As a very close friend said when I told her about Deuces' death, "End of an era." I suspect, though I have no way of knowing for sure, that he died of a broken heart. The three brother cats mourned Yvette's loss. When Limerick died the remaining two seemed to bond more closely. I would often come through to find them curled up together like yin-yang symbols.
In the days following Deuce's death, my apartment felt very empty. I spent the next day painting a watercolour of Deuce from a recent picture. Indulging my emotions in an unrestrained way, I've experienced sadness at the void left by his absence; anger at the betrayal that his dying feels like; and guilt wondering if I left getting help for him too late.
Mostly I lost myself in my memories of him and his brothers. He was the independent one. Evan called him the "normal one." His brothers with their size, coloring and extra toes got all the attention. Often Deuce disappeared for hours on end when the three of them roamed outside. At the same time, he snuggled, often curled up beside us on the couch. Or he crawled into a spot on my lap while I was working or talking.
When Yvette and I went to pick up a cat at the Noah shelter in Stanwood, she worked on me the whole way down. She convinced me that we needed two cats because we had two dogs despite my resistance to more animals. The folks at the shelter took us into the cat colony first when we told them we were looking for two. We saw the two big gingers right away. I noticed the extra toes as well and wasn't thrilled at the work that might entail. We looked at other cats but we were unable to put cats together to see if they would get along.
In the end , we went back to the colony and told our helper we would take the two gingers. She got this horrified look on her face and rushed off. We wondered if we had said something offensive. When she returned though, she told us that we would have to take all three brothers, pointing out Deuce. When we examined him, the tabby pattern was the same. Same mother, different fathers. They did offer us a break on the price for taking all three. That appealed to my Scots heart.
The three brothers spent their first weeks up in the loft, where the dogs couldn't reach them. But one day I turned around from working on the computer and discovered the three of them. They were sound asleep on the couch behind me. The dogs were curled up on the sheepskin on the other side. From then on it was a shared space. There was the occasional warning paw on the nose. Particularly for the Shepherd cross, Pepperdine, when he got too inquisitive.
Life in Birch Bay Village with them was entertaining. A neighbour complained to the Village management that we had too many boats in our yard. It was an effect of being the drop off point for Sea Scout donations. When we cleaned the boats up the day after receiving the citation, he then complained about the cats. And so two days after the first citation we received a second visit and another citation for cats at large. And so for the rest of our time there they became indoor cats. Mostly.
The real challenge was the litter box. One of the dogs for a time thought that the cat feces were like candy almond rocca. Breaking him of that disgusting habit was hard. Eventually a self-cleaning litter box and disciplining the dog when we caught him solved it. But then one of the cats got caught in the self cleaning sweeper. He stopped using the litter box. And who can blame him? Resolving that meant cleaning the litter box by hand which for three large cats was a lot of work.
Living on Flambeau relieved us of the nosy neighbour. The three bothers were in their glory. We had more than a few presents left at the foot of the stairs. They had lots of space to roam in and the dogs kept the larger predators away. Deuce did manage to have a run-in with a racoon one night while we were there. The shard of racoon claw left in his scalp caused an infection. The infection sent him for a visit to a vet. The incident resulted in surgery, an overnight stay, and a drain to keep things dry while it healed. The bill that took a month to pay off.
Moving to Harvey Road worried us with fears of the busy road. The house had a regular pest control program so there were no vermin in the house. The surrounding fields and forest though provided entertainment. And they seemed to know to stay away from the road.
Inside we had three large aquariums but the fascination with the bird feeders was the real "kitty TV." They would lie in the windows and watch the comings and going for hours. They seemed to know though that these birds were off limits. Only once did they manage to get a live Stellar jay into the house. I opened the patio door and using a large towel was able to guide the jay out with dogs and cats dashing everywhere.
Our dahlias were an endless source of amusement for the cats. As we planted, watered, and removed slugs, they would stretch out in the sunshine and watch us. Yvette called them her "garden gatos." I could never convince them to cleanup slugs though.
Finally they spent the last two years here in Surrey. Together we shared 450 square feet of apartment. By now we had a litter box befitting their large size and it fit under the table in a corner. They passed their days lying sleeping on my bed. Occasionally they would come out to play in the kitchen. Deuce explored the neighbourhood on a regular basis. The others didn't leave the apartment at all.
When O'keefe died, it seemed to take Deuce a few days to realize that he wasn't coming back. He cried at the door for me to let him out and when I did he would take a long time to come back. I watched him the first few times go around the yard sniffing like he was looking for something. O'Keefe went out only twice in the two years that they lived here, but Deuce seemed to think he must be nearby. Eventually Deuce seemed to realize that O'Keefe wasn't coming back.
Our routine stabilized with him tucking into my shoulder to sleep each night. And then leading me through to the kitchen when my alarm went off so that I could feed him. By the thirty minutes had passed after eating, he would be back on the bed curled up waiting for his insulin shot. He would wander through and depending on what I was doing he would often end up in my lap as I worked on the computer.
In the evening I would feed him again. When I went to bed I would make sure his dish was empty so that he would be hungry in the morning. As the days merged into each other, we began to be comfortable and take each other for granted. But he seemed to be eating less and less.
Finally, I took him in for a checkup thinking that his insulin was out of whack. It wasn't but the vet found a septic granuloma in his mouth. She gave me antibiotics and a painkiller with the hope that we could get him back eating again. He didn't respond to the antibiotics though. The following week when he stopped drinking water, I knew that he wasn't going to be around much longer. He didn't seem to be in pain so I kept him around home as long as I could but on Thursday afternoon, he started meowing. When the vet called to check on him, we agreed that it was time to bring him in for euthanasia.
Someone commented that it must be awfully quiet without Deuce around. It isn't so much the noise that I miss, it's seeing him. He was the "beggarhount." Whenever I would prepare food, he would wind around my feet, begging for a piece of whatever it was. I seldom indulged him but he was persistent, on the off chance that I would feed him. More than once I accidently stepped on his tail or a paw. And so I find myself checking before I move in my small kitchen to make sure that I'm not stepping on him. Or when I go to bed, I find myself checking to see where he is before I fold back the covers.
He was my furry companion. Ordinary but special in that he was always there. I miss him.