The very first time I met Cardiff he jumped straight into my lap. I already had an idea from doing a little research on Virtual Pet Adoptions that "Hank" might be the kitty I wanted to bring home from the Berkeley animal shelter to be a friend for Richter, but I had to convince the volunteer there I actually wanted him to open the cage. Cardiff had already been in the shelter for several months having been brought in with a urinary tract blockage that his former owner didn't have the money to treat and was destined to be on a special diet for the rest of his days. He was also known for being a bit of a growler. But as I sat on the floor next to his cage and reached a cautious hand in to scritch his face, he strode toward me and startled me by leaping right into my arms. That was the instant he became a one-person cat, and I was that person.
I've been crying at the drop of the hat for the last two days, every time a memory comes back to me or I see his ghost around the house. The night I brought him home from the shelter, as soon as I was in bed he jumped up near my pillow and pushed his head under my comforter so that he could curl up right next to me under the covers, and I hadn't spent a night at home without being lulled to sleep by his purr for the last four years. Every morning as soon as my alarm went off he would climb up on top of my shoulder and perch there like a mountain lion, purring away some more while he waited for me to finish hitting the snooze button. And then when I finally threw back the covers he would head straight for my feet and rub his furry little head all over them. The nights and the mornings without him have been the worst.
I miss his raspy tongue licking my face. The way he would sit on the toilet and watch me wash my face, just waiting for the dental floss to appear so he could leap onto the sink and try to snag it. His thoroughly aggressive form of snuggling, where he would shove Richter out of the way and settle down hard. How insistent he was about being on my lap whenever I was sitting down. His perpetually-switching tail. His little face waiting in the window for me to come home, and his paw stretching toward me as soon as he saw me. How he would sit on my lap and growl at everyone else at salons. The time he barked at someone sitting on the couch. How he would try to attack various electronic devices, like the phone while I was talking on it. His trying to bite my pen while I was writing with it. His ninja kitty moves against the ankles of those he deemed intruders. The swat-fights with Richter. His head resting on my shoulder as he slept on the back of the couch. The big tall stretches up the door frame. The quick running leaps from the floor to my bed to the top of the dresser to finish his breakfast or his dinner. How he would drink with his entire chest in the water bowl. Him warming his butt by the heater. His version of relaxing, with paws still clenched. Catching him snuggling with Richter. His snores as he slept curled up in my sweater. His bell-like meow outside the closed bathroom door, telling to hurry up and finish my shower. His resemblance to a river otter. His closed-eyes happy face. His squinty-eyes grumpy face, especially when I woke him from a nap. His saucer-eyes worried face. When his tail would go all poofy. His growl when he heard someone coming in the gate. The swats from under the bed, under the table. Hearing that Patrick had to sleep under mosquito netting to protect himself from his attacks while he was housesitting. His intensely focused birdy-watching from the living room window. His slinky walk. How he was just starting to enjoy having his belly rubbed. His delicate white-socked paws. His white bib. The white hairs on the back of his ears. His long whiskers. His soft, soft fur. His velvet nose. His always having to be on the counter when I did dishes. His coming over to put his paws on my knee when I was sitting down. How he would lift his nose up to mine for a kitty kiss and close his eyes happily. He did that just before I handed him over at the vet, the last time I saw him alive.
I didn't know that was going to be our last goodbye. Even with his medical issues I thought we were going to have years together yet, and there is a giant roly-poly-kitty-shaped hole in my heart right now. I pulled together a photoset of all my pictures of him on Flickr, which is helping me remember the infinite number of good moments we had together and not focus on that last tragic morning.
I love you, Cardiff. You were a good cat.