A Cat Named Mo
I lost one of my best friends today. He was a cat named Mo. A Russian Blue, Mo was born in 1994 and named after then up-and-coming Red Sox slugger, Mo Vaughn. It was a bit ironic considering Vaughn’s nickname was “Hit Dog,” but then again Mo the cat never had a problem with dogs, so it was all good. Back then we were all full of hope and possibility. Vaughn had just enjoyed his first big season with the Sox in 1993, hitting .297 with 29 homers and 101 RBIs, and along with Phil Plantier, was supposed to be the future of the Carmine Hose. Then came ’94 and the “Hit Dog” took another step forward and batted .310 with 28 homers and 82 RBIs in a season shortened by labor strife. Absent that, Vaughn might have enjoyed his first 40-homer season, but that didn’t come until two years later when he belted a career-high 44.
Of course that followed a controversial MVP award in 1995 won by Vaughn in part because he wasn’t Albert Belle. Belle had the superior numbers. Belle was a horse’s ass. Vaughn wasn’t and had MVP-type numbers good enough to cop the trophy. Mo the slugger enjoyed three more great seasons with the Red Sox after winning the MVP, then took his talents to the warmer climes of Anaheim where he enjoyed two more very productive seasons. He eventually landed in New York and enjoyed one good season with the Mets before injuries derailed his career. Like other past Red Sox greats who left via free agency, Mo Vaughn broke my heart. Mo the cat never did.
Mo the cat was always there. Even on the day he was born. My stepson discovered a litter of kittens in his box spring, delivered there by my wife’s cat. My wife tried to get me to keep a gray and white female, but the solid gray male caught my eye and I chose him instead. We bonded immediately and I still remember him hanging onto my shirt when he was still the size of a hamster. As he grew older he displayed behavior that I’d never seen in a cat before—he came when I called him and played fetch with a small toy that had a bell attached to it. I guess naming him after the “Hit Dog” was the right thing after all.
Little did I know he’d grow to be as large and intimidating as Vaughn, at least as far as other cats were concerned. In his prime Mo tipped the scales at 20 pounds and took shit from no one. The only things missing were the earrings and scarification/branding. The latter would eventually come. A few years after Mo was born, my wife and I moved to a sleepy little town near the base of Mt. Hood and he immediately made his presence felt by letting the other cats in the hood know there was a new “Hit Dog” in town. A light sleeper, there were many nights that I’d be awakened by the howls of two cats standing off only to find feline fur all over my deck the next morning. It was rarely ever gray. On the other hand, Mo would come home with chunks of his ears missing and puncture wounds in his side. I’d grab a damp cloth and hydrogen peroxide and tend to his wounds while he happily laid in my lap, soaking up the attention. After a while I started to believe he was getting injured on purpose.
But Mo had a soft side, especially as it pertained to me. I can count on one hand the number of times he wasn’t in my lap while I watched television, but my favorite story happened before we moved to the mountain. I had just worked a 24-hour shift and was exhausted. When I got home I couldn’t wait to climb into bed and get some sleep, which is exactly what I did. Mo followed me everywhere and this time was no exception, except I was so tired I closed the bedroom door before he could come in. While I was in bed, my wife came and opened the door to let Mo in and he promptly jumped onto the bed, climbed under the covers and laid his head on the pillow next to mine and went to sleep. I knew we were tight but that iced it for me.
Fortunately we had another 15 years or so together after that and we were always that close. He helped me get through some difficult times, but he was also around for some pretty amazing events—three weddings, high school and college graduations, the births of both of my granddaughters and multiple championships won by the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins. We shared all of that together.
But then he got old. His teeth were in such bad shape my vet recommended they be pulled; he lost half his body weight and was thought to have Feline Infectious Peritonitis, a fatal incurable disease…or diabetes…or cancer. But he soldiered on and never even blinked. His digestive system started to go next and, if not for the obvious signs, I never would have known because he never broke stride. But I knew it was time to say goodbye and I began preparing myself and others. I called the vet and made an appointment for 2:30 today, then almost immediately got sick with a virus. I don’t know if it was all the stress that I’ve been under lately or just one of those things, but somehow it feels appropriate.
Last night Mo did what he always did—he climbed into bed with me, grabbed my hand with his paw so I’d pet him, then swiped at my other arm because I wasn’t using both hands. He was never satisfied with only five fingers. He was funny that way. He slept on my chest for a while, laid next to me for most of the night, then began wandering around the apartment, taking time to come visit me on occasion and stick his whiskers in my face. He never cared what time it was, he just knew I had two hands that were specifically made to pet him.
When the time came to get ready for the trip to the vet, I noticed it was dark and gloomy and raining, and expected nothing less. Although I have a Red Sox ball cap sitting on a bookcase in my bedroom, I dug into the closet for my green St. Patrick’s Day Red Sox ski cap. I don’t know if it was a subconscious thing or just a desire to be warm and comfortable, but that’s what ended up on my head. I loaded Mo into a cat carrier and began the emotional trip, our last one together. Though I live closer to several vets, I decided to take him to the one near the mountain, the one he was most familiar with and the one closest to the place where he spent his prime years. The day continued to be cold and wet and, as usual, Mo wasn’t thrilled about being wrapped in a carrier that was wrapped in a car. He was funny that way.
The last moments were mostly torturous (for me) as I weighed my decision. Was it really time to let him go or did he still have life in him and memories to make? In the end I was comforted by remembering that he lived an amazing life that most cats would envy. He loved and was loved, and we have a bond that will never be broken. I said goodbye, held him until he passed to the other side, then said goodbye again. With tears in my eyes and a hole in my heart, I walked outside and realized it was snowing. But I had my ski cap on.
It looks like I made the right decision after all. Rest in peace, my friend.