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A cat like no other.
That's what The Senator was.
Age and ailments brought his Earthly trip to an end on Monday afternoon, March 14, 2022. 

3- 15 sen 2014This is being written on March 15. The Ides of March, a significant day in literary history, as fans of William Shakespeare’s drama Julius Caesar may recall.
To borrow from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and twist it to fit the situation, “His life was gentle…Nature might stand up and say to all the world, ‘THIS WAS ONE WONDERFUL CAT!’.” 
The Senator was, however, beyond Shakespeare, beyond Earth. He was — and is again — one Heavenly Cat.

We'd been working with The Senator's vet to try to get the little guy to rebound, but it just wasn't to be. The decline began 3- 15 sen watcha couple of months ago. Lost weight, was not quite so active, became disoriented — appeared to be a kidney problem. Though his “numbers” were good, his fate was sealed by whatever we could not discover inside. He lost weight, lost his ability to smoothly navigate the climb to his dinner table. But he never lost his ability to respond with a loving gesture. [That's the photo I posted when I wrote that he was working on a dance routine for the Radio City Music Hall Rockettes' holiday show after the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.]
3- 15 sen first used photoWe made adjustments. He made adjustments. He never complained (not even years ago when I put a watch on his head and shot a photograph to illustrate a time change story!).
Of all the beings in the house — animal and human — he was the one who never complained.
That was his style from the day we met him in 2008. He was already an adult cat. Five, maybe six years old. When he left, he was around 20.
We had a feral cat colony living around our southern Oak Cliff neighborhood in Dallas. It took us 20 years to trap, neuter, release or adopt the adults and get as many kittens as possible into no-kill shelters.

One morning, among the crowd of diners, there was a cat sitting alone, waiting his turn at a dish of cat food. 
Polite fellow. Sort of black and gray 3- 15 sen 2016 back of sen's headpatches of assorted sizes on white and with a hairline that looked as if he’d had hairplugs inserted. 
I opened the door onto the front porch. The “regulars” scattered, leaping through the protective bars the previous owner had installed to make a large “cage.” 
But this lone cat didn’t run. He looked up at me with his big dark eyes. [LARRY NOTE: From behind, he looked like he was wearing the face of another cat!]
This was no street cat whose destiny should be scrabbling for meals the rest of his life.

So, I asked, “Want to come in?” and he answered by rising slowly and taking very deliberate steps through the door and into the front hall. I bent down and petted his head and said, “Welcome.”
3- 15 narsenatorWe already had a few indoor cats -- all our cats are indoor cats. At mealtime, those rescued cats sometimes had the manners of hungry teenagers around a hot pizza after soccer practice. 
The Senator waited until I showed him where he could eat and drink. Then, with the casual, steady, slow movements he used his entire life, this cat made his way to the food dish and slowly, quietly ate. 

Because of his “hair plug hairline” — and because he didn’t carry any ID papers — I began calling him “The Senator.” Lots of guys in the Upper House had he same hairline way back then. The photo with Martha, taken last week, shows his magnificent hairline.

Back to his style of moving. Martha explains his way of moving this way: “The Senator had a unique way of moving. Slow moving. If you have ever seen an animatronic creature at a museum or Six Flags – that kind of moving. No whipping around of the head to follow squirrel or a fly or a toy. Just sitting, stolid and dignified, and slowly moving his head until the object he wanted to see was in view.
When he’d walk across a room, conversations would stop so speakers and listeners could marvel at the scene.

Clearly he’d been someone’s cat at some point. Our old Dallas Zip Code is famous or the lack of attention paid to spaying and neutering and 3- 15 fsenator porche earlthe results.

We called The Senator “The Miracle Cat of Tarryall Drive” — he was the rare “Dallas rescue” who’d already been “fixed.”
The Senator loved sitting in a lap and being petted. My theory has always been that someone moved away and left him behind. People do that.
I figured, perhaps, he’d been some nice old lady’s cat and been cherished by her. But the surviving relatives were dumb enough to think “He’s only a damned cat. Who cares? Besides, he’ll love to be outdoors.”
Their idiocy paid off at our house. 
[LARRY NOTE: I snapped that photo several years ago when I caught Earl, aka Texas Earl the Cheeseman, my rescued Rottie, trying to relax in the recliner while Porche Noel flopped on top of him as The Senator held on for the ride while the rockin' recliner coped with the movements of about 80 pounds of dog! The Senator did not protest!]
When he showed up at our house, The Senator was probably about five or six, our vet said during The Senator’s first visit on our watch. Beloved Dr. Vladi de Jong (rest his soul!)  could not resist picking up The Senator and cuddling him — The Senator cuddled back.

The Senator quickly accepted the routines in our house -- it wasn't the Senate but it was where he could be comfortable and meditate on the nation's future, I guess. And he loved to be picked up by Martha for an exchange of pets and purrs.
Martha recalls, “When guests came to our house, he would wait for them to settle down, then slowly make his way, one by one, to their laps. He would allow them to pet him, gently head-butt his ‘thanks for coming’ and move on to the next person.”

She also remembers one more very interesting “style” of The Senator:
"He didn’t meow. He had a unique, piercing, baritone cross between a yowl and a moo. It meant, ‘Hey, where is everyone?’ or ‘Alert! The dog is in my spot on the sofa’.”

