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I write this as a final tribute to Mr. Morris, a kitty who will forever be in my heart. Also as therapy for my grief.

When Maikki (my future wife) and I came back to her place after our first date, I found out that she had three kitties. And I hated kitties. Time passed and my outlook changed, We bought a house together in 2000 and by then had changed my outlook quite a bit. I was (sort of) “daddy” to Audrey, Alex, and Tony, feeding them in the evenings when Maikki was teaching ballet. One winter night the furnace quit on us so we bundled into bed to keep warm. I woke up the next morning with a warm ball of fur under my hand – Audrey. She became “daddy’s girl” and I became a kitty lover. In 2005-2006 we lost all three, first Tony, then Audrey, and finally Alex, who had but five months as top cat. In 2007 Maikki and I got married and in 2008 we decided to adopt two new kitties.

We went to the Angell Memorial kitty adoption center in Jamaica Plain, MA, to pick out two new kitties. Now most kitties had info and bios attached to their cages – their age, favorite foods, favorite toys, etc. Then there was this orange kitty. All he had was “I’m Morris, grrrrr” and that he was “around 5.” (We later learned that their names were assigned by the shelter.) We adopted Morris, and Stella, a very pretty Torby who appealed to Maikki. Stella came home with Maikki on June 23rd. Morris had to come home a day later since he had to have an “operation.”

We also found out that the shelter was a “kill shelter.” In all fairness they had to be since they accepted any and all kitties who were left with them. Kittens get adopted in a day. The adoption rate was 18%, the unlucky 82% were euthanized. A 5-year-old kitty with no information??? You do the math.

At first we were advised to keep the kitties separate, so Morris and I holed up in the guest room complete with food dishes and a litter box. For a couple of nights we both slept in that room. I remember some occasions when he knew I was awake Morris giving my leg a big head butt. Our bonding had begun!

After that he joined us on our bed at night. I slept on my back and he liked to sleep between my body and my right arm. “Forever home! DON’T YOU FORGET IT!”

In November of 2011 my mother died. I had waited in her room until past 9 PM, then left to go home. I had only been home a few minutes when the ‘phone rang… That night I couldn’t sleep – not weeping and wailing – at a couple of months shy of 100 mother had long outlived her happiness. She considered the nursing home to be a fate worse than death. What had kept me up was the fact that now I was the second oldest member of “the older generation.”

My dad had always told me that if I couldn’t sleep, to do something positive like reading. So I came downstairs and sat in my favorite chair to read.

Morris wasn’t a lap kitty but in less than a minute he was on my lap, all motors running. We sat there for about an hour and I patted him, paying special attention to his head and ears. “Who does ears better than daddy? NOBODY does ears better than daddy!!!” He was always sensitive to how I was. On the few occasions that I was sick enough to be in bed a bit, he’d curl up with me.

I did all the feeding, and poor Maikki was in charge of the litter box. As he became older I was responsible for keeping all his pill orders up to date and scheduling all the pills. Maikki did all the pilling and was brilliant at it. He eventually took more pills than Maikki (age 77) and I (age 82) combined! The only exception to the pilling was at 11 o’clock AM when I would give him a pill in a pillpocket well-crusted in bits of kitty treats while I had my levodopamine (I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in September of 2022).

Stella was mommy’s girl and often when we slept or napped she’d sleep on top of her. In all fairness, since Morris treated her like a kitty toy and I was Morris’ human, she regarded me with suspicion. She even hissed at me when I brought her food upstairs to her. I would gingerly shove the bowl to her and retire to a safe distance but remain watching to make sure Morris didn’t move in. She was a sickly little girl and in December of 2019 developed a respiratory problem that left her gasping for breath. It turned out that she had a tumor interfering with her breathing. We sadly said goodbye to her. Maikki really missed her.

Come 2020 and Maikki and I planned a Viking trip on the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel, where I had colleagues from my pre-retirement job. But Covid changed everything! Viking cancelled all activities and we settled in for a year-long quarantine. Maikki’s brother did shopping for us and we got kitty supplies delivered or on rare forays to a pet store. Maikki, Morris, and I holed up at home – a family of three. We developed a strong 3-way bonding.

There is a kitty shelter near our house, Feline Rescue. We support it every year. Every year they publish a kitty calendar. People submit pictures of their kitties, then the voting starts. The top 12 get into the calendar. The catch? Each vote costs a $1 donation. Then they sell the calendars. With 350 votes (300 were mine, 50 from friends) Morris came in at number 8. He became Mr. June, which was appropriate since his adoption date was June 24. (Every year we celebrated that date as his birthday. Maikki and I split a bottle of Champagne and he got designer kitty food.)

We fell into a routine – all very pleasant. Morris reminded us of all his mealtimes and pillpocket treat times. I had a sheet on the fridge giving all of his pills: 3 with his breakfast at 6, 1 with his lunch at noon, 3 with his dinner at 6, and 1 with his evening meal at 10, plus another in a pillpocket at 11 AM and 9 PM. Was he spoiled? You bet! (Each meal was half a can of Fancy Feast!) I got one of those pill organizers, the kind with dates of the week: SMTWTFS. I labeled them ½ amlodipine, ½ furosemide, methizmazole, ¼ clopidogtel in capsule, etc.

In the morning after breakfast, coffee, and checking my email, I would lie on my side in bed and Morris would be very close behind me and lie down beside me. We would then have a 10-15 minute ear rubbing session. (You remember who was the expert!) He head-butted me and usually poked at Maikki at 4-5 AM and she would pat and cuddle him.

Things all went well in 2021, 2022, and the first half of 2023. In late August we noticed that he was drinking a lot of water and peeing a lot. By the middle of September he was off his food. He’d start to eat and we’d stand over him crooning “Good boy! Good job!” etc. For a while he tried to please us but then that stopped. In addition we observed that he wasn’t his usual self.

We made an emergency appointment with his long-time vet, Dr. Elizabeth Fenske, for 11:30 AM on September 25. She had just finished surgery and fit us in. As ever with her, Morris was the perfect gentleman. But the blood tests showed Creatinine and BUN (118) off the scale abnormally high. This meant total kidney failure. Dr. Fenske told us it was time. In the twin cities there is a company who will send a vet to perform euthanasia at home. Dr. Erica Hartz was respectful, patient, and empathetic. Maikki held Morris in her lap (as ever he was well behaved) and the vet first gave him a strong sedative and then the final shot. She took him in a basket to the trunk of her car and arranged a blanket over him. He looked like he was asleep. I gave him one last pat and a last brief ear rub.

Praises are in order. First, Dr. Fenske at Parkview Cat Clinic! The very best vet any of our kitties have ever had, warm and competent. I really think she loves all of the kitties she sees.

Then Dr. Hartz, who was sensitive and empathetic while performing an unhappy task. She was concerned as much for us as for poor Morris,

Then This is a website to order all kinds of pet supplies for delivery, food, Rx, litter, toys, snacks, etc. Superb customer service and a website that works! When they found out about Mr Morris they refunded over $60 of my last payment and suggested that I donate leftover food, etc. to a kitty shelter. There was more. A few days later flowers were delivered. A gift from Chewy! How many companies are that nice to ex-customers???

Last, but by no means least, were Jeff, Maikki’s brother and his partner, Michelle. Two days after that Monday I decided that I needed to strip the house of all kitty stuff. (The house itself is still a reminder…) I put all the stuff – canned food, bags of kibble, toys, bags of litter, etc. – onto the front porch. I offered them first refusal for their two kitties. They took everything! I’m sure they’ll discard some and pass some on, but they spared us having to see it any more. Bravo!–Dean MacLaughlin

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