My best friend is dying. Rufus is my orange tabby. My rock.

To remind me it’s all going to be okay, today he gifted me a heart. Made of pee. And clumping cat litter.

We have had a pretty longstanding agreement that, as soon as he is ready to stop occupying a deteriorating cat body, he is free to go. 17.5 years and he is ready. My vet predicts between 1-6 months, if I can get him to take the godforsaken prednisone. That’s a big if.

God love Cat vs. Human comics. Not a far stretch. Example, I had to get a tetanus booster shot today because I let him bite me the other morning while we were playing. My response to sighting my own blood; “Good show, old chap! Of course this strapping champion is going to outwit and best me from time to time.” I was totally impressed he’d slipped by me. (Let the record show that I had just woken up, and it was still dark in the room, so even with one eye, he technically had the advantage.)

I was 18 when he came home with me. Right when my relationship with my mom came crashing down and landed right next to my relationship with my dad. I was still trying to build my life around meeting their expectations; a child still looking desperately for the love that had been missing all those years. Cue Rufus. Cue the love. This cat raised me from a child to an adult. Who builds my life around my own expectations.

I had a super unstable bunch of years right after he moved in. Half my life ago. It’s taken him the same amount of time, showering me with love and loyalty, to undo the damage that was done before he arrived.

Only in the last year have I finally started to feel like an adult. Oddly, it started around the time when I started befriending my angry inner teenager. Point being: I feel like his work is done. I’m safe, I’m stable, I believe I will survive the grief of losing him, even though it will be immense.

I’m raised. And I finally understand unconditional love.

Shameless nostalgia:

When he was less than a year old, I was told to give him liquid Pepto Bismal with a dropper for some stomach trouble he had. The result resembled Jackson Pollock, going through a pink phase, using every surface of my bedroom as a canvas. If only the cat could have absorbed the medicine through his fur, because he ended up with as many pink streaks as he has orange stripes. In retrospect, I will say that I looked pretty rockin’ with the pink streaks that ended up in my hair. How I wish I was an artist, so I could do justice to the image that lingers from that event.



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