When I see pictures of my wedding, I’m always kind of surprised that Otto isn’t in them. That may seem weird, but Otto is as much of this marriage as anything. My best friend and I got married in the same year, a little less than a month apart. I was at her bachelorette party when we found Otto. Me, ever the dutiful bridesmaid, had drank just about everything in sight and still managed to be sober enough to hold the bride’s hair as she threw up in her sisters’ yard later. While she was puking, a kitten came out of nowhere and started eating her mostly booze puke. Being Liz, she scooped him up and handed him to me and said, “Rachael! Kitten!”
And it was love.
I took that cat inside and I loved him until I fell asleep, even when he was puke covered. When I woke up in the morning he was still next to me even though he had free range on the house. He laid down on me and I knew that I would take him home. When the older sister went to put him out the next day, I collected him instead and took him home with me. He was great in the car. He sat on my lap and looked out the window while I asked him what his name was until he answered to Otto.
When I got home, I presented him to Hubby and he wasn’t happy. We already had three cats and he did not want another cat. Otto was the reason we almost didn’t get married. A week or so later he freaked out and called off the wedding, siting my new cat as the reason. Then he returned about ten minutes later and all was well.
Otto wormed his way into every heart. It wasn’t long before he was laying all over Hubby and letting him do whatever he wanted. He slept on the top of the couch a lot, waking to lick my hair. He licked me constantly, once on the same part of my arm until it was raw. In recent days, he cuddled me every morning when my alarm went off and he was the constant, strong presence on my legs at night. He would crawl up in my armpit and lick me. He saved me from so many panic attacks.
I wish that I could tell you everything about him. I wish that I could share him with every single one of you. I wish that I had more mornings to stay in bed after my alarm to cuddle.
Otto was the loudest personality of all of my cats. He was a constant presence in my life. It wasn’t until this week that I realized that I had built my life around his constant presence. I woke up and cuddled. I turned on the faucet for him and worked out. Then he would wait on my towel while I showered. I couldn’t leave the closet door open because he would climb into the food bag. He followed me around the house. He was the warm thing at my feet in the basement. He waited for me to come home, excited and ready to be held and put out his big monster paw.
Last Thursday, Otto went out with Hubby in the morning. Usually I would let him right back in but my arms were full and I forgot. When I left for work, he was nowhere to be found. That night, my late night, he didn’t come when I called him for dinner. He never missed a meal. There is a very good chance that dear Otto was already injured or sick then.
But last Friday when I went to work, he still wasn’t back and when I turned the corner, something rolled out from my car. I went back to look because what if. And only when the snow melted on Tuesday did we find him. Right there on the corner, the thing that rolled out from under my car.
My poor, dear boy is no longer with us. And I can tell you that I am feeling GRIEF. That I am feeling BEREAVEMENT. That everything that I do while I am in this house reminds me of him. I only had my Otto for two and a half years but those two and a half years were years of joy. When I came home, he was the thing that I was the most excited for and he was excited for me. He loved everyone. But I was his Mommy and Hubby was his Daddy. And this house is so quiet without him.
I am grateful that I finally found him, that I know he didn’t just run away. But my life is full of the what ifs. What if I had looked harder when I turned that corner? I can tell you that he hated cars, that I knocked on my hood before starting it, that we found a couple of marks on him like bites.
And what I know about grief is this: You can feel it for people and for animals, that my sadness for Otto is as raw as my sadness for my father. I am feeling the stages of grief just the same. And that while a pet, I cannot even call them that because I let them run this house, an animal may be just an incidental to everyone else, they can be your baby and your love. I miss Otto with all of me, right down to my atoms. He was my constant companion and I thought that I would have more that 2.5 years with him. I thought that there were ten more at least.
Love your kitties well. Know that nature takes its course. That the hunters become the hunted. That the dear ones, no matter the species, will not always be with us.