When our cat Chervony was in his prime, my favorite saying was, “If he were a man, he’d be in jail.”
He championed the role of the alpha male cat. The internet description of this type of cat is perfect:
“Alpha male cats are dominant, natural-born leaders. They may bully other cats or even their owners into getting what they want when they want it. They may act aggressively for attention or to get more food. You might be the owner, but the alpha male cat believes he owns you.”
Needless to say, Chervony did what he wanted to do, and we were at his beck and call or there would be consequences. To illustrate the point, about 12 years ago, my now deceased son Marshall and I dropped him off for a simple procedure at the vet’s office. A few hours later when we picked him up, the vet assistant sported a huge white bandage on her hand.
I looked at my son. My son looked at me. We already knew that no one could mess with Chervony. He was his own best advocate. Sure enough, he had bitten the vet assistant when she attempted to exam him. Lucky thing she didn’t hold a resentment!
Marshall discovered some research stating that orange tabbies are particularly aggressive cats. In our case, research wasn’t necessary. We lived day-to-day life with a raging warrior. Out of all our pets, he was my problem child. The one I worried about and lost sleep over. The one I endured a hate-love relationship with. In fact, when the prospect of relocating presented itself nearly 10 years ago, I was most anxiety-ridden over Chervony. Obviously, he did not fare well with change. Don’t get me wrong. Chervony loved with the force of a bull too. Sometimes he’d jump into your lap and deliver a headbutt that could knock you off your seat. In other words, his fiery color matched his personality.
It all started in 2002 when my now ex-husband, along with the kids, rescued Chervony’s mom Blossom from the pound and brought home the surprise, which I eventually accepted. Thankfully, she arrived with a free spay/neuter certificate. However, that was the week my brother suffered a stroke and suddenly died. During this time of chaos, “teenage” Blossom accidentally got pregnant by the neighborhood tomcat.
Shortly thereafter, “little” Blossom delivered seven kittens. Three died and four lived. Realistically, though it was a tough decision, we could only select one additional household member. Out of Chervony, Vanilla Sky, Cali, and Mr. Mike, Chervony it was. We subsequently secured good homes for the others.
Our house was a rambunctious household of people and pets. Life was as vibrant as Chervony’s beautiful coat of red, orange and ginger. In fact, my son shared his coloring, especially the ginger hues. Great faith is easy when all things are great.
After Cliff died 12 years later, Chervony unofficially became Marshall’s cat. No matter how old Marshall was and no matter how much that darn cat kneaded and drooled over him, he never outgrew kissing and stroking him. Sometimes the ritual lasted up to an hour, if not longer.
In 2018, as Chervony aged, he developed an over-active thyroid, and the vet prescribed medication for it. When Marshall, who had moved to Kentucky in 2017, last visited us in Connecticut, he cradled him in his arms and sounded broken when he said, “He’s not the same.”
Marshall was right. The brakes didn’t come to a screeching halt, but they were slowly wearing down. Chervony was losing his loud purring motor and flow of washer fluid drooling. The drum beat of death had insidiously started to paw its way into his lifetime of contentment and scratch at it until Chervony just became a shell, albeit still handsome.
Beginning this past June, the death march gained force. In the beginning of August, Chervony went outside and disappeared again. Later that day, an animal control officer arrived at our door. She informed us that one of the neighbor’s spotted the cat, apparently old and frail, and called the police to ask if they could shoot him with a gun. The neighbor assumed he had rabies, which was, of course, furthest from the truth.
After the cat was safely home, though I didn’t learn who the trigger-happy neighbor was, I sure wanted this person to realize that he or she would have not only destroyed a cat, but the rest of a grieving mom’s heart. Later, I discovered that during Chervony’s disappearance, he had sheltered under a tree on which my son’s name that he carved into it in 2008, remains. I came to the stunning realization that the cat had been undergoing his own fashion of mourning. Afterwards, rocking the senior cat in my arms, I imitated Marshall’s tone when I called Chervony’s name. Instantly, his gaze’s haunting quality was filled with an intrinsic sense of lose, sadness and longing.
Since his last disappearance, we sealed all of Chervony’s escape routes. Then, on August 24, he accidentally trapped his hind leg in an opening of a child’s gate in our house. After another neighbor released him from the gate, we took him to be treated at the Pet ER where the vet reported he had no broken bones.
By the time August 28 rolled around, he was not only frail, but had stopped eating. I intuitively knew his time on earth was near. I scheduled an appointment with our vet and a few hours later, in the same departure ritual that I performed with our beloved Cliff and poodle Crouton, we experienced our final earthly walk through the house and grounds. Before us rolled the silver screen of memories filled with children’s laughter, glee, dogs dancing and cats’ deafening purrs and slobbering drool kisses.
Due to Covid-19 restrictions, we met our vet in the parking lot after she had sedated Chervony. Subsequently, Chervony started to fade peacefully that afternoon as my roomie and I kissed and rocked him under a breezy sky. Prior to his final departure, as the vet carried him back inside, we asked him to deliver an extra purr from us when he saw Marshall again.
Our old cat had many aliases over the years: Prince Peach, Pumpkin, Chivvy, Chivvs and Churrr-von-y, as the CVS drug store recording called him in their prescription alerts. To us, his unique names, personality and spirit were all bundled into a single, over-sized furry package that was part of our now nearly dissolved family. The love we shared together radiated like a pumpkin in the sun’s rays and was like a cherished tattoo in which the actual process hurts, but it’s all worth the effort.
In essence, our time spent with Chervony was an 18-year test of faith, and when you combine love and faith, the only way to pass the challenge is with flying colors.