Smokey by Tony & Chris / T.T.

Smokey was a stray we adopted in 1995 when he was about 6 months old after my brother-in-law watched a guy in a pickup truck open his door, dump Smokey from a black plastic trash bag, and speed away. Smokey was an almost identical twin to our Katie, although she was 2 1/2 years older. I was adamant about not getting another cat at the time, but my wife insisted she go “look” at the kitty. Later that evening, I was laying on our bed, and she came down the hallway saying “Guess who I’ve got?” “Katie?”, said I. “No, but he looks like Katie.” She came around the corner with Smokey in her arms, and he turned around and looked around the room, with this curious expression as if to say “Hmmmm…this is new. What can I get into?”

The moment I saw him, he had me. He and I developed a bond that even death hasn’t broken. He was my shadow, following me all over the house. He greeted me as I got out of bed in the morning, and when I came home from work in the evening. Our 3 children took to him immediately, and he to them. I’ve never seen a cat as calm as Smokey, or one who purred as loudly! Despite being beaten and starved before we got him, Smokey never met anyone he didn’t love. Even when our children were too small to pick him up, they still tried, and he allowed them to wool him around like a Teddy Bear. I was constantly after them to leave him alone, afraid they would hurt him or themselves. Smokey took it all in stride, however, and always loved to be in the middle of wherever people were. If the kids were playing in a room, Smokey was there on a bed; if we were watching TV, Smokey was in the middle of the floor, or on my lap; if I was at my workbench, Smokey would try to lay down at my feet, and I would have to shoo him over to his “nest”, a spot where he would lay on a folded sleeping bag and watch me work. He also had this game where he would sit by my computer chair as I approached it, then at the last second, jump into it and roll on his side, exposing his belly. That was a trap, because as soon as I scratched his tummy, he would grab my fingers with his paws, and nibble away. Sometimes, he would get too excited, and chomp rather vigorously! Smoke never stopped being a kitten, even as he got older. His meow never changed from that baby sound; he made a point to lay on my wife’s books or magazines when she tried to read in bed, or bite her hair when she pretended to be asleep; he stole the ribbons from my wife when she wrapped presents, and stole the bows from presents when we put them under the Christmas tree. He even stole my daughter’s pencils when she tried to do her homework. I guess I just never noticed Smokey getting older.

Our oldest son A. was 6 when we adopted Smokey. He was crazy about that cat, and took it upon himself to try to supervise Smokey’s interactions with his younger siblings. Of course, that infuriated them. Many were the times I had to break up an argument because A. had decided how long (or IF) one of his siblings would hold Smokey. Our lives were torn apart when A. died on April 26 of this year from a reaction to prescription medication. He would have been 15 in May. I quickly descended into months of depression, burying my grief under layers of denial and anger. Smokey helped me to hang on. I would hold him and talk to him about A. Somehow, when I held Smokey, everything was OK for a while. I’ve always been a homebody, and became even more reclusive after A. died, so I’ve had more time to spend with Smokey and Katie, even when my wife and children were out of the house.

A few days before he died, Smokey began to show some signs of lethargy, and wasn’t eating quite as well. God forgive me, but we didn’t get him to the vet right away, because we had seen those symptoms before, and they had always turned out to be just a cold. He was still getting up to greet me in the morning, and following me or the kids around the house. He was still enjoying his spot on the screened porch, where he could survey the back yard and watch the chipmunks and birds playing. He was still trying to mooch food from us at dinner.

On Thursday, 10/7/04, my wife took Smokey to the vet. We assumed he would look at Smoke, take his temperature, give him an antibiotic shot, and Smokey would sleep it off – as he had on other occasions. My world was turned upside down again when my wife called me at work, so upset she could barely talk, telling me Smokey was dead. She had carried him into the vet’s office, with Smokey giving her his usual “hug”, where he would place a front leg on each side of our neck, draping his paws over our shoulders. He wanted down, but when she put him down, he crawled under a chair and started gasping. Thinking he was having an asthma attack, she got the nurse to call the doctor out. Smokey was taking medicine for asthma (which is hard on a cat’s heart). Unfortunately, a side effect of the medicine was the inability to get Smokey back to a healthy weight (he stayed around 18-19 pounds). The vet had hinted earlier this year that Smokey probably wouldn’t live as long as many cats, due to the asthma.

The vet took one look at Smokey, and told my wife he was in critical condition, and might not make it. He took him into the back and put him on oxygen, but his gums didn’t return to their normal color. Then his heart just stopped. They gave him a shot to try to restart his heart, but it was too late. Our baby boy, as we called him, was gone. Also gone was my connection to our deceased son, and I thought I was going to go insane. I spent 4 days in mental and physical agony. Finally, after much prayer and talk with family and friends, I woke Monday morning for the first time in days without feeling sick. I’ve been writing about Smokey in a journal I started after A. died, and it has helped a little. I’ve tried to get out of the house some, which has also helped, although there have been times a huge lump has appeared in my throat, and tears in my eyes, as I thought of Smokey while walking through a store.

I’m continuing to try to focus on all the great memories I have of both A. and Smokey. Our family was blessed by our son, and blessed to have a kitty that was so full of love and affection. I know my path to healing will be tough, but with the prayers of my family and friends, I know I’ll somehow get through.


Smokey's love will never be forgotten.
Tony & Chris