Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth and I was a newly-wed, I talked my husband into getting a cat. A friend of ours had a connection to a woman in Connecticut who ran an informal shelter, and we went there to select the animal that would be our companion. It turned out not to be much of a selection process: Justice hopped up on the counter and went to lay down in the cat carrier. The message was clear: stop yapping and take me home with you.
I am oh so tremendously sorry to tell you that Justice died today, and the universe is a bleaker place for it.
Justice was a remarkable cat. Many of you knew him well. He was rescued and neutered a little late in life, so he had quite a bit of the rakish Tom left in him. He was without exception the most gregarious cat I’ve ever met. During parties with 30 or more people, while his sister was hiding under the bed, he would be in the middle of the crowd, hamming it up and demanding scritches from whomever in the room had the worst allergies. He was impossible to ignore, and would drape himself over you, your keyboard, your book or whatever triviality you were attempting.
Justice was a very adventurous soul. When we originally got him, he started going crazy in the confines of our apartment. We got Magic to help burn off some of his kittish energy. It didn’t work. He was very unhappy as an indoor cat – always trying to escape and looking longingly out windows. When we finally accepted that our grief tonight was a price we would be willing to pay for him to have the life he wanted to live and let him outdoors, he was much, much happier. He followed us on walks around the neighborhood. People would stop us and ask if we had him on a leash – but we didn’t. He just followed us non-chalantly, as though we happened to be going the direction he was headed anyway.
Justice excelled in all catlike arts. He was an excellent hunter – often expecting us to be impressed by the rabbits and squirrels he offered to us. He spent many an hour napping in a finely cat-like way. But oh, he was so gentle and patient with people. He excellence with children was unsurpassed. He never offered violence at any but the most outrageous treatment. He liked to sniff the heads of babies to see if they were tasty. He was incredibly patient with kids, and their attempts to play with him.
Justice had his trials of course. There was the long bout with urine crystals that ended up with a full abdominal surgery and ignominious shaving. There was the broken leg. The tattered ear predated our acquaintance, but bespoke a more than passing familiarity with pugilism. He bore them all with great dignity and pride: charming the staff of the veterinary clinic, and making friends wherever he went.
He was well loved throughout the neighborhood. When we left our last place, the neighbors brought over the toys they’d kept for him, and the treats. He invited himself into many a home, assumed his place on the guest list at many a gathering and was a well known local figure.
Last night he slept at my feet – crowding me so that I had to contort myself in bed. The night before, I’d cuddled him as I put him on the porch so he wouldn’t follow me on a longer walk that would take him outside his territory. Tonight, he has left us and is gone. I confess myself completely bereft.
Last night, I went to Grey’s back to school night. In one drawing hung on the wall, Grey drew four things: one thing he liked to do (read), one thing he liked to eat, I forget the third. But the fourth was one thing he loved. And he drew a picture of his beloved cat Justice. When I sat the brothers on the couch and told them their cat was dead, Thane did not really understand. But Grey did, and he burst into tears. “He was my best friend,” he said. “I loved him so much.”
I know child. I did too.