Death in the Urban Wild - monday 2012-03-05 0733 last modified 2012-03-05 2000
Categories: Daily Grind
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A stray cat is a risky proposition. Sure, it could be domesticated, socialized, house trained, and - jackpot - free. Or it could be a ball of furry death, ready with its complement of sharpened ends to make short work of every inch of exposed dermis you present. You just can't tell by looking. Sometimes they appear adorable and hide death behind their eyes. And sometimes their open adoration is shadowed by a fearsome aspect.

So it was with Monster, nicknamed for the terror he inspired in pretty much everybody. Monster was enormous, over twenty inches front to back, mostly black, a look of hate permanently plastered on his face and a meow like the curse of a hissing crone come to foretell your impending doom. After months of pilfering kitty chow, he brazenly approached the front door one day, issuing his eerie wail, and when I belatedly realized he was transfixed by my lunch as opposed to infecting me with rabies, I eventually dared to step out and surprisingly found a very social cat, rubbing his dirty-as-sin head against the nearest leg and immediately ready to crawl into a lap on the slightest hint of its availability, constantly trying to come inside to a home.

For twelve days, Monster took up on our property, getting a dedicated food dish and a petting whenever anybody who could stand to touch his matted fur or hold his bulk without collapsing was around. He ruined a futon, stole food, and staked his claim on entire porches. On day eleven, his evident respiratory problems came roaring to the fore, and he barely ate. On day twelve, late in the evening, his breathing heavily labored, I took him to an emergency vet, who informed me with kindness that his best and generally inevitable option was to be put down. A couple short minutes to say farewell, and he was gone.

It's a lot of firsts. My first trip to the vet for the first euthanasia. The first time I've liked an animal enough to write about it in public and claim it as my own, and the first time I've lost one.

Other than death's unremitting reminder that no time is guaranteed, these dozen days serve as a totem to look past the outside for the good within. And not just with stray cats.

Farewell, Monster. I'm glad you picked my porch.

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