Our big cat Griffin -- big in heart, big in substance -- helped make our house a home from early in the summer of 2003 until last Friday -- about 10:30 a.m. on June 26. We’re not exact on when we got him, but we know pretty close to the time his heart stopped.
Ours kind of stopped a little bit, too.
He’d been with us longer than we went to public school. And, yet, it felt way too early when he left, the victim of something that wrecked his kidneys and made a happy cat so unhappy, so sick. One of our cats, Cyril, was 25 when he died. Others have been well into their teenage years. Griffin’s kidney’s simply didn’t want to go on.
My tenderheartspouse Martha has always had an extraordinary relationship with our animals. She has named most of our cats and dogs. I bring that up because Griffin’s complete name is “Griffin Oliver Powell.” The monogram on his handkerchiefs and dress shirts was “GOP.” But he was an independent, I hasten to add. Martha called him “Baby G” and “Biggie G,” depending on their moods. I loved to pick up his giant bulk, turn him over and rub his pristine white tummy coat -- he had a big purr. I miss hearing it, feeling it vibrate under my hands.
At this point, I’m turning the story of Griffin over to my sweetspouse Martha. She had the collection of most of these photographs. And she remembers so many things about her big orange cat -- we once took him to the vet’s office in his green traveling carrier. The vet’s assistant bent down to pick it up by the handle and nearly yanked her arm out of the socket. “What’s in this?” she asked, putting it back down.
For a while, we thought we might need to get an Exotic Animal Permit for him, but he never quite made it to Bengal Tiger size.
Here are my literatespouse’s thoughts about Griffin, starting with the day we were helping prepare her late Mom’s home for sale in 2002. There’d been a rainstorm, leaving the neighborhood grass wet.
Martha recalls: “Stray cats were not actually plentiful in that neighborhood where I had grown up, but here he came, strolling into the open garage. He was orange and white and friendly and looked about 10 weeks old.
“We took him around to a few neighbors who, as neighbors so often do, swore they had never seen him before. And so we brought him home and he became our cat and immediately infected our 1-year-old kitten, Annabelle Bob, with ringworm. [LARRY ASIDE: I’ll interrupt to note that the 2003 photo of the two cats looking at a snowy day from beneath the Christmas tree demonstrates that Annabelle Bob bore no ill will over the ringworm incident.]
“We got through that episode, they bonded within their shared confinement, and remained friendly the rest of their lives. I do not recall Griffin being much of a fireball as a kitten or young cat. Griffin was always pretty good natured and somewhat reserved, but then he never had much of a shot at my lap because the year before Griffin arrived, our cat, Poirot, had inherited that spot from Bob, my original cat, and guarded it zealously.
“Griffin really came into his own when his first Christmas rolled around. He loved Christmas trees. At first he wanted to climb inside them, but eventually gave that up for napping underneath. You could reliably find him under every Christmas tree we had for the rest of his 12 Christmases. Real or artificial - whatever crazy tree idea I could come up with - he appreciated it and slept under or beside it the whole holiday season.
“He was an unobtrusive cat, even though he was physically quite large. Not just chubby - he was what they mean when they say ‘big-boned.’ Big old head, long and tall. And chubby. He didn’t seek out a lot of petting, but petting was always welcome.
“He liked to sit on part of the kitchen counter within about 3 feet of the refrigerator door. Whenever Larry was getting something out of the refrigerator, Griffin would reach out with a claw from one paw and hook it right into to Larry’s spare tire. This was to indicate, ‘I need a treat.’ And Larry would give Griffy a treat when Larry stopped yelping from the puncture. This went on for years - I watched him train Larry, and yet somehow Larry was always surprised each time he got ‘treat tagged’ by Griffin.
“Griffin’s vet gave him about a year to live after he was diagnosed with kidney failure last year, and I think Baby G felt OK most of the time -- although he never liked the K/D (cat food) very much -- he was accustomed to wet food mixed with a different, not-quite-as-healthy variety. And no more treat tagging. He only began to drop weight two or three weeks before he died. He began to sleep about 30 hours a day instead of 23. We knew time was running out but when it did run out, he let us know. Griffin was virtually silent and I never heard him make a dozen sounds in his life until last week, when the kidney failure made him feel so ill, and so the first day he looked up at me and began to cry, I took him to the vet.
“I miss him now, in June, but I think I will miss him most at Christmas.”
Here are a few more photos from the "Griffin Gallery." That's an "art shot" Martha took a few years ago.
Then there's the photo of Griffin and Martha enjoying a "nod off" on the couch.
That puzzled dog is Baby Jane Doe, our Shepherd mix who was astonished to find she could not get into her security kennel because Griffin had gone in to nap.
The last one shows Griffy in one of his favorite sleeping poses -- I'd doctored the photo so he'd be wearing reindeer antlers. I wasn't sure he'd like the photo. But he did like that sleeping position. I didn't put him there -- you'd often find him draped across the back of the chair.
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