He Came with Eight Lives

It’s been roughly 43 hours. But the time warp of grief tells me it has either been many more or far fewer. A little after 6 pm on Thursday Friday, May 22, 2020, with love in our hearts and tears in our eyes, we had to put our cat to sleep.

Photo credit: Jennifer De Vito-Patten

Bertram was described to us as a dilute red tabby. We liked to refer to him as pink. In reality, he was more of a pale orange. As chance would have it, he fell out of the fourth floor window of the Rodriguez family in New York City. He couldn’t have been more than four months old at the time. With the Rodriguez family unable to afford to pay to fix his broken pelvis, they were forced to surrender him to the ASPCA. As luck would have it, our veterinary heart specialist sister-in-law suggested we adopt him.

Despite the fact that we had only seen one picture of him, not to mention the fact that he was 2,760 miles away, we adopted him and had him flown–by himself–all the way to California. I’ll save the story of how the airline lost him for another time. Needless to say, the story ends well.

My wife and I adopted him together even before we were married. With an impending wedding, we secured an apartment which would serve as our first home together. Us boys–that is, Bertram and I–moved in first, the wife joining us after the wedding. Bertram’s personality, unlike his color, was anything but dilute. He would, in fact, lie in wait outside the bedroom door, planning the attack of his prey–that is, my new bride. I won’t detail the numerous conversations with an animal behaviorist here. Needless to say, this story, too, ends well.

Bertram’s personality sweetened with age. In the end, he was the sweetest cat you can imagine. Just when we were settled into enjoying his finer years, his health took a nosedive. At 15, a broken tooth and intestinal blockage combined to prevent any sort of happy ending. We had to come to the decision that has certainly been the most difficult in my life. We had to take our cat, our boy, our beloved Bertram, to be relieved of his suffering. We were there, offering praise and apologies, as he took his last breath.

Now, we are left to suffer. We suffer the loss of our pet, our companion, our family member, our good boy, our Bertram.

RIP Bertram April 25, 2005-May 22, 2020

For Bertram

He came with eight lives
And his walk was kind of crooked
A voice so plaintive with fear
Of a return flight to the city
Of his birth
And near-death

He brought his New York attitude
To the best-in-the-west coast
Ready to fight-bite
To get what he wants
Or protect
What is his

Fast forward twelve years and a few lives
And California runs through his veins
He’s cool now, mellow and weird
But his angst is there, late at night
It comes in howls
Crying “Mother!”

(Who knew a cat could howl?)
“I’m right here, kid,” I assure him
But cats are privy to spirits
Of the prey they’ve teased and tormented
And killed
Dancing on the ceiling

–Gregory Short
written in or around 2017

Author: Gregory

4 thoughts on “He Came with Eight Lives

  1. I’m so sorry to hear of Bertram’s passing! I know it isn’t easy as I’ve had to make that drive several times. Please accept my sincerest condolences.

    1. Thank you. That was the first time, and it was everything I imagined it would be. Absolutely heartbreaking. I appreciate your kind words.

    1. Thank you so much. The vibe in the house feels wrong. Fortunately, we have tons of pictures, video… and even audio of his near-speech vocalizations. He liked to howl “hello,” “mother,” and “morale”.

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