A Tribute to Shadow
My cat, Shadow, died today. I was awoken by my wife who found him. There he was, right next to me in bed. In an eternal slumber. My wife had gotten up early to run an errand and was attempting to slip back into bed when they noticed that Shadow wouldn’t move over. His rear end was against mine. My wife called my name over and over again like ringing an alarm bell.
“Shaine. Shaine! Shaine!” They said in a contradictory state of exclamation and loud whisper.
An emergency beckoning like that shoots adrenaline through my groggy brain.
“Huh? Yeah? What? Everything OK?”
I could comprehend what they said but a part of me couldn’t believe it. He was so lively just last night. We had a normal evening of cuddling and petting while watching television. He was active. He was running back and forth between my wife and I, begging for pets, just as he always had every other day. Then, some time in the night, his systems gave up. Just like that. Like turning off a light switch. It made no sense. It was April 1st. I thought this was a bad April Fools’ Day joke until I turned over to look at him. There he was. His big coin eyes awkwardly glassy and still in awkwardly slitted lids. His trademark cute pink little nose a cloudy gray. He was stiff. That means he likely died in the middle of the night; likely before my wife got out of bed to go run their early-morning errand. My wife was so concerned with not disturbing me that they couldn’t have noticed. I was still sound asleep, so there was no way I could have either.
Shadow was an interesting cat. I know every pet owner thinks their pet is the most unique, most interesting, and most beautiful pet on the planet. Shadow was something else though. Unlike most aloof cats, he always demanded your attention. And when you wouldn’t give it to him, he’d quickly find any humans that would. When we’d let him outside, he’d lay in the driveway until someone came along. Then he’d follow them and meow and beg for attention. He was a social cat. He was also absolutely disgusting. He had bad allergies, so he constantly sneezed and hacked up snot. He was a special needs cat, so he didn’t really know how to clean himself. I’ll spare the gory details on that. He was loved nonetheless. As a term of endearment, my wife started calling him a stinky baby after a video she saw on TikTok. It’s like that song was made for Shadow. He was a stinky baby.
It’s difficult for me to reconcile with the fact that he’s truly gone. I was hoping that somehow overnight Shadow had become sentient and hyper-intelligent, found out about April Fools’ Day, and was playing a joke on me. I expected him to jump out at any time and meow “April Fools’ ” at me. In the back of my head, I knew that was silly. I tried to maintain my daily habits. To cling to them. I wrote. I took a walk with my wife and dog. I wrote some more. That’s how I grieve, by throwing myself deeper into my work. I can’t help it. Nor can I say I know exactly why it’s so cathartic for me to write through my grief. What I do know, though, is that I’m going to miss that stinky baby.