You may have noticed that I haven’t been blogging in recent weeks. There’s been a lot going on in terms of our move, but mostly I just haven’t had the heart. My beloved cat Smokey was diagnosed with a cancerous mass in early July, and on Tuesday we had to make the heartrending decision to let him go before he started to suffer. Smokey was my baby—I loved him with all my heart, and he loved me back. And so as I do with all my family members, close and distant, I want to honor his memory on my blog.
Smokey was born on March 23, 2008, in Southwick, Massachusetts. We had been looking to adopt two kittens after losing our last surviving cat Lily in the fall of 2007. I saw an ad on Craig’s List for a newborn litter, and we went out to Southwick to check out the new kittens. The kittens were born to siblings—the people had three cats, all black and white tuxedo cats, one female, two males—and the brothers had impregnated their sister. I was a bit concerned about the genetic consequences, but decided to ignore the issue.
There were six kittens—five of whom were black and white tuxedos, not surprisingly, and then there was Smokey. He was gray and white—the oddball in the litter. In fact, the family was referring to him as Oddie. I knew I had to have any cat who was an oddball. We asked the family which kitten seemed most friendly, and they pointed to a female, and she was our other pick, and she became Luna.
Here’s Smokey the first time we saw him. He was just a few weeks old.
We had to wait a few weeks until the kittens could be weaned, so we returned on Mother’s Day in 2008 to pick up Smokey and Luna. Luna was, as predicted, friendly and outgoing; Smokey was shy and hid under Maddy’s bed until he was sure we were safe.
He and Luna were bonded tightly—slept together, played together, and bathed each other. And soon they also bonded with our dog Cassie, who treated them like they were her babies, allowing them to cuddle up and knead their paws into her soft belly like she was their mother.
Smokey and Luna were inside cats only, but they loved going to the Cape and watching the birds and squirrels and chipmunks in the yard outside our screened porch.
When Luna died unexpectedly in the fall of 2014 when she was only six, I was shocked and devastated. I worried about Smokey. But although he seemed to look for her at first, he soon adapted to being the only cat. But when Cassie then died in June of 2015, Smokey was bereft. He started chewing on his leg, leaving a raw bald spot. Maybe he was picking up our sadness. Hard to know.
So to ease our pain and his, we adopted two new kittens in August of 2015—Zoe and Chloe. We brought them to our Cape cottage from the no-kill shelter in Provincetown and opened the carrier, waiting to see how Smokey would react. He sniffed, hissed gently, they hissed gently back at him. And then they became his babies.
Just as Cassie had allowed Smokey and Luna to pretend-nurse on her, Smokey allowed Zoe and Chloe to do the same. He bathed them, protected them, played with them. And he never again chewed on his leg. He was just happy to have his new babies to love.
Smokey remained shy forever around strangers, but with his family he was frisky and friendly and so affectionate. He was the ultimate lapcat—always happy to sit on me or next to me or with Harvey, squinting his eyes with love, rubbing his head into us to get us to give him some attention. He slept next to me every night, quietly curled up near me. When I sat in my chair working on my computer, he would jump up and squeeze in next to me, and as soon as I put the laptop aside, he would jump right onto my lap and sit there for as long as I allowed him to do so. He was my constant companion, a comfort when I was sad. He never resisted a hug or a kiss.
He was also well traveled. He first lived with us in Longmeadow, then adjust easily to our move to East Longmeadow in 2009. He loved going to the Cape, and he even tolerated the ten-hour drives to Florida and back. And I feel so lucky that he also got to spend a few weeks in our new house. In fact, he adjusted more easily than Zoe or Chloe to the newest environment. Here he is in the new house.
This photo was taken just a few days before he died. He was as beautiful then as he was all his life.
After he was diagnosed, he tolerated being given meds every morning without ever growling or hissing. In fact, other than the time he hissed at Chloe and Zoe, I had never heard him growl or hiss at all. He continued to act like he always had until just a week or so ago. But when he stopped eating and no longer could jump up on the bed by himself, I knew his time had come. It was both a hard decision and an easy one. Easy to know we were doing the right thing for him, hard to give him up, to say goodbye to our most precious, most gentle, sweetest cat ever.
I miss him so much. I see him out of the corner of my eye when I’m not looking carefully. I reach for him at night, but now Chloe has taken his spot on the bed. Chloe and Zoe will help to fill the hole that Smokey has left in my heart, but there will always be an ache, something missing from our home and from our lives.
Rest in peace, my sweet boy.