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Thursday, November 1, 2007

Licky Lou

Ralph, a furry orange cat who lived with us for 11½ years, left the planet yesterday. He had been ill for a few months. The last week or so was tough. He was telling us that it was time to say goodbye.

Also known as "Pinkie" (after his nose) and "Man," Ralph was quite a character. We found him at the Humane Society, where we had gone to find a companion for our recently arrived girl kitty, Gloria, in 1996. We wanted an orange boy, and only one cat there that day fit that description. The staff at the Humane Society had named him Ralph, and we decided that it was a perfect moniker for the little guy. He seemed kind of dim-witted, but we reasoned that even slow kitties need love.

As it turned out, Ralphie was just a little sick when we got him, and once a few bugs were knocked out of his system, he was good to go. He civilized Gloria, who was nearly feral, by showing her how much fun it could be to interact with people. She hissed at him for weeks, but he just ignored her when she did that. After a while, they became good friends, and stayed that way until Gloria passed on a couple of years ago.

Ralph was a scrapper. At his first home, in the Buckman neighborhood, he was a bit of a victim. Two different rivals would come by and pummel him every now and then. The Mrs. would run out and break it up, lovingly fighting Pinkie's battles for him. He wound up with a couple of notches on his ears and one chipped fang to show for his early travails.

After a couple of years of that, when we moved to our present neighborhood, Ralph decided that he wasn't going to be on the receiving end any more. He showed great determination in establishing himself as the alpha cat on the block. So vigorous was he in handing out shellackings to one particular neighbor's cat that we had to develop our patented Cat Warning System to keep the two of them apart at all times.

Ralph outlasted that other guy, but toward the end, he himself was getting pounded by a different neighbor's cat, who came by frequently to get into it with Ralph. When our Man finally gave up trying to win those fights, his days were numbered.

Pinkie was a talker. Rarely did he interact with us humans without vocalizing. Most of the time, it was difficult to figure out what he was trying to say, but that never stopped him from sounding off, or us from talking back. He and I developed quite a ritual of verbal exchanges over the years. I told him over and over, for no particular reason, "The Pink Man is a good man." It was great.

Ralph's purring was also impressive. At times it was like having a little Harley at your feet in the bed. A lullaby, though, because it was Pinkie.

He also liked to lick people -- some people, at least. If he found a human hand that he thought needed a bath, well, that hand was going to get a good cleanup, unless it pulled away. When Pinkie went into his "Licky Lou" routine, he could go on for quite a while. Ditto for his "camel act." The guy would string together long stretches without a drop to drink, and then settle down at his water bowl for five minutes or more. And the shower -- there was always something he loved about the water on the shower floor. Man would come running when he heard that shower turn on. Then, if you left the door open after you shut off the water and got out, and only if you left him alone for a few pensive minutes, in he'd go for a "Licky Lou."

Ralph's last year and change was shared with an adopted little brother. It was a dirty trick we played on Pinkie, who never got along with the kid. We had known that two males was a bad idea, and we thought we had brought home a girl, but a few weeks later, our mistake became obvious. Once Pinkie took sick, brother Bill gave him some space, and the Cain-and-Abel stuff mostly died down. Everybody, it seemed, adjusted to the sad truth.

Losing a sweet guy like Ralphers is a dark, dark moment. Having learned a few things from the passing of Gloria, this time around we knew what to expect. Coping is a little easier. But some winter night, when we hear Man meowing to us in the background about some thing or another, it won't dawn on us right away that what we're hearing is but a ghostly memory. And when we realize that, the tears that we're talking ourselves out of tonight will be our answer.

So long, Man. We love you.

Comments (26)

So sorry to hear about your loss!

Sorry, Cuz. We know how that feels.

The tears are rolling down my cheeks. It looks like Ralph has some Maine Coon, with the tail and fluffy ears. They are known for their "talking" you might want to try and find another, I know I had a coon cat, and everyone I know that has had one is hooked.

Bigtime cat lovers here at this house, really sorry Jack.

People who have never had a cat just don't understand how deep the attachment goes. The loss of a special cat hurts.

Sorry to hear about Ralph. I know how hard it is to lose a pet.

I'm awfully sorry to hear about your loss, but I am very happy to read in detail about your relationship with a special cat. It is a good thing you went to the shelter with an orange boy in mind because the vast majority of orange tabbies are, in fact, male.

I have had a long streak of success over my 40 years with orange tabby males and in fact currently have a healthy 15-year old that curled up on the couch with me at a friend's house in early 1993. The next morning when I asked Katie about the cat, she told me he was a stray and that she was trying to get up the nerve to take him to a shelter. I told her, "No way. He's mine."

He also has a long history as a brawler. He's won some and lost some, but he is thankfully less inclined to fight in recent years. (Which saves on the expensive emergency vet bills.)

Thanks again for sharing Ralph's story.

