November 18th, 2003



I ended up with Toby because my boss thought he was my cat, Pooka, and she trapped him under a milk crate behind the café.

No one claimed him, and after a couple of weeks he was mine. Pooka, needless to say, was neither thrilled nor amused at the addition of a big, dumb GUY to the household. The vet estimated he was about 8 months old, and he was in good health for having been on the streets for an unknown period. He looked exactly like Pooka except for his size and a pink nose. Pooka was a tiny cat, and Toby just loomed over her. He tried to bully her at first, but soon realized his only role, like mine, was as peasant and servant to the little cat-queen.

Pooka and Toby were bookend cats, matching nearly exactly in their black-and-white markings. But they were so different in every other way, including intelligence and personality. Toby was really dumb. And slow. But he was sweet tempered and soft and gentle. My roommate and I could entertain ourselves for ages by shining a flashlight around and laughing ourselves silly as he tried over and over again to catch it.

We made up silly nicknames for our cats, and Toby became Toh-bert, Bert Squirt, Toby-doh, Tobiwan Kenobi. He came when he was called. Sometimes I think he might have been a dog in a cat's body.

He and Pooka never became friends but they learned how to live within the limits of tolerance. He was always wary of people, and was never a real lap-sitter. If you captured him, he'd sit still and allow himself to be petted, but at the first chance to escape, he was off. He would come and snuggle against my back when I was sleeping and I'd often feel him start to purr, shivering like a big thunderous ball. If I moved, he'd take off. He was a good cat, well-behaved and funny. He made us laugh. When I moved from Michigan to Chicago, the cats went with me and we drove the entire way in my roommate's jeep with the cats loose, because I didn't own any cat carriers. Toby miaowed the entire way, non-stop, in his chirpy sad voice. Every once in awhile Pooka would join in with a long drawn-out howl of displeasure. He never stopped moving, from seat to back window, to my lap, to under my feet, trying to find a way out of the car. I think he thought we were on a trip to the vet in HELL.

I lived in Chicago for 10 years, moving from the suburbs to the city, and eventually met Anders. When I moved in with him, the cats came with me. They liked him and he liked them, even though he ended up developing asthma later because of them. When we were in the beginning planning stages for moving to Sweden, it was a given that the cats would come with us. But first we had a wedding and honeymoon to get through in June, and our move date wasn't until December.

Since we were planning a month-long honeymoon we asked my parents if they would cat-sit. They had just built a house in Michigan, about a 6.5 hour car ride away, so they stayed in our apartment with us in the days leading up to the wedding. My dad was in a wheelchair, and they had a minivan with a lift in it to get the wheelchair in and out, and all kinds of extra equipment and baggage so they decided that it would be better to transport the cats in the carriers they used for our family cats. My dad was afraid if they were loose, that one of them might get out of the car during the frequent stops they made along the way.

So, when the time came, a day after the wedding, we coerced the cats into the carriers and got them loaded in the car, right behind the front seats where Mom & Dad could see them and talk to them. Toby miaowed frantically the entire time and I was a mess with hating the fact that they were in the carriers. Through the car window, as they were getting ready to back out, we could see a small hole at the back of Toby's carrier with his eye pressed up against it, looking out. How we laughed! Poor Toby!! But there wasn't anything we could do. They would be fine and spoiled rotten for a month at my parent's house.

Four hours later, somewhere in Michigan, my mother called me in tears. Toby had miaowed non-stop the entire way with increasing panic and finally hyperventilated himself into a heart attack. Despite my father's best efforts at resuscitation, there was nothing he could do.

After 10 years, my silly goofy lumbering boy was gone. I miss him, still.

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