and I could use some cheering up. He hobbled into the living room about a week or so before he died. He no longer could jump on the couch without help, so we gave him a boost. He went back and forth between Cindy and I before settling into my lap as I watched television. I’d been working a lot and not getting nearly enough sleep, so I was feeling tense. The next thing I knew, I was waking up from an unintentional nap with Frodo still parked on my lap.
He was still taking care of me, even as his health was quickly deteriorating. He really was an incredible cat.