Off to Chase Unicorns


art by HooliganLili


A week ago, G made one of the most difficult decisions of his life.  He decided to put an end to Garbanzo’s suffering – his cat of 19 years was no more.

Technically, G and I picked out Garbanzo together – he was our cat. But he clearly had a thing for G, so he became G’s cat.  We sought out a kitten after we took in a friend’s older cat who yowled for two weeks solid, and it soured us on an idea that an adult cat may adjust to apartment living.  To be safe (given our apartment was a no-pet place with a cat tolerance), we needed a well adjusted cat.

I doubt we would ever have called Garbanzo well adjusted.  He was a feisty Siamese that showed more intelligence than his litter mates.  Even on the way home, we discussed names when I jokingly said “We should name him Garbanzo” pointing to the sign of a restaurant in NW Portland that had that name (it is no more).  We often joked it was a funny word to say “G-A-R-B-A-N-Z-O”.  We would say it and compare it to say gazpacho or gazebo.  But that day, I said Garbanzo and the cat answered me.  And we knew we had found his name – Garbanzo Bean.

Garbanzo came to us with a broken tail.  The place we had gotten him was going to pay for any medical expenses – so they sent us to the vet they partnered with.  And I got my first lesson in West Coast Vets – they are very geared towards the “pet owner who uses their animals as a replacement for children”.   “We can save it” was the vet’s mantra as we tried for six weeks to “save the tail”.  Garbanzo clearly was not happy with it – not hurt, just annoyed by it not working as it should.  I recall taking him into the vet one day for a check-up, the vet declaring that our current tactic was not working, and I pointed out to a shocked vet and vet tech that “the tail is crunch, there is no saving it, chop it off already.”  What can I say – I’m an Iowa girl – we say it like it is.

$500 of someone else’s money and a tail-less cat later, we had a happy kitten who then proceeded to wreck everything we owned.  They like to tell people to clip the cat’s nails – start when they are a kitten, and it’ll be fine.  Or, cap the cat’s nails if they are scratching.  Yeah, not with a Siamese.  Touch their paws and be killed.  He would expertly sharpen them on the scratch post, then use them against us as we walked through our apartment.  He shredded a couple of skirts.  The most impressive was his 2am attack of my feet in bed one night. I tossed him from the bed, he grabbed with his claws, and it was something out of the cartoons as he left claw marks shredding the sheets.

When he lost his balls, he also lost his claws.  It had gotten to that point.

He never lost his feistiness.  He instead changed his aim.  When people came into our house, we had to warn them.  Garbanzo is going to lure you into petting him, he is going to roll onto his back, and he is going to encourage you to pet his white belly.  “Do not fall for it -it’s a trap” is what we told people.  And people fell for it every time.  He would get that gleam in his eyes like “bwahahah – I draw blood tonight” – and blood he would draw.  Many a person he almost sent to the doctor.  Vets and their techs feared him. Sedation was almost required.  He was just too good at his game.

He was also very neat and tidy.  You petted him while he was doing his ritualistic bathing exercise, and he would look at you with an exasperated look – and start bathing all over again because you had soiled him.  When we got our other cat, they became friends only when he decided she was not clean enough, would chase her around the house, pin her to the ground, and thoroughly bathe her to his standard. Over time, we would find them curled up bathing each other.

We decided after moving into this house that he had convinced all of the strays that he was a political prisoner.  He would sit in the window, call to his minions who would dutifully congregate below his window, and yowl his message to them at all hours of the day and night.  We dubbed him “El Frijole: The Leader of the Free Frijole Revolution”.   Until near the end, he did this.

While he slowed down and all, he never lost his feistiness.  When we got Maggie, he showed signs of no longer caring.  He lost weight, and we often joked his annoyance with the world was what kept him going.  We tried things to get him to a stable place. But in the end, watching a 19 year old cat hobble through the house, seeing him lose his fight, seeing him lose his cleanliness – well, it was time for his era to end.

G laughed when Garbanzo hissed at the vet in the end.  He had been too nice to the vet the last few times.  His record of biting the vet and requiring sedation was tarnished by his recent tolerance.  I guess, in the end, he showed his hatred again.  When they asked if we wanted a paw print post-mortem, G declined citing the fact the cat would have been pissed if he knew post-mortem that someone was going to fuck with his paws and make them dirty.  So very true.

19 years.

He marked the start of our marriage. The start of our lives post-college.  The start of my work life.  The start of our life in Portland.  He yowled and bitched and moaned with DJ came home.  He tolerated Bob the dog – hated Harry – and thought Indigo was okay.  He was a good bean.  I am happy he got 19 years.

Our house is not the same without him.

But we smile knowing he is off hunting unicorns – they don’t have a chance.

What do you think?

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