A few weeks ago, I was waiting in line at the post office and, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I had the pleasure of listening to one side of some guy’s phone conversation. This was a weird dude, and lots of odd things were said in his half of the conversation, but the thing I remember was when he said his dog was like his buddy; he said he’s always had cats, but cats aren’t/can’t be buddies. He seemed to be advocating a “cats are just kind of there” perspective.
I thought at the time how sad that was for his cats. While I can certainly appreciate his feelings toward his dog, if Cassady was my reflection and Elsa was my soul mate, Ezra was my buddy.
I adopted Ezra in January 1997, just a few months after moving to California with Cassady. At the time, I was working three part-time jobs to make ends meet and I had this notion that Cassady would like a feline companion when I wasn’t there. It turned out I may have been wrong in this regard and she would have preferred to be an only cat, but bring home Ezra, I did.
I selected Ezra from his littermates because he was the perfect mix of affection and adventure. While his brother was off playing and paying me no mind, and his sister was very timid, not playing or showing much interest in me, Ezra would go off and explore and play for a little while, then come and climb my pant leg to sit on my lap and purr for a few minutes before joining his brother again for another romp.
Over the years, this remained the overall state of affairs. Ezra was perpetually mischievous and always in the exact middle of whatever I was doing. Every morning he would jump up on the sink while I was doing my hair and putting on my make-up; if I failed to pay him enough attention, he would quite deliberately start swatting items off the counter. I distinctly remember one occasion when I looked up and saw him sitting on the toilet lid watching me, the end of the roll of toilet paper in his mouth. As soon as I looked at him, he took off running, unrolling the whole roll at lightning speed.
When I first brought him home, I was living in a little studio apartment so options were limited for the slow, separate room introduction with Cassady. For the first week or so, Ezra stayed in my bathroom. No matter where we lived after that, the bathroom was always his happy place. Ezra showed no sense of concern for a person’s privacy, busting through the door with such force it would swing wide open, sitting on the edge of the tub, and watching as the water came down.
He always wanted to be in whatever room Steve and I were in, and would follow us from room to room over the course of a day or evening. Ezra was just quietly present; any time we’d look, he would have taken up a spot on a couch or in a cat bed. On other occasions, he’d make an entrance, noisily warbling around a sparkly ball cat toy in his mouth and presenting it at our feet before settling in with us on the couch.
He loved to snuggle, spooning with me every night. In the evenings, we’d have computer time; I’d sit in bed, working on my laptop, while he would lie next to me, dosing with my hand on his side. Every so often, he’d get up and make the rounds, saying “hi” to Steve, before coming back to lie by my side. Steve affectionately called Ezra a mama’s boy. He was my pal and for years I greeted him with “hey buddy!”
He was an incredibly happy cat, quick with a deep, rumbling purr that I swear started if you so much as looked at him. From the way he would confidently saunter down the middle of a hallway – none of that slinking close to the wall business for him! – to the times he would launch himself six feet straight up and cling to the top of the front door so he could peer out the window at us and let us know he really wanted to join us, Ezra never approached anything with half measures. As I remember examples of his enthusiasm for everything, I find it difficult to encapsulate it in a few sentences; he just had a great exuberance for life.
Ezra, distinctly unlike Cassady, loved other cats. Of course there were the usual introduction tensions, but once things settled down, it was obvious how much he enjoyed having other cats around. He seemed to really come into his own once we got Elsa and HB. In his great desire to play with Cassady, who had no real interest in him, he had become quite a bother to her, pestering her terribly. With the addition of Elsa and HB, he stopped bugging Cassady so much and took to playing with and grooming his girls frequently. Steve and I began calling him Uncle Ezra, he was so good about taking them under his wing.
The last year and a half has been quite hard on Ezra. He fell into a bit of a funk when Elsa died in December 2012, but was hanging on okay. It was worse when Cassady died last October. She had been in his life since he was 8 weeks old, and, in spite of her outward disdain, she did comfort him when he was distressed by a claw clipping or other trauma, licking his head gently. Cats can and do grieve, and Ezra took Cassady’s loss quite hard.
Through the winter, Ezra would meet us at the front door when we got home from work, less with his past excited “where have you been and where’s dinner?” eagerness, and more with an almost urgent need, howling at the door until we could unlock it and come in. We started a new greeting ritual, Steve or me picking him up and snuggling him, while the other would pet his head. Ezra could be held like that for a good 5 minutes, reaching out to place one paw on the person petting his head, purring deeply all the while.
Ezra had been pretty well holding his own for a long time as we tended to Elsa and Cassady in their illnesses. After Cassady died, he began to decline, steadily losing weight over the last four months. We tried so hard to stabilize him, but this decline became steeper in recent weeks as the illness that was lurking in his belly overtook him. For a cat who has always gotten such pleasure from the companionship of his feline friends, I suppose it only makes sense that we would find him on that unfortunate path that so many widowers find themselves on, passing away shortly after their long-time spouse has died.
Ezra was my boy. He and I were great comforts to each other in our recent losses, and his decline over the last two weeks was very sudden and unexpected. I will be honest, I am at a bit of a loss with how to deal with this right now. As I said to Steve a few days ago, it feels like we barely have time to finish grieving for one before we are trying to cope with the illness and loss of another. For the first time in 19 years, I will go to sleep in my own bed without one of my cats pressed firmly against me. Ezra was a punk, a mama’s boy, an uncle, a monkey, and a friend. He was my buddy, and I will miss him very much.