Friday, October 21, 2005

One Year Ago Today

In the fall of 1998, I was entering my second junior year at Fort Hays State University in Hays Kansas. I was a small fish in a small college pond of a small town pond. A typical weekend in Hays consisted of drinking from about 6:30 pm to 11:30 pm at someone’s house, then moving the drinking to one of the four bars in town until about 2:30 and then stumbling to late night party at some house that you were likely to never find. Periodically this routine was altered when there was booty on the horizon, which, for me was about once a semester.

This weekend was no different than most and after the club kicked us out, me and a small group of friends were walking to a party that we all knew about, but weren’t quite sure where it was. Normally, we just walked around until we saw a house with a handful of people outside and casually strolled up through the people to the refrigerator to see if they had any beer and stayed or moved on depending on the scouting reports.

Walking through the dark and empty streets, making normal drunk noises; singing, yelling, belching, whatever, I though I heard a non-normal drinking related sound. It sounded vaguely like a kitten, but I brushed it off like I do with most abnormal sounds that are the result of spending most of my student loan money on beer or vodka. We kept walking, but the sound persisted, I was the only person to notice it (even further proof that it was coming from my head). Eventually, I had to turn around, heed the voices in my head and risk ridicule from my friends by yelling out “Am I the only one that hears a damn cat?”

There it was, a damn kitten. About twenty feet behind us. It could have easily been confused with a piece of furry trash. Black and white and about the size of a can of Busch Light, screaming it’s little heart out at us, at me. It had followed us about two blocks and had the steely look of determination in its eye that made me think it would never stop following me.

At this same time, we heard the more familiar sounds of a ragin’ kegger around the corner. I should mention my soft spot for all things living (except clowns, clowns should be executed). My family has always had cats or dogs with varying degrees of success. Usually the cats live by sheer will and spend most of their life looking at us with insurmountable indifference, coming around only to eat and then leaving again. The dogs have always met some sort of strange demise such as jumping out of a car window or curling up for a nap around the rear tire of the family Oldsmobile 98 before Mom decided to go get some more milk. Maybe the sad, young deaths of many of our animals created some deep seeded guilt in me to constantly try to save the lives of animals.

It doesn't take a scientist to figure out that if this kitten followed us to a party in redneck Kansas, there was a pretty good chance that it would be bar-be-cued or fed to someone’s pet snake. So I took it upon myself to kindly tell the cat to turn around and go home, to which he responded, “Suck me tubs, I’m goin’ to the party…” (That may not have actually happened, I was pretty drunk, and this was a long time ago). My second option was to pick the kitten up and take it to the party with me, be its ‘protector’. This cat fit comfortably in the palm of my hand and bit me immediately before curling up and falling asleep.

Just a note to desperate men reading this (from the desperate man writing this); holding a kitten at a party is the best way to meet girls in the entire world. Moving on now.

After the party, I headed home, kitty still in my hands. While it was sleeping, I snuck a peek to find out if he was a boy or girl. It was a boy and would probably be very angry if he knew I was telling the world this, but he had really small balls. We got a couple blocks from the party and I put him down and told him that the free ride was over and he really needed to be getting home. I started walking off and so did kitty, following me, step for step.

At this time, I lived on Main Street. Like most towns’ Main Streets, this was one of the busier streets in Hays. He just wouldn't listen and would have probably gotten hit by a car in the morning.

“Ok Kitty, you can come in, but tomorrow, you’re ass is out of here. You’re sleeping in the living room, the bathroom is around the corner, and there are a couple beers in the fridge. Be quiet, I’m going to sleep.”

Fast-forward two years. Kitty moved all his shit into my house and stuck me with the small bedroom. My apartment was very large and was often the site of some of the same late-night parties that I protected him at in his youth. I think he had more friends at the parties than I did; he could defiantly out drink me, and the chicks he pulled, damn. He liked to bite and didn't take shit off anyone, especially me. I was his bitch. One of my friends had a black lab and they would chase each other around the house all day, neither backing down or getting scared.

Little by little, between Kitty humping my leg while I slept and sleeping in beer boxes (him, not me…most of the time) I realized that this cat was tied to me forever. I loved this cat and he loved me, in a very painful scratchy way. He followed me around the whole place; he sat in the window until I got home. He would sleep in front of the bedroom door when I was in the sack. All this time, he still didn't have a name. Most people called him Luke-Kitty, but other names were Fuckin’ Cat, Stupid Cat or simply just Kitty.

By this time, the leg humping and scratching was getting out of hand, it non-stop, like me when I learned how to spank it. All day, all night, it was hilarious. But it was also somewhat disgusting, so I decided to get him fixed and de-clawed. The first money I’ve invested into an animal and I wasn't happy about it one bit.

