Passed away on Dec 20th, 2011.
Somehow I don't feel heart-broken -- sad, yes, but it's a kind of sweet sadness. Probably because he was quite an old cat (we don't actually know -- couldn't find his original papers, but he was about 17 years old), probably because we knew for quite a while it was coming.
Also, Chucha lived, at least in my opinion, quite a wonderful life for a cat.
My wife bought him in Ukraine (it was shortly before I met her). It's interesting how they chose that particular kitten. They went to a sort of bazaar in Kiev where they sell puppies, kittens, birds and all kinds of animals. It was a hot summer day, the bazaar was outside and all the kittens were sluggish and sleepy from the heat. All but that one! So, they chose him because of his lively character. My future wife called him "Chucha", which is roughly a derivative from "Scarecrow" in Russian.
His lively character proved quite an excitement in his early years, especially when, left home alone, he'd ruin curtains a thousand times, overturn flower pots, open kitchen cabinets and mess grains and flour... However, he never did it it out of malice and, in general, proved to be quite good-natured.
When we moved to the U.S., there was an option to leave Chucha with our relatives, but somehow it didn't feel right -- he was already part of the family. And so he traveled and became an American cat. He also had a bit of an adventure on the way: the flight was late for connection in Helsinki, and they didn't have time to reload the luggage. So, Chucha, who my wife checked in, spent a day and night somewhere in baggage areas of various airports...
While in Ukraine, as well as for the first few years in the U.S. Chucha was an in-house cat, but then we bought a house, and he started going outside. We were worried at first, but he seemed to adjust quite well. Would wander around neighborhood, crossed the street -- I was afraid he could be run over by a car, but he proved to be careful enough. Never got into any trouble, until a few years ago, when he got lost for two or free days -- but eventually came home, all wet, but unharmed. Caught some mice, jumped on the roof, climbed trees -- a perfect cat's life!
Funnily, he regarded my wife, his initial owner, as his superior, as for me -- he probably was considering me as his equal: like another cat, slightly bigger, but about the same in status. Occasionally, I would tease him and provoke him attacking me -- it's a pity we didn't catch on camera how he went on me, standing on his hind legs (apparently to look taller).
I also could "speak" to him: I could imitate his meowing (sort of "mr-r-a-a-a-w") quite successfully, and Chucha would respond -- and so we would "talk"...
Time went, and the years started getting to him. He became less active, wouldn't play any more (although still enjoyed sitting on my lap, purring). Couple of times he got quite sick for no apparent reason -- stopped eating and drinking, stopped doing anything but laying down. The vets weren't able to find what's wrong -- we'd just feed him water and chicken broth through a squirt, and luckily both times he got better.
Then, one day couple years ago, he really scared us -- we woke up to find our kitchen sputtered in blood. Chucha got a nose bleed and, sneezing, would spray blood everywhere. It looked like he was dying -- I remember carrying him outside to take a last (or so it seemed) breath of spring air... This time, though, the vets correctly diagnosed him -- Chucha became hyper-thyroidal, got hypertension, blood vessels burst in his nose. He was also losing his eyesight. On medication, he got better, and so our life went on for a while...
About half a year ago it became apparent that his time is about to come. He lost probably all of his eyesight -- would just navigate by memory, hearing, smell and touch. He also stopped going anywhere far from home -- good thing too, because at times he would become disoriented. We observed him once getting lost in the middle of our backyard -- somehow he couldn't determine the direction where the house was, we had to call to direct him. We stopped traveling anywhere -- leaving him in a kennel would seem cruel...
About a week ago he got significantly worse: almost stopped eating, wouldn't move much, stopped using his litter box. We went to the vet -- and the verdict was that his time had come: his heart was now failing, he started accumulating liquid around his stomach and lungs. They said it was probably the best to put him to sleep. We couldn't however steel ourselves to do it right there and took him home for the weekend, making appointment for euthanasia for the Monday morning. However, on Monday morning my wife asked me to postpone -- Chucha seemed to get a little better (or maybe we imagined this?). He ate some sardines, drank some milk, pooped into his litter box, peed, moved around a bit. At least, it seemed unjust to put him to sleep when he got better. And then we found him dead on Tuesday morning...
Yet, somehow, I don't feel as if he is gone. It rather feels like he went outside, and I half-expect to see him through the backyard sliding door, waiting to be let in. His unobtrusive presence in our house, in our family is so ingrained in our minds -- it's difficult to believe he's gone forever.
And really, who knows, maybe, he's still around?
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Last edited by ratman on Thu Dec 22, 2011 9:06 am, edited 3 times in total.