A Midwest Death

Her name was “Ms. Scooby” and she demanded your attention.

“But she’s all alone in there at the vet…” my wife said to me. I was a year into my first academic job as an assistant professor of English in Wisconsin. My wife and I already had two cats: Pippin and Merry and they lived with her while I basically commuted between households. I was against it. I had just moved from my first apartment in P-Vegas to a lovely home on 4th street with another academic couple with the most adorable children. I didn’t want to, but like many things in our relationship, I acquiesced (with the lovely permission of Vikki and John P., who owned the house I was living at).

My first year at P-Ville was a learning experience. I was teaching a 4/4 course load with advising duties during that first fall of 2016 (the year of the presidential election, btw). Every two or three weeks I would drive to Indiana to spend the weekend with my then girlfriend (now wife). I barely decorated the two bedroom apartment that I really couldn’t afford…on top of that, we were planning our wedding. After moving to the new apartment, my wife found Scooby at the vet she took our cats to. Over a month-and-a-half period, she kept talking about how much I’d appreciate having an old girl around. We picked a weekend in November and I drove down, we picked her up, and had her stay in our bathroom overnight to keep her separated from the other cats.

Scoob was a great travel companion. This is us on our way back to Wisconsin.

Things we learned from the vet: her previous humans had tried unsuccessfully to introduce her to some new kittens, and Scooby didn’t like it. So rather than try to figure it out, they took her to the vet to get euthanized. The vet refused, seeing as she was in good health, so they boarded her while they tried to find her a new home. She’d been declawed and at 17 years old, she didn’t really jump well. But oh boy could she yowl. As soon as I woke up in the morning, she was yelling at me to feed her. When I got home, she was yelling at me because I was gone all day. I had to go buy a set of stairs so she could climb into bed or onto the couch with me since she couldn’t jump. Sometimes, late at night, she’d yowl for a few minutes straight: I think she was so old that she’d sometimes wake up and not know where she was.

But as my wife and I got new jobs this past year, we had a crisis: Scooby was pretty curmudgeonly and didn’t get on well with other cats. Pippin and Merry (especially Merry) were fine, but Scoober was just not having it. My wife’s Nana graciously offered to take her in-she was a fan of cats and had a soft spot for the old girl. So a few months before we moved to the Pacific North West, we drove Scooby to her new home. She eventually acclimated and was doing well up until last week: she had stopped eating and wasn’t drinking much, we’d heard (signs of kidney failure). Then finally, we found out that Scooby crossed the rainbow bridge.

That was her look of love, if you can believe it. Note the crossed paws.

It didn’t hit me at first. But then as the evening wore on, I started to think more and more about Scooby. She was the last thing I’d had left from my time in Wisconsin. She was there during those cold winters, laying down next to the heater to warm her old bones. My wife has talked a lot about mourning lately: we’ve lost quite a few family members in the past year, but I’ve also been mourning in a different way. I’ve moved from a tenure track job to a lecturer position, I’m farther from my family than I’ve ever been before, and all of these changes have had their challenges. Scoob’s passing feels like the death of my midwest self-as busy as my time at Wisconsin was, I loved the people at that school. Now that Scooby’s gone I feel like I’ve moved into another stage of grief. It’s a new chapter in my life and it’s a little more difficult than I’d anticipated to let go of the last one.

But she was a sweet cat and I’m glad that we were able to give her a warm, safe home for her golden years. Rest easy, old girl.

I swear she was sweet. Don’t let her scowl fool you.

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