Abbie The Cat Has A Posse
Monday, July 22, 2013
 
Dear readers and friends of Abbie the Cat,

It is with a heavy and desolate heart that I write to inform you that Abbie the Cat is dying.

He has terminal pancreatic cancer which has spread to his chest, making it terribly hard for him to breathe. We had no idea and he wasn't sharing any of his pain with us. Things suddenly flared up a week ago Saturday, when he started breathing too shallow and too rapidly to be healthy. The emergency vet we took him to drained his chest of a large amount of fluid which had been restricting his lungs, and ran some tests. There were three possible diagnoses, none of them good; the worst was cancer. An ultrasound taken on Friday revealed the worst.

At the present, he is currently lying down in a cool living room, hunkered down in one of his favorite boxes, close to the hanging catnip plant which once used to dangle far too low for its own good. He has stopped eating; he had been taking baby food up until yesterday. Not even salmon would get his attention--and for the biggest mooch I've ever known to turn down fish, that is a bit of a shock. He has kept drinking all this time, and we've swapped out his water for Pedialyte so that he gets as much nutrients as he can while he can. Still, he has lost his strength. He is tired. He has lost so much weight. But he is home, where there are people who love him, and this is where he will stay. It is now just a matter of time.

The living room is now a Cat Hospice. It even says so on the door. I will not be taking him in for any further vet visits or invasive treatments. I cannot in good conscience let a 16-year-old cat undergo chemotherapy. And while I may have to make the decision to ease his suffering if it becomes too much, I would prefer him to take his leave as he's always left a room: when he's ready. I want to give him that chance. He deserves it, and I trust his judgement.

It is so hard to say goodbye to a friend of sixteen whole years. I am not one who considers myself Dad to the cat, but I often marveled that I'd gone and raised a teenager. Abbie and his sister Martha helped me through some very rough times, and I nursed them through some rough patches. If you've ever had a cat watch over you as you fall into a troubled sleep, then curl up and sleep beside you, then you know how reassuring and comforting they can be. Aggravations and frustration are temporary; love and companionship are constants. Abbie had the kindest heart I've ever known in a cat. He never knew malice or hate. He never lashed out in aggression. He may have said the occasional cat cuss word, but who hasn't? He knew the sound of my footsteps and, upon my arrival home, would rush to the top of the foyer stairs to meet me and complain all about the injustices which had been heaped upon him that day and maybe also what he ate. (He would not rush to meet other housemates. I hope they did not take it personally.)

I started this blog twelve years ago on a whim. I have always been very fond of Don Marquis' Archy and Mehitabel as well as Diane Duane's wonderful Book of Night with Moon series, and I often wondered what Abbie and his sister Martha were doing exactly while I was away each day at work. Judging from the condition of the apartment sometimes when I returned, it wasn't sleep. Over time, Abbie found a voice, and people found him. I don't know how you did it, but I am glad you did. Martha found her voice too, and then her calling as a pirate; she enjoyed riding around on my shoulder like a parrot enough that she decided to see who else parrots rode around on. And when she passed away nearly eight years ago, half Abbie's current age, there was a tremendous outpouring of love and support from friends and strangers alike. Her final story was one of the hardest things to write, but it was all so very real and powerful that Abbie and I had to get it all out. I still think of her quite frequently, and I know others do. Her farewell post has comments from people who have come back to it time and again as a touchstone; others have come back to read it after losing a cat of their own. It gladdens me to know she could touch so many people, offering comfort and solace in a dark time.

Abbie's fame, while not enormous enough to warrant a television option or anything like that, grew well beyond what I thought would be. When he got out of the house in 2008 and was gone for two weeks, friends from all over helped in the search. Some even looked in different time zones and continents, just to be sure. Turned out he was just over in the neighbor's garage. They discovered him when they returned from vacation. Friends came over from as far away as the Czech Republic to visit the cat. Maybe me, too. Every now and then I would hear that someone I admired had read his stories; he was once even quoted by Wonkette on, of all things, the 2004 Democratic National Convention. I don't know how these things happen. It is the Internet.

