Thursday, June 1, 2023

Gilmore - That Cat - Is Gone


The last four-legged member of the Davidson troupe is gone. Gilmore has taken his last breath. Acute renal failure took him at 13.

Gilmore arrived in the Davidson Shelter for Wayward Animals in the oddest of ways. While walking the runway one sunny day, Ginger heard what she believed to be a stressed baby bird. Slowly triangulating to the sound she stumbled upon a slimy little fur ball out of its element.

Barely a few weeks old, square in the middle of the runway, his attendance to this place would have been inexplicable were it not for another four-legged critter named Bair; our black lab, of loveable fame, was prone to grabbing baby things and carrying them in his mouth without damage. It was the only logical explanation. Yet, it was also an unnecessary explanation. The kitten didn’t care how it got there. He wanted, and needed, care or he was going to die.

I was away flying when I received Ginger’s message saying she had found “something.” During a few spare minutes between flights I called to see what it was. To be clear, when she told me I was not excited. We already had three dogs and a cat living in a thousand square foot home.

However, Ginger explained it was so young it couldn’t eat solid food and given its extremely young age it probably would not survive without perfect care. That’s all I learned before my free time expired. When I landed again I called for an update.

Ginger had been online, found the chemical/nutrient composition of cat’s milk and put her mind to work finding those items. Unsurprisingly, she had gone ahead and home-brewed a batch. All she needed was a way to get it down his throat. With that, my time was up again. One final leg and I would be home.

A few hours later, on my way to the house, I pulled into a drug store and bought a dropper. Arriving home with this item qualified me as a temporary hero. It was exactly what Ginger needed. Before I could sit down the little thing was taking excited swigs of Ginger’s snake oil. A concoction our vet would later marvel over.

A day or two later one of us took a photo we’d eventually refer back to a hundred times or more. Despite having grown significantly since Ginger found him, the little kitten could still fit in a shoe. Walking, however, that was a problem.

When the little guy had enough strength to be active he pulled himself along with his front legs. Worried he would never be able to walk, due to early separation from his mother, we contacted our vet again. The news we received was that it wasn’t that odd and he might very well develop normally if he continued to eat GSO. Before long, he was running around the way kittens do.

Feeling he was going to survive, and that there was no room at the inn, we began looking for someone who might want him. The task would not be easy. There were not many people we would trust to give him proper care. Thankfully, some good friends stepped up and that weight left our minds. There was, however, another growing problem. Every hour he spent with us made it more difficult to give him away.

A week later we told our friends we couldn’t let him go. This presented a new problem.

At five animals the household was over capacity and the newest addition struggled to fit in. Our cat, “Meatball,” easily one of the chilliest cats to ever exist, was not happy. Gilmore was a different beast. Uncivilized and oozing with sarcasm, he drove Meatball crazy. Nevertheless, Meatball was sick and that problem soon, and sadly, rectified itself. A few months later, with the original Davidson feline gone. Gilmore, as we had named him, eagerly filled the spot.

Right then, for the briefest of time, everyone was well. We’d take evening walks and all four of them would follow. Every member of the gang knew their place in the world and brought seemingly endless amounts of joy, and vet bills, into our lives. Gilmore was the joker.

When you spoke to him he’d always talk back. If you scolded him you received the attitude of a teenager. When you said hello he’d make a little squeak, run somewhere, and flop on his side hoping you would pick him up. If you asked him random questions, “How you doin’ little dude?” he respond with a sound appropriate for the query. “That cat” was so vocal we came up with things to say to him just to hear his response. He was never-ending entertainment on four legs.

Much of this came from something we learned raising Meatball. When Gilmore was young we picked him up hundreds of times a day. If we walked by him we’d grab him, turn him over, upside down, grab and lightly squeeze his paws. This conditioned him for human interaction and came with a useful bonus. When your cat is easily handled veterinarians love them, and in turn they get better care.

Later in life Gilmore realized it was more fun if he pretended he didn’t want you to grab him. Ginger would tell him she was going to scoop him and he’d run – far enough away to make her run but also to a spot she could easily reach down and lift him into her arms. Once there he’d purr with every stroke.

Looking back, perhaps the best part about him was that he was “my cat” when he was good and “your cat (Ginger’s)” when he wasn’t. Somehow, though, we both claimed and disowned him multiple times a day. Odd how that works. Maybe it had something to do with the litter box or whose turn it was to give him insulin injections.

In truth, it’s amazing Gilmore made the age of thirteen. Seven or eight years into his life he began to get cranky, have random problems, and cause us infinite issues. Long story short, he had kidney stones.

One surgery later, and his post-op bloodwork completed, we learned he would be on insulin the remainder of his life. With that, Ginger jumped into action again, this time training Gilmore to readily accept the shots. The biggest headache was the insulin and needles.

There were times it felt as though all we did was make needles for Gilmore. Other days were spent finding insulin and rock bottom prices. Then there were the days we expended great efforts to glue glucose meters to him – yes, that’s a thing. Whatever he needed, we made sure the little joker received the best of care.

Unfortunately, there comes a time all the effort isn’t enough; nature wins out.

When I learned Gilmore’s kidneys were done, I was days away from home. A week earlier Ginger and I had noticed him lying around more than usual and not eating. After a short discussion, we made him an appointment with a vet hoping it would be something solvable. It wasn’t. Gilmore was experiencing acute renal failure.

That night, as I sat him my hotel room, Ginger told me the news and we made a decision. The experience of the last few years made the conversation much easier than it should be. For one brief moment years earlier, our home sheltered five cherished animals. Since then, as they say, it had been the long goodbye; one of them leaving us for good, every other year or two, until the only one remaining was the cat named in honor of the world’s fastest lion.

Everyone who really knows us knows we love dogs. However, anyone one can love a dog because they love you. Cats are a different story.

For a person to develop any kind of relationship with a cat a person must be willing and able to pay attention to the animal, listen for clues to its mental state, observe its body language, consider its age, understand how food affects it, and consider every possible action and sound that could possibly strengthen the bond between human and animal. This is why so many folks describe cats as “assholes.” They’re just like humans. All successful pairings are the outcome of hard work and understanding.

The downside to all this effort is what awaits you if the animal “goes” first. With all the effort put into a cat, there are seemingly endless, unique, little, exchanges that come to be. Those small things, the ways you interacted with each other, serve as never ending moments of melancholy when you’re the last one standing. Where once there were the unexpected treasures of life, there are pockets of space wherein those things will never again occur.

Raised with dogs, Gilmore displayed many dog like habits. Whenever you came through the door he was there. Ginger would lay in bed, call his name, and he’d come running to lie on her chest or at her feet for the night. When I sat in any chair, he’d be on my lap within fifteen seconds, no matter where or what time of day it was. Now I just sit.




Gilmore has been gone for almost two months now. I wrote this shortly after the little shithead pulled his final joke on us and left us behind. He was such a part of our lives I still sometimes see him at the door when I come home; whenever the curtains hang away from a window I expect to find him behind them enjoying the sun. Today I sat in my chair and leaned back to make room for him. Bummer.

Losing this little guy was different. When we lost animals before Gilmore, we always had others to take care of. Today our house is empty. The energy his life brought to our home was certainly underestimated. Yet, none can replace him.

He is missed.

Meatball, Sky, Ace, Bair, and Gilmore