I will never get over you Otis. I can only hope to see you again. You know exactly how I feel about you.
Otis is my favorite animal of my entire life. He is gone for now and I deeply miss him. The following is a description of Otis that I made before he passed away. I have added to the eulogy just because I have remembered a few more of his qualities. As I add to it, I will keep it in the present tense, as it was written while he was still here.
He will do anything to avoid confrontation, with any cat or anything else. That said, he stinks right now because he got into a skunk two nights ago (late Sept. 2013). Everywhere he goes in the house now, the room he has been in smells like skunk musk for awhile. That's ok, it does not last that long.
I've known Otis for most of about 15 years now. But it was only recently that I began to try to get to know him. You see, years ago he came into the house and started backing his rear end up to furniture and "marking" it with his urine. I did not know it at the time though. All I knew was that I saw stains on some of the furniture. I finally put two and two together and then I caught him in the act. He got a swat across the ass and did not like me since then. Now he does like me because after losing Reggie (the calico in this gallery) I decided to coax Otis into the house by feeding him. I wanted him in as a companion. I remember the first night he came in. Matt had given the OK for me to take him in. He crouched under a rocking chair, unsure of this place with me in it. But I soon made him feel good about me and everything was OK after that. I think it is safe to say that Otis is a timid cat. Oh….he does not mark the furniture now.
But he does sit and stare at me with those beautiful eyes and often sleeps on my lap when I am watching a baseball game. Otis is old now and I am aware that his kidneys are beginning to fail. I enjoy him while I can and buy him the best food. He even gets tuna fish that humans buy for themselves. What the heck! With eyes like that looking at you.....wouldn't you do the same thing?
Otis has been an outside cat by choice....his entire life to now. In his prime he would spend every night outside, even all winter long. Every night, all night....all winter in Maine! Now folks….that is cold. He used to be quite a mouser, finding them quite easily. He was not a killer of birds....only the Boreal Red-backed Vole, which is the very common "mouse" species here in Southern Maine. Now he catches nothing........ except skunk juice :).
Otis belongs to Matt next door. But he stays here much of the time. I wanted Matt's assurance that he was not going to euthanize Otis because of his age. He assured me that he was not going to. Whew!
So I just keep taking care of him. I am trying to curb his all-night habits by holding him inside till about 4-5 a.m. Otis is so timid about expressing himself to go out. I let him know that he is not going to be going out all night anymore. Winter is coming and he is too old for it. He does understand how I feel about it. At about 4-5 a.m. I often wake to Otis's very quiet, timid meows outside my bedroom door. I get up and let him out. We have a deal now.
April 20, 2014: I began my day at about 6 a.m.. Just a few minutes later Otis showed up a few feet away, calling me. He was concerned about something and was trying to get my attention. In this situation I can always stall for a few minutes by simply dropping my hand close to the floor and luring him in to my petting. I was sure he wanted to go out. It was a sunny, windless morning; the temperature was quite tolerable and so I decided to follow him to the back door and let him out. He likes to take a particular, round-about route to the back door as he leads me. But this time he stopped halfway along the route. He had never done this before. I wondered why he stopped. Then I noticed the fresh vomit on the hardwood floor. He had just vomited and came to get me. He took me to it and then stopped. I cleaned it up and petted him, consoling him and hoping that he did not have something wrong inside.
Otis had his own bedroom at my house. It was across the hall from my bedroom. I left my bedroom door open several inches and he would visit whenever he wanted. He jumped up onto my bed and I would give him a petting and scratching. The unique thing about Otis is that whenever he and I approached the bedroom door and he wanted to come in with me…..he always, without exception, would not enter my bedroom until I did first and then made an obvious effort to invite him in. There is no other reason for this other than the fact that Otis was honoring the fact that it was my bedroom and he needed my permission to enter it and he always entered only after I did. Countless times Otis would stop at the door and wait for me to gesture to him to enter and only then would he enter.
