Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Riles. Rile Dawg. Kilo Riley. The Big Boy. The Dude. H.R. Fluf n' Puf. Yellow Fang. Big Guy. Ri Guy. John Wayne. Chief Big Paw. Mr. Cat. Mr. Boo. Mr. Big Fluff. Boo-Berry. The Stay Fluft Marshmallow Cat. Rilos: The Paws of Fate. Sweet Boy. Sweetpea. Love Bug. Grampa (in his later years). The Notorious C.A.T.

Just a few of the nicknames I had for my beloved Riley, who passed away last week after a long and happy life. He was sixteen years old and his kidneys had just about given out, so last week I made the painful decision to put him to sleep. I set the appointment for Thursday, but (being an independent soul), Riley died on his own the day before--the morning of Wednesday, May 14. Like Fleetwood Mac, he preferred to go his own way.

I didn't know Riley when he was a kitten, but he must have been adorable--just a little ball of fluff with ears and a tail. His previous owners bought him from a Maine Coon breeder when he was a wee one, gave him a dorky show cat name ("Just Clowning Around"), and a home for the first seven years of his life. I assume that they loved and cared for him as best they could while he was part of their family, but I have no way of knowing that for sure. I do know that they surrendered him to the Indianapolis Humane Society in January of 2000, because (according to his chart), their granddaughter was allergic to him. (First of all, I'd have gotten rid of the granddaughter before I'd given up Riley, but that's just me--I have more compassion than most people. Secondly, there is something called allergy medication. Duh.) But as lame as I think his first family was for giving him up, I am obviously very grateful to them for doing so. If they hadn't taken him to the shelter, I would have missed out on the most wonderful cat ever.

Riley came into my life in early 2000 when my ex-boyfriend Rick and I were looking for a second cat--a companion for our cat Shelby to hang out with during the day while we were at work. We stopped by the Humane Society just a day after Riley was dropped off by his previous owners. When we first saw him he was scrunched up in a far corner of his cage, petrified by the strange sounds and smells of the shelter. Rick and I took him into a glassed-off private room to see how he reacted to us and Riley sat quietly on my lap (a testament to how terrified he must have been--Riley was NOT a lap cat) while Rick and I read his information chart. We learned that he was seven years old, got along great with other cats (his owners had another cat and a dog), and had never bitten or scratched anyone. I think it took us all of five minutes to decide that Riley (or The Cat Soon To Be Known As Riley) would be coming home with us that day.

From that moment on, Riley was the one of the few constants in my life. He was with me through two broken engagements, countless boyfriends, sort-of boyfriends, half-assed boyfriends (there were A LOT of those), three roommates, and five moves (one of them across four states). He was always there, purring and looking on patiently with plenty of love to give.

He was rather eccentric, which was one of the things I loved best about him. He liked to eat but wasn't exactly a health nut; his favorite foods were macaroni and cheese, vanilla Haagen Dazs, canned chicken chunks, deli ham and melted mozzarella. If you were eating something he was interested in he would sit by you and pat your arm with his paw until you offered him a bite (he didn't always eat it, he just wanted you to offer it to him. He was a stickler for manners, I guess). He was also a bit of a couch potato--one of his favorite things to do was watch TV with me when I got home from work at night. He even sat down with Shane once and watched an entire Notre Dame football game; Shane claims he even meowed at the TV during an exciting play.

He was my rock, my guy, my loverboy. A friend of mine back home once said she wished she could kiss Riley and transform him into a human version of himself, like in The Frog Prince. She said that if Riley were human, he would be the perfect man: sweet, gentle, appreciative, always in the mood for a cuddle. "What do you mean? He already IS the perfect man," I told her. "Changing to human form would be a step down for him."

He was the cat with a heart of gold, and I consider myself lucky to have found him, to have shared my life with such a kind, funny, loving little animal. I love and miss him terribly, and I know that I always will.

So wherever you are tonight, I ask you to raise a glass for the big guy.

Hail Riley, full of grace, my cat is with me. Blessed art thou among kittens, and blessed art thou for being so fucking awesome.

As he was in the beginning, as he is and ever shall be, always and forever.

The Dude abides.

Riley Cat
1993 - 2008