And he left some big paw prints to phil
One year, five months and two days ago, our cat Phil was diagnosed with stage 4 lymphoma. At 16 years old, chemotherapy was off the table – the cancer too advanced; the impact on Phil’s quality of life too devasting – so we opted for Prednisone treatment.
“I think you can count on three months,” the vet told us, “but some cats live for six months and, in rare cases, a year.”
Ever defiant of the authorities, Phil lived a happy life for the next 17 months until finally succumbing to the relentless onslaught of cancer just today.
Along the way, Phil took us on a couple of roller coaster rides.
About a month after his first diagnosis, he started going downhill. He lost weight, didn’t eat much and hid in Penny’s closet for most of the day. We thought the King of Cool was going to take an early exit.
And then I came downstairs one morning and was nearly run over by a furry missile that streaked across the floor so fast my eyes had to catch up with it where it stopped and only then could I tell it was Phil.
Our eyes met.
“Whaddup, buttercup?” he communicated noiselessly, before zooming off again.
For the next several months, he recovered most of his speed, agility and haughtiness and became (unbelievably) even more demanding. Dally a bit in feeding him? Move with insufficient urgency in opening a door? Forget to add water to any of his three bowls in the house?
You earned the reminder (an accusation, really), delivered through the narrow slits of his eyes: I’VE GOT CANCER!
For a while, we thought, “Damn, this cat has recovered.” I used to joke: “When the world ends, the only three things surviving will be cockroaches, Keith Richards and Phil.”
Alas, one of the truths of life is that no one gets out alive and even the King of Cool can’t escape that reality. Although no one who knew Phil doubts he is now the king of some other reality.
A couple of memories:
-As one woman commented on my last obituary (Kings deserve two, obviously), Phil was a breast man. He loved to sit on a woman’s lap, accept her lavish affection and then put his head under one of her breasts and hoist it high. We tried to remember to warn visitors about this possibility, but on several occasions, we’d be in the middle of a nice dinner or card game only to hear a woman say something like,
“WHOA! Your cat is molesting me!”
I want to apologize officially to women who suffered that indignity because – certainly – Phil would not. I guess he had a lot on his mind.
-Phil loved socks, but only if they were clean. Specifically, he liked to pluck rolled up pairs of socks out of laundry baskets or incompetently closed drawers and pile them at the base of the stairs. The record was 15 pairs after we’d been out of the house for a few hours. It was as though a hosierygeist had moved in.
-Despite his formidable hunting skills, Phil occasionally suffered from claw retraction dysfunction. We would thus find him leaning upright against a screen door, his rear legs spread inelegantly, his right paw reached above and behind him, stuck. He also tried to grasp items under the refrigerator from time to time only to find he couldn’t let go. He never whined in these circumstances, refusing to play the pity card. He’d act for all the world like this was intentional and slink off after you released him without so much as a thank you.
-Phil was always up for a good road trip. Wherever you placed his litter box was home – consistent with an entire lifetime of not “marking” inside the house – ever. Say what you will, the big cat had his dignity.
Phil steadily lost weight since his cancer diagnosis but was not in any pain or discomfort. We’d take him in for regular checkups and our veterinarian would look him over and comment on his remarkable tolerance for Prednisone (and vets).
And then last week, Phil began to struggle to breathe. Penny took him in again and the vet speculated that the cancer had moved into his sinuses. On the off chance that it was a simple sinus infection, we tried antibiotics for a few days. This seemed to help at first but, alas, it was a fleeting improvement.
The last two nights were rough. Phil’s sinuses were mostly closed and since cats refuse to breathe through their mouths, that meant he wasn’t able to sleep. For the first time since his initial diagnosis – and likely two years since the cancer started – the King of Cool was uncomfortable. Indeed, he was suffering.
So, we called the vet today and she checked him out before confirming the worst: Phil’s long life – 17 ½ years – full of adventure, affection, absolute self-assurance and attacks on convention – was at its end. We held him as he finally relaxed after two days of anxiety – probably the only two of his entire existence – and then he was gone. We stayed with his body for a little while even though we knew he’d shaken the dust of this dirty little domain off of his big, pink paws and moved on to rule a better neighborhood somewhere.
You see, I’m pretty sure Phil didn’t die. He got promoted.
To the subjects of his new realm: I wish you peace, happiness and affection under the rule of your new leader. Feed him, love him and let him roam and everything will be all right. We’re all going to miss the King of Cool and I hope you appreciate his wonderful, quirky and funny ways.
And sorry about the breast thing. That was his idea.
Thanks for everything, Phil. We have a million photos, hours of video, countless memories and an alarming amount of cat hair to remind us of you. You were the best cat ever and this world is a little less fun and a lot less cool without you in it.