8 years of friendship — and 1 hard hour

And, he was gone.

It was a suddenness similar to the way he entered our lives.

From his arrival, expectations weren’t high for Roscoe, especially from me because I didn’t care for cats. I grew up with dogs.

So my ground rules were simple:

Make sure you use the litter box.

Entertain the kids; don’t claw them.

Don’t stink up the place.

Don’t cost me a fortune in vet’s bills.

He did all of that, and then some.

One thing became clear almost immediately, and it was something we’d hear over and over through the years from guests: Roscoe was a dog in a cat’s body.

What really distinguished Roscoe was the other cat he came into our house with. That poor cat, whose name escapes me, had many problems, including horrific seizures that would thump the bottom of our bed if they occurred when he was sleeping under it.

As new cat owners, the seizures freaked us out. In addition to their happening under our bed, they often happened while we were asleep. The seizures startled my wife and me off either side of the bed, reaching for bathrobes, reaching for lights, reaching for anything that would bring resolution.

But quietly sitting by that cat’s side was Roscoe — ready and unnerved.

When each seizure stopped, Roscoe would start licking the poor guy. This happened several times in the month we kept that other cat before returning him to the shelter.

But it cemented Roscoe in our lives and with me.

Eight years continued on, and our pet stories are as numerous as everyone else’s. He and I were especially good for each other — even those days when we both wanted to be on my laptop at the same time.

Roscoe was a sleepmate for our three boys depending on who got to him first each night.

He would exit our family room perched atop one of their shoulders. His last nightly eye contact always seemed to be with me, and his expression was always the same:

“Don’t worry; I’ve got it. You sit there and guard the laptop.”

And it always seemed that he made rounds to other bedrooms once his first procurer was asleep. You could say it was his routine. But believers understand: Roscoe knew this was his household chore.

This was a norm until four weeks ago, when his kidneys decided they were done.

Each day in Roscoe’s last four weeks got worse despite nightly pills and injections. This week brought the tough decision that we had warned the boys about.

We had asked if they wanted to go to the vet for Roscoe’s final moments. I explained about duty and such. Max, not a partaker in rough-house sports, was the only one comfortable being there.

The boys already had left for school Wednesday when the appointment was set. Picking up Max at school, a minimemorial had formed with some friends by the time I got there.

This, despite our effort to avoid telling school officials why we were plucking Max out. Can you leave school to put your pet to sleep? So, our reason was just that “we made an appointment.”

But Max knew and shared.

Principal Kempers, also knowing, struggled for the right words: “I ... I ... had no idea what to say to him.” We just nodded in that 6-foot-high airspace above kids.

Eight years flew; four weeks crawled; and that final hour seems frozen in time.

The crew at South Mill Pet Care was stoic for us. But it was also, delicately, a matter of course.

A quiet buzz cleared Roscoe’s back leg of fur.

Max and I petted Roscoe’s ears as we’ve always done.

A needle poked; a plunger pushed.

Lost upon Max was the vet’s check of Roscoe’s heart and his affirmative nod to me in that 6-foot-high airspace.

The staff left us alone for as long as we needed.

Max whispered, “Is he asleep?”

Yes, he was gone.

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