Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Rumors of Oz's Death are Greatly Exaggerated

Am I really going to write about my cat? He does such interesting things! What a rascal! Little Ozzy. Ozzy-wozzy-wozzy-wozzy!

Yesterday morning I thought he was dead, and I was so happy. Oz is 19. I've been impatiently waiting for him to die for years. My wife found our small black cat at a Boston pet shelter in 1988. This was when she had an apartment in Jamaica Plain, and I lived in poverty in Somerville, editing Street Magazine and occasionally temping for money.

I now think of this as my boiled potatoes and shoplifted cheese period.

Carolyn chose him because he was throwing himself against the walls of his cage when she visited the animal shelter. He seemed unusually desperate for adoption.

As it turns out, he was just stupid.

Oz is one of those pathetic animals who was removed from his mother too early and never recovered. If you pet him, he'll immediately start kneading your legs with his claws. Or he'll climb until he can rub his little cat breath teeth along your ears. Some people might be into this, but I'm not. It's sweet, but really annoying.

We have compatibility issues. We're just looking for very different levels of intimacy.

Whatever patience we once had for Oz pretty much dried up once we had twins to deal with. Our good cat died two years ago, leaving Oz bereft and needier than ever. It was a downward spiral. He has become an annoying presence that requires feeding and frequent litter changes. The love is gone.

The day before he'd peed on our bed again. That was twice this week. We're getting really sick of washing the comforters. We put a litter box in our bedroom, but it didn't interest him. Carolyn was nearing the end of her patience. I was ready to kill him by around the fifth time, but my wife, she's a Quaker, and has more respect for life than I.

But this time, even she was done. Oz is old, frail, and senile. I said I'd investigate the logistics of legitimately offing the cat.

I should say that our children love him, and abusively stalk him every chance they get. They're four. He used to outrun them, but he's slowed down and they've sped up.

His new found popularity has been a big lifestyle change for him. He reluctantly lets himself be petted, usually because he's been pinned to the ground. We intervene on his behalf when we can.

Another of his endearing traits is his habit of waiting outside our bedroom in the morning and filling the air with piercing cries as we awake. This generally wakes the girls.

But this morning, there was no Oz. His litter, which was just changed was unused. He was gone.

Carolyn greeted me as I awoke with the news. Oz is dead. We have to find his body before it starts to smell. She had to get going. I dressed the girls, made their lunches, and made a determined search before getting them off to day care. No luck.

At work, I told everyone the good news. The fucking cat was finally dead! Hallelujah!

I asked advice on whether I should discuss death with the girls, or just never speak of him again. My co-workers sensibly suggested I go the more direct route. Adam even suggested that I enlist the girls in the search for the body. Brilliant.

"Now Twin A, B? Remember Oz? He's gone now, and he's not coming back. And somewhere in this house is his dead body, and we need to find it before he begins to smell. The first girl to find a dead cat gets a chocolate chip. Ready? Go!"

I told Adam that this is why his kid will need therapy.

I left work at four to go look for my dead cat. I looked everywhere. I cleaned out closets. I searched underneath furniture with a flashlight. I pulled the washer and dryer out and I looked behind the water heater. I looked through cabinets and drawers and on shelves. I was running out of options.

Carolyn got hamburgers for dinner so we could continue the search without interruption. As the girls ate their grilled cheeses, they started talking about how they'd been up petting Ozzy last night while we were asleep. Then, apparently, Twin A roared, and Oz ran away. Then there was something about playing in the backyard.

We looked at each other.

Carolyn went out back and found the cat underneath the shed. He was hungry, but perfectly OK.

Twins A&B had gotten up sometime after I went to bed at midnight, played with the cat, opened the back door and frolicked for awhile in the yard, and then put themselves back to bed, where we found them this morning sleeping like a pair of angels.

Now, after the happy reunion, it just seems wrong to have him killed. That must have only been number seven or eight.

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