I took him to the vet and we were filling out the paperwork.

“Name?”
“Luke Hutmacher”
“You’re cat’s name is the same as your name?”
“Ohh, the cats name. He doesn't have a name.” I replied simply.
“You have to give it a name sir.” The vet replied.
“Ok, how about Kitty?” I said hopefully.
“Don't be a dumbass sir you have to give it a real name.” She said with an edge to her voice (many female vets are lesbians who don't take shit off anyone).
“I’ll give him a name if you quit calling him ‘it.’” I said with a smile on my face.
“Ok, ok, you have to name HIM.”

Man, this lady is going to shred my cat’s balls. I should be nicer to her.

My family has a long history of naming our animals strange names, often based on dead Jazz musicians. Not wanted to break the curse, I decided to stay in line.

“Coltrane”
“Coltrain?”
“No, Coltrane. You know, the greatest jazz saxophonist to ever life. Lived hard, played hard, died young?”
“I have no idea who you’re talking about sir.”
“I’m sure as hell not going to name him The Indigo Girls just so you approve. His name is Coltrane, write it down.” I can’t believe that I’m auditioning cat names to a vet.

And so it went, two and a half years after moving into my house, Kitty has a name; Coltrane. Thought up over the course of a five minute conversation with a gay vet who was going to charge me $250 to cut off my cats nuts and yank out his fingernails.

I think that was probably the last time I ever said the name Coltrane to him, but he still had a name. I immediately went back to calling him Kitty and my friends continued to hate him for biting them all the time (pussys).

Fast forward to last year around October 15th.

I’m living in Kansas City now and Kitty is still biting and pushing his weight around, he weighs nearly 21 pounds now and eats like a horse. I was living alone, traveling more and more and always looked forward to coming home to see Kitty. One night I noticed that he was moving around less than usual and seemed to be walking funny. I just assumed that he was getting way to fat and probably broke his leg trying to clean his ass. The strange behavior lasted through the night until I heard him moaning in utter pain in the middle of the night.

The sounds emitting from him scared the hell out of me and in the morning I took him to the vet ‘emergency room’. When I picked him up, he screamed bloody murder and I nearly started crying on the spot. The vet told me that he had kidney stones that were blocking his urethra (pee-canal) and that they needed to stick a tube up his pee-pee and drain the backed up urine out.

I ended up leaving him there for two days and on Monday, they transferred him to my regular vet, they also transferred about $1500 from my checking account to theirs, but I didn't care, I really wanted my cat back.

He spent about 4 days in my regular vets office getting better. It was about an hour from my office and I went to see him every day. He was so pathetic; he was so sore and just wanted everything to be over with. I agreed and wanted him back too. The vet sat me down for a serious talk.

“Luke, your cat has sand-sized kidney stones. We can get them out without surgery, which costs about $3000, plus the bill I have in this envelope from the past week he’s spent with us. We can let him go home and see if he starts blocking again, he may, he may not, we just don't know. This is a problem with male cats. Normally we don't like to discuss this, but this could get very expensive with unknown results. This is an instance where we would approve euthanasia if it happens again, but of course it’s completely up to you.”

Of course, I’m crying like a little girl, stuttering that I understand and hoping that he’ll be ok. The vet releases Kitty to me and I release another $1000 from my checking account.

That night I babied Kitty like he was a young king. Watching him closely to see if he was able to use the bathroom and I thought we were in the clear. I went to bed with Kitty sleeping next to me and I was starting to feel better.

I was awoken early in the morning of October 22 to the sound of my cat in pain once again and I knew that it wasn't good. The vet basically told me that unless I was willing to spend another $3000 on surgery that was no guarantee, that I would have to put my cat down and this is all I could think of.

I called the vet immediately and with tears in my eyes and a choke to my voice, I told her that Coltrane was blocking again and was in great pain. She asked me what I wanted to do. She was very nice and understanding about the decision that I knew I had to make but was unable to say.

“I think I have to put him down….” I was barely able to get out. Just saying the words made me want to die. I knew I just couldn't afford this and I knew I was making the right decision and I knew that my cat was in great pain, but it just hurt me so much.

“You can bring him into our office in three hours. Spend some time with Coltrane and we’ll see you this afternoon. Hang in there Luke, I know how difficult this is.”

The next three hours I cried like I have never cried before. The only thing I could say to Coltrane was “I’m so sorry Kitty, I’m so sorry. I love you so much, I’m so sorry.” I kept repeating it for three hours straight.

Right after lunch (like I could eat), I took Coltrane to his death. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. The little fur ball that followed me home from a party, the fat cat that used to hump my leg and would go toe-to-toe with a black lab on a daily basis was no more.

One year ago today, I put my Coltrane to sleep.
One year ago today, I turned 30 years old.

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