Otis, I cannot tell you how much I miss you buddy. Otis would get on my lap when he wanted to and I would go through the same routine always. I would scratch and pet him and gently hold his head on both sides, lift his head and give him kisses on the top of his head. He loved it.
I do not have time now, but in the near future I have to write about Otis's enjoyment of people and his visits to the veterinarians. But for now, I have to go to sleep. Tomorrow at daybreak I head out to photograph loons and bullfrogs!!
Otis (1998 to May 30, 2015)
Otis's death this morning is easily the most traumatic I have experienced in my life. The grief I am experiencing deeply exceeds that which I experienced during the death of my Father and the death of my Mother. And I deeply love my parents and always will. They were both outstanding parents. They loved me for all the years I knew them. I deeply miss them and believe that I will see them again.
Otis's death even exceeds the intensity of the grief I remember when I had to say good-bye to the only dog I had....Ricky, back in 1964.
The reason for the intensity of this is because of the purity of the relationship that I had worked at and slowly developed with Otis. I was always sweeping his fur back on the sides of his face while I faced him. At first he avoided making eye contact. But over the last year, he would look directly into my eyes. I would hold his face, gently lift his head, bend over, make contact between my lips and the top of his head and repeatedly make a particular gentle noise each time. This imprinted him in a positive way. He enjoyed it. I always worked at reassuring Otis that he was the best in my heart and that I loved him. And I did love him. I openly loved him. You see, I needed that. I was an alone man and I reasoned that if I loved Otis and won his approval that he would depend
The morning Otis died I was hurrying to ready my canoe and truck for a dawn excursion to the pond of my boyhood. There were loons and bullfrogs to video and photograph. There was my first documentary to make of nature. I was excited. I never forgot to take care of Otis....never...not once. I had spent much time pondering if I should take him with me in the canoe. The final decision was that he probably would not enjoy it at all. Whenever I was preparing to leave the house, I always, without fail, pondered in my mind what was best for Otis. Should he be let out? Is it too cold? Has he had his daily medication? Why did I do this? I am a man who lives alone. Otis was my very best friend. I was closer to Otis than to any human. I made it that way. I knew just what Otis was going to do because he did not hide one bit of behavior from me. I learned him. He had no conscience and so had not reason to hide anything, even if he was capable of contemplating that. I believe that these animals are created and given to us as a gift. My gift back to them is one of total love and devotion. I get more out of the relationship than the animal does, far, far more. I was taking care of Otis and he would have nothing to worry about.....except that he was very old and had to live with the discomforts of old age. Otis was very near the end of his life. Last night he came to my bed at 2:30a.m......jumped up, gave his "Yeow"... and woke me. As I always did....without exception....I showed him love and affection. When he came to my bed and woke me, I always received him with gently attention....never once pushing him away or off the bed. I always welcomed him and petted him. I knew he came because he needed attention or reassurance and so I gave it to him.
This morning I made a last minute decision to let him out in the pre-dawn duskiness to enjoy the morning. He loved the nights most of all. And in his very old age I would not allow him out at night. Besides, this morning I would be back home in less then 3 hours. I knew he would be right in the area when I got back. He would either be in the driveway or up the street two houses, where he enjoyed visiting.
