I received word today that my childhood cat, Rusty, has been put to sleep. Normally, I wouldn't write about the passing of a pet, but this one was significant. He was 17 years old. In cat years, that makes him a very old man.
Unfortunately, he was also in pain, arthritis was claiming him at a rapid rate, and he was slowing down day by day. It was just his time.
I remember that sandy-colored cat well, though. I was only 13 years old when he wandered into our yard. I was still living at home in Minneapolis -- just starting high school. My sister, Becca (younger than me), took a liking to him, and we started feeding the little guy. As we later found out, he was 1-2 years old, had his shots, was healthy, and very likely an abandoned former house cat. We asked around, but no one claimed him... so we took him in, named him Rusty (for the color of his fur), and he became part of the family.
Over the years, be provided much entertainment -- as pets usually do. He took to announcing the presence of the mailman every day. He howled loudly every time the snowplow roared by in winter. He kept the house free of any mice and insects, yet refused to eat his catch. He would zip around the house in his younger years, yet go hide in a corner whenever he ran into something. He loved to crawl inside paper bags. He developed a certain fondness for sitting in the kitchen watching my mom cook. And he was known to be very friendly and chatty, yet rarely ever begged for something. He was there as the six of us siblings grew up and moved away, and he kept my parents company as the house grew empty.
He was a good cat. Feisty sometimes, but always aware of when someone was sad or down. He wasn't always the best lap cat, but he loved to curl up beside whomever was sitting on the couch. He adored catnip, balls of any kind, yarn, and unguarded feet. He was curious, loved to watch the cars and birds outside our enclosed front porch. And he made sure people knew he was there. Not at all a shy feline. He was a beloved pet, and he'll be missed.
It doesn't sound as though my mom is going to replace him now that he's gone. I don't blame her. I think the days of having a pet at home in Minneapolis are over. But it was a good 17 years. My family has had cats, all the way back to when I was even younger and living in the country (we had many generations of outdoor cats back then), but I think Rusty will be remembered the most.
So, here's to that opinionated sandy-colored cat that kept us company for so many years. He's gone now, but his memory lives on in those who knew him well. Rest in peace old man.
Rest in peace.