Big bear, little bear, buddy bear, baby bear… it didn’t matter that some of his nicknames contradicted each other, they were all his. Little man, lovebug, el gatto, monsieur. Our handsome dude, our big grey cat, our baby, Dagobert.
Unlike his “sister” Ophélie (a classic example of the independent, slightly-disdainful type of pet cat), Dagobert was all thinks-he’s-people love, our constant companion, so present in our lives. He sat in his own chair at the dinner table for every meal. He slept not just on the bed, but on a pillow, wrapped around my head. He welcomed us at the door when we got home, and followed us around the house all day. Every morning for years he’d get up with André, and then as André left for work he’d creep back into bed to nap with me. During the day he sat on my lap as I worked at the table, during the evenings he’d curl up beside us or at our feet. He’d sit on the edge of the bathtub as we showered, park himself in the middle of my yoga mat if I dared try to practice at home. He knew how to open doorknobs, and had a fully formed set of charades to demand for food. He loved to be “scooped” up and to be the meat in a hug sandwich (we often joked that all our affection for each other was demanded to be expressed as affection for the cat.) And yes he could be an asshole – flinging things while staring at us, jumping onto the table to eat a 1/4 pound of butter, stomping on my hair at 6am to get fed. Yet somehow we always managed to not just overlook this naughtiness, but actually dismiss it as part of his charm.
In 2010, just before we were about to travel to Nova Scotia to photograph my first ever wedding, he took very ill, and we thought we might lose him. Indeed, the first vet we saw recommended putting him down. Fortunately we sought a second opinion, and it turned out that with a simple medication he was able to bounce back. Our friends rallied like an incredible team – every single time we travelled for a wedding, or for fun, or for Christmas holidays, someone came in every day to care for him. He lost a lot of weight – from a max 22 pounds down to around 7 – but never lost his personality.
Unfortunately borrowed time must eventually run out. When we returned home from our trip to Phoenix we noticed that he was acting a bit differently, but it didn’t seem serious. It escalated quickly: on Thursday I noted that he was hurting, and Friday I read the signs and spent the day crying, petting him and telling him how handsome he was and how much we loved him. We took him to the emergency after-hours vet clinic, leaving him there in a heated kennel, with an IV sticking out of his paw, so hopeful that he might bounce back. That didn’t happen, and it was only about an hour later that we got the call.
What should have been perhaps the most romantic Valentine’s Day of our lives turned into the most devastating, wrenching mess. I’ve experienced death, heartbreak, the loss of a friend. Just not all of those things at once. Dagobert was 19 years old. 19! The human equivalent of 93. He lived a long, long, happy life and was incredibly spoiled; his decline was blessedly swift. We got every minute of love we could get out of that cat, and he leaves a huge hole. The grief is overwhelming, and we are slowly getting through it.
He didn’t photograph particularly well – he hated the camera and as a result all of the pictures make him look serious and kind of mean, but anyone who knew him knows that he was the most huggable, loveable, personable squishy lap cat in the universe. And we miss him so terribly much.
Continue reading Eulogy for a Cat