We have two aged Burmese cats aged 18 and 17. They are entirely house cats as they've been from the days we got them. As they get older, we know that we will soon face the same issues as you faced with Ralph. My wife is so attached to both cats that losing one will probably cause her to become sick with grief for weeks, if not months. She's not prone to sentiment - she's a physician - but animals are another story. We feel your pain, but selfishly hope that this isn't something we'll have to face too soon. Just in case, we got ourselves a puppy in early September just so we'll have another animal to raise. The cats are already accusing us of alienating their affections are are planning suit. Know any good lawyers for cats?

So deeply sorry for your loss.


You and your family have my deepest sympathy. Thanks for telling us about Ralph.
The loss of that special kitty is hard. Remember the good times...we do with our special guy who went to his reward peacefully, two and a half years ago at the age of 23 years!

How might a battle scarred cat sound after finding his way home after a Thanksgiving journey that lasted until late the next summer? (After some readjustment.)

Like this.

Captured while testing an H2 Zoom in the Oregon Rain. Converted from wav to mp3 with the free Audacity. He and his sister adopted me a few years ago after escaping, as babies, a neighbor's strictly-outside accommodations.

(Strayman still has to stay outside; even now. And the cats watch and listen from a curious distance.)

Sorry Jack. As a cat lover, I know. My best to you, your wife and kids.

Thanks for sharing your story Jack. I lost my best friend, my Newfoundland Max, two years ago, and I still grieve him.

Animals grab your heart and hold on. Pretty much forever.

Here was my tribute to Max:

"Willows never forget how it feels to be young.
Do you remember where you came from?
Gravel remembers.
Even the deep end of the river believes in the ocean.
Exactly at midnight, yesterday falls away.
What I believe is, all animals have one soul.
Over the people they love, they crisscross

Wm. Stafford

no fair, you made me cry.

i'm sorry for your loss.

Thank you for sharing Ralph's story Jack. I am sorry to hear about your loss of this fine companion. As owners of a wonderful Himalayan female, Missy Madison - I clearly understand your loss. Cats are wonderful friends and companions.

Very sorry for your loss, Jack. Here's the poem I always turn to when someone I know loses a pet:

The House Dog's Grave (Haig, an English bulldog)

I've changed my ways a little; I cannot now
Run with you in the evenings along the shore,
Except in a kind of dream; and you, if you dream a moment,
You see me there.

So leave awhile the paw-marks on the front door
Where I used to scratch to go out or in,
And you'd soon open; leave on the kitchen floor
The marks of my drinking-pan.

I cannot lie by your fire as I used to do
On the warm stone,
Nor at the foot of your bed; no, all the night through
I lie alone.

But your kind thought has laid me less than six feet
Outside your window where firelight so often plays,
And where you sit to read--and I fear often grieving for me--
Every night your lamplight lies on my place.

You, man and woman, live so long, it is hard
To think of you ever dying
A little dog would get tired, living so long.
I hope than when you are lying

Under the ground like me your lives will appear
As good and joyful as mine.
No, dear, that's too much hope: you are not so well cared for
As I have been.

And never have known the passionate undivided
Fidelities that I knew.
Your minds are perhaps too active, too many-sided. . . .
But to me you were true.

You were never masters, but friends. I was your friend.
I loved you well, and was loved. Deep love endures
To the end and far past the end. If this is my end,
I am not lonely. I am not afraid. I am still yours.

Robinson Jeffers, 1941

Geez, Dave J., you trying to wreck me for the whole day? That's beautiful, but I now have swollen 'mole-people' eyes.


I'll add my condolences. Orange tigers are wonderful. We had one (Caesar) for close to 10 years (he had cancer that he valiantly bore for a long time). Looked a lot like your Ralph (but more white on the ruff) same Maine coon tail and other features and the BEST personality. He used to fetch like a dog, napped with the baby, and so forth. Still miss him. My heart goes out to you and your family. People don't always realize how real the grief is when you lose a pet. They are part of the daily fabric of our lives. May his memory be a blessing.

My companion of many years curled up in her favorite basket and went to sleep. I still miss her.

a lion among cats

Tears are rolling down my face, too. Thank you for the heartfelt tribute. Condolences.

We lost one of ours last month and you've started the waterworks all over again. Sorry for your loss.

What a bittersweet tribute to the Man.

I'm sorry for your loss. I hope you and your family are comforted by your many happy memories of Ralph.

Such a lovely tribute to your Man. My sincere condolences to you and your family.

Ralph looks just like our Larry wo dies after 20 years ....he was a scrapper also-however it was with one of our own cats...so we did not have the easy solution of lit lamps. Great story-thanks Jack and we're so sorry about your Ralph.

Sad to hear about Ralph, Jack. I had to have my ol' Tubby put to sleep last month. She was 14 and had a tumor. I sure do miss her goofiness.

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