When I left I was very careful to make sure he was not under or around the truck....but not careful enough. I started the truck and very, very slowly crept forward....taking the chance that he would move if he was under the truck or near it. But he had gotten careless in recent days. To be fair to me...Otis was very near his last day of life. He was very, very old and weakening. August 2014 he was diagnosed with a hard mass tumor on his intestines, and it would eventually kill him. He has been on prednisone since that date. I kept him very comfortable, well hydrated with clear, clean fresh water, and a great variety of foods. I spent much time learning just what he loved to eat and I constantly worked at keeping his favorite foods well-stocked. Just yesterday afternoon I bought him a fresh bag of catnip. I doted on him all the time and he liked it. Otis was my best friend because that is what I wanted and I groomed him for that. I wanted to see how close a man could get to a cat. Otis trusted my in EVERY WAY! In the end, that is what killed him. I went to the pond of my boyhood and enjoyed the place and the loons. I returned about 9:30 and saw Otis lying in the driveway. I hollered to him and wolf-whistled to him. He did not move. But, that was normal. Again he was very, very old. I knew he would move when I backed up next to him with the truck. As always, as I backed, I kept him in sight in the side view mirror. As I approached him I knew something was wrong. Quickly, saw he was dead. I was not overly grievous at that point because I knew the end was near for him anyway. But then I noticed his eye was half out of his skull. Quickly, I ran through my mind which animal could have killed him. In a matter of seconds I realized that he had been crushed....by a vehicle. I tormented myself with who could have done such a thing. Then I considered that it might have been me who drove over the side of his skull. Then I realized that it had to have been me in the early dawn light. He did not move as I very, very slowly crept forward. He had not moved when I started the truck. I was moving super, super slowly. That was not enough. In my exuberance to get to the pond, I failed to get down on my knee and look under the truck. Just yesterday Otis came over to the truck after I returned from the pond and laid down right in front of the front tire. I placed an orange safety cone atop the hood to remind me to take him out of there before I left. But my exuberance to get to the pond caused me to be just a little lazy this morning. I thought Otis was off some distance when I moved the truck. I killed Otis. Looking at his body with his legs splayed out and one eye popping out is killing me.
This took a big piece of my life. A very big piece. I am not interested in living now. I only hope that Otis will forgive me. I was in the deepest grief this morning when Matt showed up next door and I told him. Matt was comforting in several ways. Otis was Matt's cat. He had Otis since Otis's birth, at the same time Matt was engaged, in 1998. Otis came next door and lived here for about a year with my parents. Matt told me that Otis came back home after a long time and Matt noticed that Otis smelled of pipe tobacco. Dad was a lifelong pipe smoker.
I may recover and I may not. If I do not, you will know what happened. I am locking myself in and grieving now. I have lost my very best friend....because I made it that way. I got more from the relationship than he. It took everything I had in me to say goodbye and put that dirt on his face. it was the last time I will see him. I love you Otis.
Following is a eulogy written at another time:
Love is, as Love does.
It is a saying my Mother gave to me and I shall never forget. It is the utter truth.
I've known Otis all his life. But it was only in the last 2 years or so that I decided to take him on, to take him in, to be his protector, to extend his life....to love him. With that decision I made him the center of my daily life. I love to go to northern Maine in Summers. With Otis, I gladly decided that while he was around I would not have the freedom to go anywhere overnight; and I did not. I know that animals can be traumatized when their owners drop them off somewhere.
Looking back at 2014 Otis images I "see" something different. He looks like a much young cat than what he looked like when the images were originally captured in 2014. I learned that my perception of his "oldness" was much more critical when the images were taken, compared to his "oldness" in 2015. It simply means that I need to temper my judgment of .........
If one looks at the Otis images of 2014, he looks to be generally middle aged. But at the time the images were taken, everyone perceived him as being a very old cat.
Here is why Otis was the nicest animal I have known. Although I would not say he was a social cat, he did have a select, small group of people he actively sought daily.
His first choice was Matt and his family, next door to me. Matt said that Otis was probably born in 1998. It was common for me to see Otis on Matt's deck, staring at me, but never deciding to come to me...even though it was clear to me that nobody was home next door. He chose that place first.
The Cat Carrier.
I learned that Otis could not be transported without being in the cat carrier. Several years back I took him for a ride, thinking that he wanted to be with me all the time. It was just a few minutes into the ride that he squatted, with back to me and defecated on the comforter I use as a seat cover. I did not get angry at all. In fact, I chuckled, gagged at the odor..... and just felt love for him. It was he who was upset enough to defecate and I who put him in the situation. Love is as Love does. I cleaned after him and washed the blanket and learned he was not to ride out on the seat again. Although somewhat reluctant to go, Otis always allowed me to put him in that box. He did not like going in it, dreaded being pulled out of it at the Veterinarians, but was totally relieved to go back into it at the end of the visit....LOL.
I want to thank you all for the wonderful attitude at Stoneledge.