Most importantly to me, several years ago I heard from folks who had found Abbie from a link on Diane Duane's sidebar. To think that one of the people who inspired his stories and mythos had read him and thought enough to recommend him to others. It is one of the highest compliments I have ever recieved.

And all because of this cat. This Cat. This fellow whom I adopted when he was six weeks old, and who has traveled with me through nearly half my life. This overly expressive and affectionate curmudgeon, this gourmand of all things People Food, this boon companion and loyal pal, this cat. A good cat. My buddy. And a buddy to a lot of other people, too.

HarryCat, Scout, Zippy, Sadie and Speedy, Scamp, Annie from Tasmania, Weezer the Amazing Tubcat, Shelley, Anne, Barb, Coriander, T.R., all those who have stopped by to say hello and the lurkers alike, whether you are still with us or have Gone Before, thank you. Because of Abbie and because of you, my life has been so much richer and warmer. We love you. Please keep in touch.

I did not think it right to announce Abbie's condition in character. I hope, however, that he has a draft of something saved somewhere that I can find and post. He always was a little messy on the computer. It is not in his nature to say goodbye, however, so I must for him.

Many years ago I read James Herriot's series of veterinarian memoirs and I read them again and again. One passage stands out for me in particular, from an essay I think included in All Creatures Great and Small. It is a conversation Herriot had with an elderly woman whose cats he cared for. You may be familiar with it. The widow confides in him her deepest fear, and Herriot responds with one of the wisest and most comforting philosophies I have ever taken to heart.
"It's the dogs and cats, Mr. Herriot. I'm afraid I might never see them when I'm gone which worries me so. You see, I know I'll be reunited with my parents and brothers, but ... but ..." She gazed at the two cats curled up at the end of her bed. 
"Well, why not with your animals?" 
"That's just it." She rocked her head on the pillow and for the first time I saw tears on her cheeks. "They say animals have no souls." 
"Who says?" 
"Oh, I've read it and I know a lot of religious people believe it." 
"Well, I don't believe it." I patted the hand which still grasped mine. "If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans. You've nothing to worry about there." 
"Oh, I hope you're right. Sometimes I lie at night thinking about it." 
"I know I'm right, Miss Stubbs, and don't you argue with me. They teach us vets all about animals' souls."  
Abbie is resting in his box. His eyes are still big and expressive. He purrs when I pet him. He turns his head and very gently licks my wrist, something he has done since the day I first met him. I sat on a couch and they put a black-and-white kitten in my lap. When I reached out my hand and scritched his head, he vigorously licked my wrist.

oKAy mister you are now my Guy
and I iwll be your ABBIE
what do you think of That

He lays his head down on his outstretched paws and does his best to breathe. It is frightening, but he is not alone. He is surrounded by the people he has loved and who have loved him for so long. And the cats who have Gone Before are with him. They sit in the shadows and the sun, singing to him a song they have always known. He quietly listens, eyes half closed, and sings along in his head. Soon he will join their song.

And we will miss him dearly.




-Rob

Comments:
All the best to you and Abbie, in this difficult time. I'm going to miss him, too, though of course not as much as you will.

I have loved the blog. And I have also loved Abbie, from afar.
 
Dear Abbie,

I am so sad to hear that you are ill. I hope that you will soon come to rest, free from pain. You have touched a lot of hearts all over the world (I am in Sweden).

My deepest condolances to all those around you. I hope they will have many fond memories of you, and that you will live on in their hearts.

With all my love
Tove
 
Love.
 
Abbie will missed in Minnesota, too. Sending hugs to you both!
 
I knew that there would come a time when I would come to my computer and have my heart broken by a cat that I'd never met, yet I managed to fall in love with over the years through his amazing writing skills and wonderful story-telling. Abbie, be brave as you cross into whatever comes after this life. You will not be forgotten. You continue to be loved by many.
 
oh, Abbie.
 
