This is not a post I wanted to write. This is not a day I wanted to live through.
And if I must write about Greebo I want the skill of a bard, to sing his life.
We don’t get what we want. We get what we’re given.
Greebo’s mom was a stray, dumped in front of our house in the old north end of Colorado Springs, on the day we moved in. Someone slowed by the u-haul and dumped a tiny little tortie.
I don’t know what they thought was going to happen. What happened was that she was so terrified we couldn’t catch her. After a while she started coming to my kitchen window, because I gave her food.
Greebo was born in the crawl space of the house across the driveway from us, in the summer of 2003. The first time I saw him was with his brothers, nursing in our driveway.
He must have been all of eight weeks, all soft fuzz, and wobbly legs, when a mad feral Tom tried to attack him and his brothers. I watched from the upstairs window, as he jumped on the feral’s head, tearing him up, till the bad cat ran away and Greebo came back, strutting like a warrior. That was the day I named him.
Our next door neighbor took him and his brothers, but never socialized them or tried to find them homes. She kept them locked in the bathroom almost a year, and had them fixed at a “free” place where they cut their ears to show they were fixed. Greebo’s cut was deeper. He was also bigger than his brothers, which is how I knew him.
Once the neighbor released them (his mom having vanished) Greebo started coming up to my window every morning for food. Through that year, I sat on the back step a lot, waiting for him to come nearer and nearer. Eventually, he’d let us pet him.
He liked being petted so much that in the middle of winter, if we opened our door, we’d hear him meow as he ran nearer, basically “Wait for me, I’m coming for pets.”
We set up a little resting area, with a heated pad, in our airlock (Dan says it was really a mudroom, but you know…) with a cat door so he could come and go.
The local wildlife learned to respect him. A fox took a bite off Maurice’s butt, didn’t do anything else because Greebo… Well…. he brought us half a fox tail, cut vertically.
If we went to Denver for a weekend vacation, we had to be careful on coming back, because Greebo would build a pyramid of mouse skulls to our glory on the backdoor rug. (Actually a semi-circle, three levels carefully stacked up. No. We don’t know why. But it worked. We always came back.)
For a while he had a baby racoon understudy. (Just before we moved.) The racoon followed him around, and did everything Greebo did, including looking at Greebo to make sure he was doing it right. I have no idea what became of that very confused racoon.
Perhaps Greebo’s most notable exploit was saving the family from a fugitive.
To explain this one, I must tell you that sometimes, in downtown Colorado Springs, you’d see a floodlight, pointing down, from an helicopter. We’d learned over our years there that this meant there was a fugitive, either someone who’d just shot a cop (twice) or someone who had escaped from jail and they were trying to find him.
One bad feature of the airlock is that the screen door didn’t lock. And once you got in there, you had all the time in the world to break into the house.
I was cooking dinner and looking out at the driveway, which was empty (so Dan was not home) and the boys were upstairs doing homework, when I heard someone fiddling with the kitchen door lock. I’d seen the spotlights before, so I was trying to figure out which knife to grab, when I heard a war cry from Greebo, and a scream, and a guy ran out the backdoor, with Greebo on his head, yowling and tearing him up.
The neighbor’s said, he just ran in the middle of the street, and gave himself up. Greebo came back, strutting, and we fed him well that night.
I presume this guy came in while Greebo was sleeping on top of the shelves, and so Greebo decided to attack. I don’t know why. He never attacked our friends, or even people coming in to knock at the door. BUT he was a very smart cat, and I guess he saw something wrong.
When we moved, we figured, like his brothers, he was the neighborhood’s cat and he would stay. The neighbors across the street had built a glassed in porch with a cat door and a wood stove for their old age, and we figured he’d be happy in his familiar territory.
Only Greebo would sit in front of the house and lament all night, and the neighbors called and told us to come get him.
So, we did.
And he became my editor, my shadow, my dog. If I were somewhere, Greebo was following along. As consciousness returned in the morning, he was there, headbutting my forehead and purring. His happy place was by my side. He loved for me to be in the office and writing, because he could sleep at my feet, with no other cat or people around.
He’s been losing weight for about a month and a half. And I thought it was the hyperthyroidism returning.
On Thursday he wasn’t in my bed when I woke up, and I thought that was odd, but son moved in Wednesday, and his friends helped, and he hated strangers.
I found him hiding in the dining room, and couldn’t get him to come out. But on Friday, he jumped on the arm of my chair, and I petted him and spent time with him…
And then on Saturday he was hiding in a corner of my room, behind the armchair, and wouldn’t come out. I called him to the bed, and he wouldn’t come. He also threw up a lot of green stuff.
Then around midnight, I heard him climbing on the bed. Only instead of sitting by my head, as usual, he huddled by my legs, and stayed there all night, with me waking now and then to pet him, and afraid to hurt him. Early morning he jumped down, and I heard him throw up.
All of yesterday he didn’t move, and I was afraid he wouldn’t survive the night.
We took him in to the vet at 2:15. They said his thyroid was fine. But they did tests. He had intestinal cancer and it had metastasized to other organs. And when we picked him up to move, he cried in pain, and the vet said he was in pain. So much so they didn’t make us wait or schedule euthanasia. We drove back (we’d left him for tests) and eased him over.
Only this is Greebo. The rainbow bridge would be too tame for him. In my mind’s eye, he went to Valhalla, where all the warriors stood up to salute him and feed him tuna.
If there is justice in the universe, if there is one dram of justice, I’ll see him again, where cancer and pain don’t exist and where species is no barrier to friendship.
Goodnight, sweet prince, and flocks of angels sing you to thy rest. Unlike the emo Dane, you were brave and equal to your task. Your heart, in your small cat body was the equal of any warrior, any king, any immortal hero sang in poem and saga.
We shall not see your like again. And I’ll miss you everyday, until we meet again.