And Martha wrote, “This unique sound was familiar to us but hard to explain, for instance, to startled Zoom participants who heard it in the background as I worked at home the past couple of years.”

The Senator and I shared many quiet moments together. We also experienced hours and hours of working together. 
He’d wait until I was at my 3- 15 snew years hedbutcomputer and ready to start tapping the keys. Then, he’d get into my lap, turn to face me and purr.
And, in his first day as trusted advisor and office cat, he head-bonked me, shoving his face and forehead into my beard as a way to say, “I’m on your side. Now, let’s get busy typin’ for money.” [LARRY NOTE: I managed to snap that selfie one morming a couple of years ago as he head-bonked my big nose to the side -- I was watching the news and he was interested in setting an affectionate tone for the day.]
3- 15tUSE THIS PLATFORMNow and then something would inspire him to suddenly move onto the desk and walk across my keyboard.
 Sometimes he’d flop onto my desk and sleep next to the mousepad — or on my mouse.

But what he really liked was “The Office Cat Platform” I created for him. It was a wooden TV tray with magazines or maybe a comfy blanket folded onto it like a thin mattress. Whatever was on it, he could find comfort. He loved to sit on that thing and watch me type. As I typed, sometimes he’d slide down into a curl-up-and-sleep position and nod off, waking now and then to get a bit of cuddling and head-bonking. 
He especially loved being held. My rescuespouse Martha, a veteran at bringing dogs and cats home from the streets, adored this cat. He adored her.

We were both with him Monday when he left us., petting him, telling him how much we loved him. 
Yeah, if you’d been there, you might have seen some discreet tears from two people who love our cat The Senator.

And today, March 15, is the first time since 2008 that we have awakened without getting and opportunity to say the words, “Where is The Senator?” and having him look up at us as if we were worthy of his glance, his headbonks, his purrs ... If only humanity could follow, his example of living with other beings without spats and conflict.

3- 15 hannah at christmasThe Senator was such a peaceful cat. 
When we had visitors, the dogs would bark madly and the other cats would vanish. The Senator was a gentleman. He enjoyed meeting new people. He enjoyed being with the grandkids, Hannah Rose, Emily Grace and Connor. He particularly loved being held by our animal-fan granddaughter Hannah Rose.  That's them at Christmas. Hannah Rose, "the family artist," was intrigued by his slow-moving, peaceful deliberate nature and gentle soul. Our daughter-in-law, animal fan Erinn, loved him. Her husband (our baby boy Bart) and Bart’s twin Bret (older by 2 minutes) — both animal lovers — found The Senator to be a fascinating fellow.

I probably spent more time with The Senator than anyone else in the family. After all, he was my advisor, my editor, my inspiration for some sentences and some deletions — i.e., my calming influence.

What if I happened to be out of sorts? I’d pick him up and pet him, hold him, let him shove his face into my beard and purr.
3- 15 sen 2016sen at work 3- 15 sen 2016sen at ed commentHe appeared to know there wasn’t anything going on with me that couldn’t be squelched by a big ol’ calm cat purring peace throughout the soul!

In his service as “Office Cat,” The Senator oversaw writing of many, many dog and cat and “other” animal stories. He endured the typing and recitation of unpublishable poetry. [He was reading one of my short stories and solemnly (left) explained (right) that my opening paragraphs were making him drowsy. i rewrote the story.
The Senator came along after my quarter-century career as a columnist with The Big Paper Downtown, but he did help shape columns I wrote for a decade for the great Bob Walton’s Urban Animal Magazine. 
And he’s been beside me and helping with inspiration in tales and yarns for 3- 15 which began before he joined the staff. 

In addition, he helped me write a couple of books and many short stories and writing many other projects still waiting for completion. He also helped me edit my friend and former Dallas Morning News colleague Bob St. John’s final book, House No. 5 (Paradise on Paros), a delightful story of Bob and his artist wife Sandy (an animal fan, too) and romance and history on the delightful Greek Island. [LARRY ASIDE: I’m not sure The Senator never visited Paros. He had the demeanor of someone who’d traveled with the Diplomatic Corps. I did help with one of his successful political campaigns years ago.]

3- 15 senator mestevierayHere’s a reality: Spend such a load of time at a typewritin’ keyboard and you going to need a friend you can turn to and receive affection and an understanding of the simple joy of existence without trying to advise you.
The Senator is that joy.
While waiting at home for the clock to move on Monday, I spent a lot of time cuddling The Senator. I managed to take this photo of him as he lay on my arm and gently, sweetly purred. To the right of my bearded chin, you see the face of the next generation -- Stevie Ray Treeboy, the cat I pulled out of a mimosa tree about 10 feet from the porch where I first met The Senator. Perhaps Stevie Ray will have learned something from his elder advisor.  My relationshp with The Senator raised my appreciation of life's events.
As a person of faith — a flawed person of faith — I know that The Senator hasn’t gone to Heaven, I know for a fact that he has GONE BACK TO HEAVEN. 
He’s one of the many guardian angels sent to try to keep me from taking the bad steps I’ve had a tendency to take. I’m sure some of you know this sensation of feeling as if you have an unexpected protector. I refer to it as "the theology of following the examples of peaceful beings."
And here, as I reach the end of this written tribute to a cat who made a difference in my life, I simply, tearfully, sincerely type this:
To my friend, The Senator: Thank you from my heart. You are a cat like no other.