Rob -
>>while I may have to make the decision to ease his suffering if it becomes too much, I would prefer him to take his leave as he's always left a room: when he's ready. I want to give him that chance. He deserves it, and I trust his judgement<<

My biggest regret was not recognizing when it was time to help my cat take the final step. I left it too long and I think he suffered. I wanted him with me for longer, and I think I erred. Of course I will have to trust that you know when, and hope you don't have the same regret as I. Peace, Abbie.
 
Dear Rob,

Thank you for sharing Abbie with us.

I have loved him.

He was himself, and he was a Cat.

That's a lot. That's enough.

Dear Abbie,

Thank you for your words.

My cats never spoke; but because you have a voice, I could hear theirs.

What a gift. Thank you.
 
Sweet dreams, Abbie. I won't forget you.
 

Dear Abbie,
I have been reading your blog since before 2005, which is a very long time (in human years and in cat years). I am so glad you wrote it. You will be missed very, very much, but I will send lots of light to you and to Rob. Thank you for sharing your stories with us. xo
 
Abbie, like Martha and the rest of your family, you're a good pirate. Here's to the grandest of adventures.
 
Having lost two beloved cat companions over the last few years, I have been where you are today. My heart goes out to you and to Abbie.
 
Abbie has been a source of unexpected wisdom for so long... he's left a much bigger mark than most cats.
 
O! Abbie, this makes me so sad. I am so glad we got to share in your life and philosophy. You have been a bright spot on the web.
 
I cried when reading that Martha had died, and I'm crying now. Thank you for giving these wonderful, silly cats the voices you did.
 
I'm so sorry Rob. I lost my beloved Buoy/Sir Wagsalot 3.5 years ago to cancer. The only good thing about it was he was considerate, as always, and he was gone a week or so before my second neurosurgery so I didn't have to try to take care of the both of us. I still cry every time I think of those days and of him.
 
Oh, Rob, I am so sorry. Sweet Abbie brought so much to all of us who followed his adventures.

And he was a lucky cat in finding you to be his person.

Love, Barb
 
My eyes seem to have sprung leaks where there were no leaks before. My sincere and deep condolences, Rob, and my thanks for sharing Abbie with all of us through his (ok, your) words. May his life and his memory continue to be a blessing.
-Shelley
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Oh Abbie, you will be so very missed. I know Martha is waiting for you, ready to pirate-pounce on you as soon as you can see her again.

And all the cats that have gone before are singing, waiting for you to join them, Abbie. And The Guy - my heart goes out to you. All my tears and sympathies and condolences.

A long time ago I made a photoshop picture for you of Abbie driving a train - it might amuse you to know that I now have a 5-year-old son, who is the biggest steam-train enthusiast I have ever met. I'll have to dig up that picture sometime and show him - he'll like it, and I will try to explain who Abbie was!
 
My deepest condolences. I just heard about Abbie but it seems that he was a very special animal and my heart goes out to you during this difficult time.
 
I miss Abbie, as I know you do, and I hope it's not to soon to ask, but do you think we can have a little self-published books of Abbie's verses? I would love to have them on my shelf next to Archie and Mehitabel. I'm currently reading The Book of Night with Moon and missing my big old black cat who passed from cancer two years ago. I will happily put $50 into the kitty(!) to get the book fund started, then buy the book when it's posted. Just so you know, thanks.
 
Catster decided to honor Abbie and everything he did for the Internet: http://www.catster.com/the-scoop/abbie-the-cat-gone-but-he-still-has-a-posse
 
I am so sorry for your loss of Abbie. I did not know about Abbie until I read the story on Catster today. It is clear that Abbie was a wonderful companion and a very special kitty (and aren't they all). Fly free over the Bridge, sweet Abbie. And send loving purrs to your earth family. My condolences.
 
