13 September 2016

The Life of Igor


I keep waiting for him to come around the corner, his long nails clinking on the hardwood floor, jump up on the couch, yawn so that I can smell his horrible breath, and snuggle up for the rest of the day while I rub his nose.

Igor. Igs. Iggy-baby. Iggy-poppin’. Igsa-poppin’. Stravinsky. The Golden One. The Soft One. My little old man. My baby boy. Stinky butt. Stinky breath. Cuddlebug.

Igor came to me in such a mysterious way in November of 2004. When I first adopted Sabine, I also adopted her sister, Teresa. Teresa met with an untimely demise shortly after their adoption. At the time, I was working full time and had just started my graduate work in Charlotte. Because I was rarely home, I felt it was unkind to leave Sabine by herself for 12-14 hours a day. Very quickly after Teresa’s death, I sought out to adopt another cat. I found the cutest tuxedo cat at a rescue outside of Charlotte. My mom and I traveled down to check it out. While I was checking out the tuxedo cat, my mom came across another cat. He was shy. He had this beautiful golden fur. I remember so clearly, my mom said to me: “You should get this one. This is your cat. I know it.” The woman at the rescue told us his story. He had been found as a kitten out in the woods. He was the only one found. It was suspected that someone had dropped the litter out in the woods and likely that owls had attacked the others in the litter, but this one kitten had survived. Despite all the odds, he was rescued. She had named him Cubby. 

And so I listened to my mom. And we took him home. At first, he was terrified. He hid under the couch for days. Sabine tried to be friends with him, but he wanted nothing to do with either one of us. And then, slowly, with bribes of chicken, he came out from the couch. Within a couple of weeks, Igor, as I decided to name him, began to spend time with Sabine. Within the first month, they even cuddled up together on the couch.

My favorite early memory of Igor has to be his first Christmas with me. Since I had recently lost a cat, I did not feel comfortable leaving Sabine and Igor at home alone, so I took them with me to my mom’s house for the holidays. In the middle of the night on Christmas Eve, I woke up to hear something rustling in the Christmas tree. I nervously jumped up, walked over to the Christmas tree, pulled open the branches to discover that Igor had climbed up the tree. He was about halfway up the tree, howling away. 

Igor had many friends and many homes over the course of his 12 years. He lived in Charlotte, Nashville, and Flagstaff. He was Sabine’s sister and also, Biscuit (who we lost earlier this year). When we lived at the beach, Igor was in love with Gravy, a male vagabond cat who wandered the streets of Myrtle Beach. Every single time Gravy showed up on the porch and jumped in the window, Igor would lose his mind rubbing up against the other side of window, desperately wanting Gravy’s attention. During our years in Nashville, Igor became somewhat of a mascot for 7th Avenue North. He would sit in the window and garner all sorts of attention from the folks passing by. He earned all sorts of nicknames from my fellow graduate students. Everyone talked about his soft fur. And how incredibly sweet he was. One time, Art made a faux-mustache out of his fur. He had so many amazing aunts and uncles who helped to take care of him and his sister Sabine over the years. So, I must thank Ashley L., Michelle, Ashley A., Art, Amada, and Marisa for always stepping in.

I always thought that Igor was a peculiar little fella. He was sensitive. He deferred to Sabine. When it would storm outside, he would run and hide. He loved the sunlight. He loved food. And he loved loved loved to drink out of the toilet. But most importantly to me, he was a snuggle bug. He almost never left my side, with the exception of when I let them out on the porch and he’d spend almost all day in the sunlight. Throughout the years of writing my dissertation, Igor would perch next to the computer or sit in the chair behind me. He slept next to me almost every single night. And he never liked it when I had overnight guests, because it meant he couldn’t be next to me. 

Igor started to get sick after my first year here in Flagstaff. And he never really recovered. We had him on meds, but they seemed to do little to help. Honestly, I thought I would lose him by last Christmas. But he kept hanging on. I started to read articles about how you decide when it is time to put your animal to sleep, because the one thing I really did not want was to watch him suffer. In the last month or so, we had changed his meds, because he kept losing weight. We put him on another med, a steroid. And he seemed to feel better. He seemed like he was putting on weight and he had more energy. I was looking forward to taking him to his next vet appointment, where they might tell me that his thyroid levels were good and that he had gained some weight. I was planning to take him in the next couple of weeks. 

This weekend, Igor and I spent much of our time on the porch. He sat in the sunlight. It wasn’t until Sunday that I realized something was different about him. He kept his distance. He got sick. He didn’t want to eat. He secluded himself to the downstairs bathroom. And I knew something was not right. I had that feeling. That same fucking feeling that I’ve had since the first person I lost. But I had hope. When I went to bed last night, Igor didn’t come upstairs with me. I couldn’t sleep because I was so worried about him. About every hour until 1:30am, I walked back downstairs and checked on him. He was crouched in a corner, resting. One time, I picked him up to get in bed with me. He stayed for a moment, then, he went back downstairs. I walked down once more to check on him. While I was about to fall asleep, I heard him yell out. As I laid in bed, I thought to myself, that’s it. But I didn’t get up. I think I couldn’t really handle it at the moment. When I woke up this morning, I looked over to the pillow and saw that he wasn’t there. And again, I had that feeling. I knew. I walked downstairs immediately to find him. He had collapsed in the downstairs office. He had one paw in his mouth. I can only imagine that his heart just stopped working. He didn’t fall sleep and die, no, he collapsed. Right there on the floor, all alone. When I saw him, I reached out for him. And I discovered that it had finally happened. After a year and a half, I had finally lost my lil’ old man. My best buddy. My sweetheart. The love of my life. 

When Igor first got sick, I remember thinking that I didn’t want him to suffer. I spent many hours reading about when you make “that decision” for your animal. I always closely monitored his health. I always felt that if I ever saw that he was suffering, we’d make the hard decision. And I take solace in the fact that for him, it was quick. Actually, I take solace in the fact for me it was quick.

 It’s hard to let go of Igor. If anyone was my co-pilot, it was him. He was always right next to me. When I slept. When I worked. Every single day, he was right next to me. He even followed me to the bathroom. And so that is what makes it so difficult. Because at every moment, I keep looking for him. I keep waiting for him. Igor was never just a cat to me. He was my best friend. He was my constant companion. He was my best friend. He was my catpilot. 

Photo Album of Igor 


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