It was the worst of times…
Those of you who have read a book or two in the Rowan Gant Investigations series are well aware that the main characters, Rowan and Felicity, have a pair of boisterous canines and a trio of curious felines sharing their home. The cats, as a nod to some of my favorites, were named after particular members of the literary world – those being Salinger (J. D., of course), Emily (Dickinson), and Dickens (Charles).
While the names assigned to these fictional pets are taken from the world of literature and poetry, their personalities and habits were gleaned from right here at home. The dogs are based on our own two, Benjamin (English Setter) and Quigley (Australian Cattle Dog), both of whom have long since left us for the great fire hydrant in the sky. The cats are a bit more complicated. Since we have rescued felines for years, the three in the books were each amalgams of other cats who have shared our home. Still, each had a “base feline” upon which the “character” was built.
Over the years, as will happen, many of these cats have left us. First was Sinbad, the Siamese upon which Salinger was based. Then “Data” the Calico who breathed life into Emily. And, most recently, Prince Valiant, whom we affectionately called PeeVee, who was the inspiration for Dickens.
PeeVee arrived in our home only a year or so after we were married. We had rapidly become known as the “cat rescue house” on our block. In fact, it was – and still is – a running joke that after I die E K will probably turn into a crazy cat lady. I even bought her a “Crazy Cat Lady” action figure as a gift and she keeps it tacked to the wall above her desk at work.
PeeVee, or sometimes “Peeved” was the equivalent of a tween when he showed up. Not quite a kitten, but definitely far from being adult. He was being wagged around from door to door by some of the neighborhood children as they searched for his owner. We took him in with the plan to continue that quest, which we did. However, as the weeks passed by no one came forward. By then, we had given him his name, and he had become a part of the family.
Speaking of his name – We have always tended toward naming the rescues from whence they arrive. Baley – survivor of a cotton baler incident which took her mother and siblings. Asphalt – rescued from the middle of an I-170 on ramp. “Prince Valiant” came about because of how quickly and immediately he made friends with all of the other cats in the house. There were no territorial skirmishes or fights of any kind. He was an immediate member of the “pride” and taken in without a complaint. E K felt that fit the personality of the comic strip hero and the rest is history.
PeeVee could be the typical cat at times. He thoroughly enjoyed going out into the back yard and gnawing on blades of grass.
Of course, with grass consumption for a cat also comes grass regurgitation. He was definitely good for that too. But, he wasn’t alone in that activity. We had a handful who were adventurous enough to explore, have a salad, and of course, barf.
Unlike the typical cat, however, PeeVee was not a “one person feline”. He was incredibly social and all about his “humans”. He was usually the first to greet people when they arrived, and would even see them to the door on the way out. Laps were good, no matter to whom they belonged. He even got along great with kids, which for an adult cat isn’t always the case.
If that isn’t enough, he was the first cat in the house to make friends with the dogs when we adopted them. He even had a game he would play with the English Setter. Benjamin would snuffle him, for lack of a better description, in the belly and PeeVee would purr. We called the game, “Eat the Kitty”… (Get your minds out of the gutter… We’re talking about an actual cat here…)
As he aged, PeeVee remained even-tempered and very social, even if he did tend to look annoyed when E K and the O-spring would dress him up.
He took it all in stride and even seemed to like the extra attention.
By the time PeeVee had been with us 17 years, he was still going strong. He had seen the demise of Banzai, Data, Genghis, and several others, as well as both of the dogs. He had risen through the ranks via attrition, and was the “King of the Pride.” He took his position seriously and would often let the rest of the house know about it with very vocal “calls of the wild” at all hours of the day and night.
It was around this time he was diagnosed with Diabetes. He and another of the cats, Takhoma were placed on Insulin injections. (Takhoma – short for take-home-a-sack, an ad campaign from the restaurant chain Steak -n- Shake as she was rescued from one location’s dumpster).
In all honesty, I started figuring that PeeVee would be leaving us soon. After all, at 17 he had pushed the normal limits of feline longevity, and he was now battling Diabetes and its complications such as Neuropathy. Still, except for a couple of blood sugar spikes and crashes, he continued on remarkably well.
As the last few years wore on, PeeVee seemed to develop an overactive libido – either that or senility. Maybe even both.
At any rate, he became enamored of a stuffed panda the O-spring had in her collection, and would pine for it if the door to her bedroom was closed. In order to keep him happy, O-spring gave him the panda, which he would drag around with him and at various inopportune times – such as having company present – would begin to yowl and “get busy” with it right in the middle of the living room.
One of his other major fascinations was the humidifier we used in the O-spring’s room during the winter months. Whenever we would fill the clear plastic tank and place it back on the base, it would “burp” and a large bubble would rise. PeeVee would race as fast as his old body could carry him whenever he suspected we would be even turning on the humidifier.
But, like I said above, his old body…
Neuropathy and arthritis began to take hold and he became less and less active in his declining years. He and panda would lay in his box most of the time, although he would get up to eat, use the litter box, or occupy a warm lap – whether offered or not.
Earlier this month, when PeeVee was pushing 21, he very suddenly became exceptionally lethargic. He had no interest in eating and only a little in drinking. Even panda was forgotten. A quick trip to the vet confirmed our worried suspicions. His watch spring was finally running out. He had started into renal failure, and at his advanced age there was no turning back.
The prognosis was that he only had a few days left. Unfortunately, with E K working and me spending time on Hell House, that would leave a very real possibility that he might expire alone. While many animals seem to go for that, PeeVee still acted as if he wanted human companionship, so to make sure he had it, he came with me to hell house and hung out with us while we worked.
The picture above was taken on a Friday, the day before PeeVee left us. At this point he was in no pain. He simply slept almost constantly. Since he could no longer move the lower half of his body, save for the tip of his tail, he would occasionally awaken and complain. I would pick him up, carry him around for a while as he rumbled a weak purr, then would re-position him in his box, whereupon he would drift off once again.
By mid afternoon on Saturday, he was starting to complain regularly. He couldn’t move, he was becoming dehydrated, and spiraling very quickly. While I was across the river in Collinsville, IL, doing an appearance at Archon 33, E K made the hard decision to take PeeVee to the vet and help him along this last leg of his journey.
I was sitting in the VIP hospitality suite right after finishing a book signing when I received the simple text message, “PV is gone.”
So, there you have it… The life and times of the real, honest to goodness black cat behind Dickens the cat from the Rowan Gant Investigations. Like Emily, Salinger, and the two canines, he will live on in the pages, though as Felicity and Rowan age along the timeline, so have the pets, and fictional or not, the two reluctant sleuths will soon have no choice but to face the sadness of loss.
More to come…