Friday, March 31, 2023
Remembering Absent Friends: el Gato perfecto
Many years ago, when I was in college, a hungry black tomcat with a deformed ear lived near the town's student apartments. I began feeding him, allowing him in the apartment despite my roommate's concerns that the cat might have fleas. My roommate spoke Spanish, so after he talked about the "gato," I began to call the cat "Gato" as well. Maybe I felt that if I didn't give him a real name, just called him Cat, I wouldn't become too attached.
Gato would often stretch out on my bed while I studied next to him and stroked his fur. He was affectionate in a hard-boiled Humphrey Bogart way, a tough guy who wasn't asking for any favors, but if you were offering a little help, he'd gladly accept it. He loved cottage cheese, and when I poured the water from a can of tuna over his dry cat food, he gobbled it up.
Since he had never been neutered, Gato wanted to roam at night. I didn't know better, so when he went to the door and meowed insistently, I dutifully let him out. Once someone at the apartments ignored Gato's collar and well-fed tummy and called the town's Animal Control, which caught him and took him away while I was at class. I went downtown and bailed him out.
In late spring, the end of the semester and the end of the lease on the apartment were approaching, and I had just begun to wonder what to do next. I didn't want to move and leave Gato behind.
One afternoon, I returned to the apartment and found him waiting outside the front door. He stumbled while trying to trot over to me, and he wouldn't eat or drink. He didn't respond to the vet's treatment, and on Good Friday 1983 I had Gato euthanized.
Gato had been a good friend at a time when I needed one.