Hi –

I never read what Abbie had to say until just a couple of days ago. Always missed it, I guess. Anyway, I found what you've written pretty original and funny and occasionally powerful, and I hadn't had a good cry in some time, and maybe I needed to.

And now that I've looked at the Catster article, I can see that Abbie was an absolutely beautiful animal, and I can see how he inspired such creative efforts.

Thank you very much for this.
 
I'm so sorry you had to say goodbye to your fur baby!! Those little balls of paws and fur and silly antics are amazing creatures. Abbie was loved to the last, and no doubt knew that!

-Kathleen
 
Dear Rob,

Thank you so much for sharing Abbie's life with us and letting us know about his passing. We're so sorry; how you must miss him!

His and your wisdom helped me raise my children, and I've just written them in their now grown-up homes to tell them about their old friend.

Our own Viking crew is still intact, for now, but some will soon set out to sea to join their brothers. You're so right to remind us to treasure every day with them.

May the posse stand unbroken!

Our very deepest sympathies,

Mom and the Norse Cats of the 4th Castle

 
This so perfectly expresses the loss we feel when these extraordinary beings leave us. I hope you never hear those words- "it's just a cat" but know if you do, they are coming from the ignorance of people who have only ever experienced one dimension of love and do not respect the pain of the loss of any other kind. Thank you for sharing Abbie's life and death. xo from Tiger,PawPaw,Gollum,Smeagol,Simon, Pugsley,Kilmousey who will greet Abbie, Montie,Sophie and George who will meet him someday.

 
Thank you Abbie for everything, I really am at a loss without you in my life. PS say HI to Violet, she looks just like you!
 
Oh, I'm so sorry to hear of Abbie's passing. I've been reading the blog for years and felt like I had really known him. It's so hard losing cats; my cat Bill died almost four years ago now and I still grieve for him. Rest in peace, Abbie. You were loved deeply by many people and will be fiercely missed.
 
I put on my Abbie the Cat has a Posse t-shirt this morning and realized I hadn't read his blog in a while.

I am sad he's left us, but we are all better for having known him (and that dear Other Cat, Martha the Pirate).
 
I sadly had never heard of Abbie until I read the story of his passing on Catster. Even though I am a old guy (65) and had never read of his blogs before, I still had tears streaming down my cheeks by the end. Rest easy, sweet guy and enjoy your fields of catnip.
 
Oh, Rob. I'm so sorry. I've been following Abbie's adventures for a long time. :(
 
My deepest condolences.
 
Dear Rob and Abbie (wherever he is),

I have followed this blog for a very long time. Always put a smile on my face even during my own tough times. I thank you for sharing Abbie and his quirkiness and for making my internet a little happier, warmer, and sweeter. My deepest condolences.

Tammie (and her three kitties)
 
Dear Rob,

I am so sad to hear Abbie's passing. Both Martha and his adventures brought a smile to my face and brightened my day. I can only imagine how much you miss both of them.

Thank you for sharing those adventures and memories, you've touched many, many people.
 
Dear Rob- I have loved Abbie for years now. I thank you so much for sharing him with the internet and for being such a wonderful writer. Goodbye, Abbie. Thank you.
-Terri

 
What a beautiful post, thank you so much for sharing Abbie's last day. I loved him from afar and am so sorry for your loss.
 
Little fuzz face, how I will miss you. Your posts made a lot,of,people very happy. Rest in peace.
 
How do we keep in touch?
 
Rob,

I am Kristina, Scout's human that you mentioned in your post. I swing by a couple of times a year to check in on Abbie and his antics. It has been a long while because I am just now reading this post.

I am sorry for your loss. Abbie had a great guy taking care of him and catering to his whims.

I know the pain you feel for the loss of your feline companion of so many years. Scout, at age fifteen, died at home earlier this year. I too did as you did and did not subject her to multiple vet appointments. I too brought her home, kept her comfortable and set up kitty hospice. I felt I owed her as much.

Abbie will be missed.
 
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