After almost 16 long, fun-filled years together, today we had to let my best friend go. For nearly 10 years, Puzzle fought a good fight against kitty leukemia and late last year was diagnosed with cancer.
The toll on his body…fighting two aggressive diseases…was significant. He dropped nearly half his body weight…stopped grooming his beautiful fur…and eventually developed hyperthyroidism.
It was time to let him rest. His body…and spirit…had fought so hard for so long he deserved some peace.
Our life together started many many moons ago, shortly after I moved to Indianapolis. I’d just gotten a kitten, Pockets, and felt like she needed a cat friend to keep her company while I was at work. So I headed back to Uncle Bills where I’d found Pockets in search of cat #2.
I’ll never forget that day. As I looked through the cages filled with cute little kittens, I saw a skinny little black and white kitten. I can’t believe I didn’t think he was cute, but for whatever reason I didn’t. We locked eyes briefly and I moved on…in search of my new pet.
As I bent down in front of his cage to look at another set of kittens, I felt a gentle tap on my back. I was alone and there wasn’t anyone around me. I slowly stood up to find that skinny little kitten…with his paw extended between the bars of his cage. He had tapped me on the shoulder to get my attention. Again we locked eyes…but I moved on.
I headed back to the cage just below, thinking I’d found a potential new kitty when I left a second tap on my shoulder. Again, I slowly rose up. There he was…paw extended…looking me straight in the eye. It was in that moment that I realized I wasn’t picking out a kitten…a kitten had picked me. I brought him home and named him Puzzle.
Puzzle…aka Puzzle Butt, Puz, Puz Butt, Mr. Puzzlesworth…was a cat of many names. I swear he was part cat, part dog. Everyone loved him and he loved everyone. He had a girlfriend, Yinny…a step mom, Moon Pie…but I knew there was a special spot in his little cat heart for me.
I remember when I first started traveling for work, Puzzle would run to the front window as I pulled my suitcase through the house to the garage. There he’d sit as he watched me back out of the driveway. It broke my heart every time so I got in this habit of telling him how long I was going to be gone. What day it was and what day I’d be back. So many times, kneeling down and saying “Puzzle, I’m going to be for 3 days. Today is Monday. So I’ll be gone tonight, Tuesday, Wednesday, and back Thursday morning.” For some reason I thought he could understand what I was saying…and I didn’t want him sitting there wondering if I was coming home or not. That thought brought instant tears to my eyes.
Puz became more than just a cat. He really was my best friend. He survived three other cat friends…numerous boyfriends…and two husbands. He moved with me all over the City. While I know he loved downtown because of his friends Eli and Kristine, I think his favorite spot was Broadripple.
There he had a dog door and a giant back yard to chase squirrels and chipmunks. His favorite game when we lived there was to catch a chipmunk, bring him inside, and let him go. Then he’d lay down in the middle of the floor and watch me chase the chipmunk like a crazed woman. He did it three times…I’m pretty sure with the same chipmunk. I started to wonder if they’d made a deal and both enjoyed the game a little too much….
When we lived there, Puzzle made friends with the neighbor cat. I barely knew my neighbors but Puz liked to be friendly. For months, he’d been going next door, letting himself in their cat door and hanging out with their cat, Sparkles. This is when I first started to suspect that Puzzle might be gay. Unlike most male cats, Puz preferred the companionship of other males. It kinda made me love him all the more.
I get that one “experiment” doesn’t make you gay…but when we moved downtown, he found another friend, Eli. As soon as the weather turned nice, Puzzle would sit at the door every morning to be let out so he could head two doors down to hang with Eli. Sometimes he’d be gone the entire day. The saddest thing would be on the days that Eli wasn’t home. I would know because Puz would come right back, head hanging low…and he’d spend most of the day going back and forth, just waiting for Eli to be available to hang.
Before he got sick…really sick…he used to sleep with me every night. I’d ask him if he was ready for bed and he’d run down the hall or up the stairs, depending on where we were living, jump on the bed, and wait for me. He’d always let me get settled first…then he’d walk up by my head and paw at me to lift the covers. He’d walk under, make a little circle, and lay down. His back to my chest. His head on my pillow…over my arm. My other arm wrapped around him and that’s how we’d sleep…until morning.
Puzzle Butt was my best friend. He loved me with all his heart, just like I loved him. Making the decision to let him go was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. He couldn’t tell me he was ready…or if he was in pain. All he could do was look at me with those big green eyes and meow. I finally realized that keeping him around was becoming selfish…because I didn’t want to do what I knew needed to be done.
For as much as I loved him, I knew that letting him go…to find peace…to be healthy again…was what I needed to do.
Puzzle, I miss you buddy. I hope you’re having fun playing with Bella. Maybe you’ll even find Pockets…or Tiger…or Smokey. If you do, tell them all I said hello. You’ll always have a special place in my heart. They’ll never be another cat like you. You were my best friend. xoxo