Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The cat that broke things.

Gizmo liked to show up where he wasn't expected, like this laundry basket.

     Gizmo was a naughty cat. And demanding. He liked to drink at night from the faucet in our bathroom. But insisted that one of us open the tap, set to a precise trickle, while he watched, at night. That last part was vital. We couldn’t just set the trickle before bed and go to sleep. He’d wake us anyway.
     Gizmo was a regal cat. He would regularly summon us downstairs to give him food. Even when his bowl already had food in it. I would troop after him in the middle of the night, knowing the bowl was already full. I would lean over, groaning, lift the bowl of kibble, and give it a ceremonial shake. Then Gizmo would deign to eat. Maybe. Sometimes he would just sniff and turn away. This went on for a decade. At least.
     Gizmo was a punitive cat. Ignore him and there would be consequences. If one of us didn’t appear in the bathroom in what he considered a timely fashion, Gizmo would begin knocking things into the sink: cups, toothbrush stands, shaving cream cans. Anything that would make a loud, booming noise.
     Gizmo was a destructive cat. Refuse to conduct the food bowl ceremony, and he would leap upon the hutch and nudge valuables — cups, saucers, a handmade ceramic Scott Frankenberger pie plate I had commissioned as a present for my wife’s birthday — off the shelves. Had I accidentally dropped that pie plate I would have been mocked forever after. But Gizmo’s act of deliberate vandalism was immediately forgiven. “A sweet cat,” my wife said.
     Gizmo was a sensual cat. He enjoyed frequent and vigorous carnal relations with the stuffed tiger my younger son had won in Las Vegas. Gizmo liked to rendezvous with the object of his affections on the landing outside our bedroom door, letting out a piercing yowl that sounded like a cat being torn in half. I tried to ignore it, best I could.
     Gizmo was a loyal cat. He slept at the foot of our bed, on my wife’s side, next to our other cat, Natasha. They would groom each other.

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  1. Gizmo was loved and appreciated for exactly who he was. Your exceptional care, acceptance of his mischief and unconditional affection no doubt contributed to his long life. I was crying by the end of your eulogy thinking about all the wonderful companions (cats and dogs) who have been essential members of our family. Thank you for sharing this remembrance.

  2. What is this salty discharge at 5:57 AM? Beautifully done, Neil. Gizmo, into the arms of God.

  3. In the 30+ years my wife and I have been together I've lost count of how many cats we've had to put down. And it never gets any easier.
    You have our sincere condolences.
    P.S. How in the world did you ever get Gizmo to puke on a hardwood floor?

    1. It never gets any easier. Truer words never spoken.

  4. I've had cats and I've had dogs. They offer different forms of companionship, but their loss can equally tear at the heart. RIP Gizmo.


  5. I read this in the Chicago Sun Times today. It made me laugh and made me cry. Even though Gizmo seemed to be your wife’s cat based on one of your previous blogs about cats, it is apparent now that he was more than that. I am so very sorry for you and your family’s loss. I’ve no doubt that Natasha is grieving as well. Gizmo was definitely a big part of the Steinberg family. Rest In Peace little one.

  6. Kitties are all slightly nuts, but each one is nuts in a different way. Which is why we love them so. Schmutzik (AKA Schmootz and The Shmoo) was a big tuxedo boy who looked very much like Gizmo. No food dish games, no knocking stuff into the sink, no nudging of things from shelves and breaking them. But he, too, was also a loyal cat who slept with us and groomed other cats at night and would lick our flesh (mostly arms) as we drifted off to sleep.

    Schmootz threw up a lot. It’s what senior cats do. Didn’t mind the stained rugs, because the stomach acid can leave a permanent stain on a wooden floor (it can take the varnish right off). He was also inclined to “stink outside the box” and nothing would cure him. He really messed up our house. But he was a beloved cat, with a sweet and soulful face.

    “Schmutzik”(“dirty” in both Yiddish and German) sounds way cooler than “Smudge”…which he had--like a Hitler moustache. Cats that have them are called Kitlers. But cancer finally took him, and we had to say the same kind of sad good-bye.

    Later, we adopted an old orange cat named Leo. I mostly called him Orangy Boy. He, too, became fixated on running water. We bought him a circulating water dish. He spent a lot of time staring at it and pawing at it. But he also found the time to spend hours “lion” in the sun on the porch, and at night he would jump upon our bed and walk all over us and nudge us with his orange head. Right up to his last day.

    When he got older and sicker, Leo looked bedraggled. He was very skinny. He sneezed and wheezed and his nose ran. The X-rays showed an inoperable liver tumor. Like Gizmo, regular injections perked him up and kept him going for another couple of years. But there’s no injection for dementia. Yes, it happens to felines, too.

    Our sad old Orangy Boy also had Sundowner's Syndrome, which can affect unlucky elderly humans. He got agitated and vocal and noisy at's common in older male cats. Not easy to watch or hear.

    Finally there was diabetes, which meant the end of Leo’s life-prolonging shots. His time had come. He faced it, on all fours. It was as though he said: "I'm going to die with my orange boots on, dammit. I will go down standing on my own feet, and not on my knees" Which he then proceeded to do.

    Whoever said that adopting a pet means signing on for heartbreak was right. They bring us thousands of good days, and only a handful of bad ones, which makes the ending worth the hole in the heart. But loss is still loss, and my wife and I send our condolences on the passing of your beloved Gizmo. He was good company. That is the highest tribute one can pay to an animal companion. Gizmo was lucky to find you. And you were even more lucky to have found him.


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