Leo was a good cat. He died last week at the age of 22. I am generally a dog person, but sharing time with Leo, especially over the past few years, has been a rewarding and heart-warming experience.

Leo the cat
Young Leo

Leo came into our lives shortly after the 9/11 attacks. I often read the news with him at my side, but I never told him that we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I didn’t talk politics with him. I save politics for my children, who are probably less interested in hearing my thoughts than Leo was.

Leo probably wouldn’t have cared because the border halfway up the stairs, between the first and second floor, was more important than anything on the Southern border. That’s because the dogs lived downstairs. We have had four dogs across Leo’s lifetime, including a couple with strong ‘prey drives’ that caused them to chase poor Leo if he ventured too far down the stairs. Leo ran the house at night when the dogs were locked away in the laundry room. He enjoyed purring at them from under the door at 3 AM. But when he started eating plants that I learned were toxic to cats, he also started sleeping behind a closed door.

Frannie and Leo at the border
Standoff at the Border

For most of his life, he came halfway down the stairs and stuck his head through the sideposts toward the kitchen to watch us eat dinner.

About five years ago, Leo became completely deaf, and his vision also started to fail. When he ventured downstairs, the dogs ran up to him, and he no longer ran away, taking away the fun of the chase. He slept more and more during the last couple of years, but every night, he came down and joined the dogs to beg for dinner scraps from their owner. They were all pretty good at it.

I became much more attached to Leo after my surgery in August of 2022 when I was confined to home for a few weeks. It was then I realized that cats take much longer to know than most dogs. Cat owners know this, of course. My daughter, the vet, loves cats, and I think her attachment allowed me to get closer to Leo. My life experience with cats was mostly on my grandparent’s farm, where most cats were nameless rodent control operators who seemed about as tame as the rats.

A cat and a newfoundland
Leo and Lilly

Leo was ‘declawed’, something that my daughter describes as barbaric these days. I regret removing his ability to defend himself, although his hiss usually kept the dogs in line. In his early years, he mostly observed humans. In his late years, he became very affectionate. Surprisingly, he chose me, where the dogs typically gravitated toward my wife. Leo would sit on my legs for hours as I read. He reached out and touched me with his paw if he needed attention. He would stare into my eyes, and I would narrow them to slits because I read somewhere that it is a friendly gesture for cats.

French bulldog, cairn terrier, and cat share a moment
Together at last

The past year, his ‘meow’ became louder because of his deafness. When he was hungry, his howl could be heard throughout the house. But during the past month, his howl became quieter. In his last week, he mewed softly now and then, letting me know something was wrong.

Last Friday, I came up from the basement and saw Leo lying awkwardly on the floor. One hind leg was extended, and his arthritis kept him from moving well. I carried him all day, putting him down only to send emails to a couple vet clinics hoping to find in-home euthanasia. Nobody was available. That night, I rested him in his bed. He was in the same position the next morning but gone. I buried him in our yard on a beautiful, warm March day.

Losing a pet is horrible. The pain, for me at least, is worse than losing a parent. The pain doesn’t last as long, but losing an adult who had a long life seems fairer and more natural than losing a pet, even after 22 years. It is hard for me to write about losing Leo.

I teased the title because I have recently read so much about AI that I wonder whether blogs will survive. Earlier today, I installed an AI platform, put my post into the platform, and asked it for a rewrite. Below is AI’s version of what I wrote courtesy of Microsoft Copilot. Sadly, I like it better than my own writing. Be assured that I will always note if I use AI for content. Hopefully others will too!

AI version courtesy of Bing Copilot:

Introduction

In the quiet corners of our lives, where sunbeams stretch across worn wooden floors and memories linger like the scent of freshly brewed coffee, there exists a special place for our beloved pets. Among them, Leo was no ordinary cat. His story weaves through the tapestry of our days, leaving paw prints etched in our hearts. Let us embark on a journey to celebrate Leo—the wise, the steadfast, and the unforgettable.


The Arrival

Leo’s entrance into our lives was unassuming, yet profound. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he padded silently across our threshold, a feline emissary sent to soften the edges of a world in turmoil. As I read the news, Leo sat by my side, his amber eyes absorbing the weight of the world without judgment. We never discussed politics; that was reserved for my children, who listened less intently than Leo did.


Standoff at the Border

The border halfway up the stairs—the invisible demarcation between canine and feline territories—became Leo’s domain. Below, the dogs roamed, their primal instincts urging them to chase him if he dared descend too far. Leo reveled in his nocturnal freedom, purring at the laundry room door, where the dogs were locked away. But toxic plants altered the balance; Leo retreated behind closed doors, guarding his fragile health.

And so, for most of his life, Leo perched halfway down the stairs, his head poking through the sideposts. From there, he observed our family dinners, a silent sentinel with eyes that held secrets and wisdom beyond our understanding.


The Deafening Silence

Five years ago, Leo’s world dimmed. Deafness enveloped him, and his vision waned. Yet, he persisted. When he ventured downstairs, the dogs no longer chased him; their playful pursuit had lost its thrill. Leo’s nightly ritual remained unchanged—he joined the dogs, beseeching for dinner scraps. They obliged, a harmonious chorus of anticipation.


The Slow Unfurling

It was during my convalescence after surgery that I truly knew Leo. Cats, unlike most dogs, reveal themselves gradually. Their trust unfurls like a delicate blossom, each petal a testament to patience. My daughter, a veterinarian, understood this dance of familiarity. She loved cats, and perhaps it was her influence that deepened my bond with Leo.


Farewell, Leo

Last week, Leo departed this world at the venerable age of 22. His legacy lingers—the soft brush of whiskers against my hand, the warmth of his presence on cold nights. In his quietude, he taught me that companionship transcends species, that love is a language spoken in purrs and shared glances.

So here’s to you, Leo—the cat who listened when the world raged, who bridged the canine-human divide, and who reminded us that sometimes, the most profound connections are woven in silence.

Farewell, dear friend. May your spirit roam freely, forever halfway down the stairs, watching over our dinners and whispering secrets to the moon.


Note: Leo’s story is a tribute to all the cherished pets who leave indelible imprints on our hearts.

Categories: Pets

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