It was sometime in 1995. I had just gotten back from a field service trip to Canada. I made it back; my baggage hadn’t, and I was none too pleased about that. One of the perils of traveling for a living. Anyhow, I got home to find Samantha, my seven-year-old daughter very excited … and a tiny bundle of butterscotch fur on the sofa!
“Daddy, Daddy, we got a KITTY!” she went on, clearly as pleased as she was thrilled with her new acquisition. Apparently, someone down the street had kittens for sale, a fact lit on by my daughter and subsequently … here he was! I had a look at our new arrival. Tiny he was; I could hold him with one hand and have room left over in my palm. He couldn’t have been more than two months old, probably not that much. Even with the exhaustion of the day’s trip and problem with baggage, I found that I was pleased with our new resident.
Still, first on the agenda for the near future was a trip to the vet for this little fellow. I had a friend I used to bowl with who was a veterinarian who I figured was as good as any to scope out our new-found friend's medical condition. Next day after work, I wrapped took our as-yet-unnamed pet in a towel and took him to my friend for a look-over. Initially, all went well until the doc took our new friend’s temperature and noted a fever.
“Could be a sign of feline leukemia,” he stated, matter-of-factly. “We need to test for it.” My heart sunk. Feline leukemia is badly debilitating in cats and requires a lot of attention (and money!) to treat, and I’ve heard more than one comment about the preferability to simply put the suffering animal down. I hoped fervently that would not be the case, not for the sake of my daughter. Thankfully, the test came back negative. Seems our kitten had a slight cut on one paw, enough to cause the fever. Doc gave him his shots, including one for feline leukemia, and pronounced him fit to go home.
As for a name for him, I wrestled with a few. He was tabby-striped like a Tiger and a friend of mine had once had a Tiger-kitty. Still, I couldn’t get over how small our new friend was, and with that as a basis, our new friend became “Munchkin.”
Munchkin quickly became a very beloved part of the household. He knew his name, or at least responded to it more often than not. Munch very much enjoyed being brushed and occasionally “asked” me to brush him. I would tell him pointedly, “If you’re gonna be brushed, you gotta flop!” I’d repeat that to him once or twice, whereupon … FLOP! and I would go after him with the brush. I would swear that I became his person, too, as he would actively seek out my lap when I was seated and on occasion actually come when he was called (very un-cat-like!).
Munch had one behavior, though, which floors me to this day. Occasionally when I picked him up, he and I would go nose to nose. Most cats don’t seem to like to do this, but Munch never seemed to have a problem with it. Indeed, he would take it one step further. Not every time but sometimes, he would munch my nose. Not lick it, not bite it, but just munch it with his mouth, a gentle and amazing gesture which meant what, I really don’t know. Still, if there were ever something that truly sealed the deal between me and Munchkin, that was it.
Our family did its share of changes, with Samantha going off to school and my first wife and I divorcing, but Munch seemed to cruise through it reasonably well. Then I got the email note in June of 2013 that let me know that Munchkin’s buddy, Keiko had been put to sleep after a long illness. We had gotten Keiko a year after Munchkin joined our family and those two got along famously, practically from the get-go. I couldn’t help but think that this would be a blow to my aging feline friend, whose own health had been flagging over the past couple of years. In fact, it was roughly half a year later in January of 2014 that I got another note, letting me know that our wonderful orange fur-ball had gone as well.
There have been new times, a new marriage and new kitties whom I dote on and enjoy and love. For all of that, Munchkin still has a very special place in my heart and always will. He was a sweet cat and my bestest buddy … and I love him to pieces.
Thanks. Another eye-leaking story.
Thanks for another wonderful cat story, Loren! I read it´s the same for you - our cats stay with us, even if they´ve been dead for a long time. Which doesn´t mean anything supernatural, but the memories are so deep that we automatically recognize the cat shapes in random objects. We remember our cats´ jokes and almost hear their comments and we wave to long departed friends.
Chris, I have loved all my cats, one way or another, but Munchkin was someone very special, back then, even as Morris is for me right now. It's about rapport and the attitude each of us had toward the other which took what was there beyond the ordinary.
Pets are special, I think, because they don't BS us. They let us know how they feel up front, no game-playing or sophistry. That's the norm with them in a way it is not with other humans, and we're not used to that, I think.