All our babies have a story, but Garfield has one all his own. After Lucky (I wish I had known of this place then) passed I was shattered. He was more than a cat to me it's hard to explain. No animal had loved me the way Lucky had, perhaps because he was quite literally seconds from being euthanized when my friend scooped him off the table (I was getting permission from my landlord to adopt him) with his needle already prepared. He died in my arms on route to the vet at 14 years old. I couldn't get over him. I saw an ad for a cat that was very much like him so I took Sharon to the ARL to see if he was there. Naturally he was already adopted (those ads really work), so depressed I decided to walk through the cat room. I looked down at the very cage Lucky was in when HE found ME (not the other way around, he meowed at the top of his lungs till I took him out of the cage and the rest was history) and saw this big orange tiger cat, his name was Garfield. I'm a lifelong fan of the fatcat so I had to check him out.
I took him out of his cage and he rested on my shoulder like he knew me. No squirming or trying to get down. I was scratching his neck while my wife and I talked to the girl attending the cat room and he just purred... loud. He put his head down and after a few minutes his purring got choppy, the girl had the AWWWW look on her face and said "he's falling asleep". That was it he was going home. There were some small hurdles, Lulu, whom we'd taken in off the street wasn't fixed yet and they wouldn't let us adopt with an unspayed female. So we made arrangements to get Garfield fixed before taking him home (they really worked with us) and a week later we brought him in the front door. When he climbed out of the cardboard cat carrier something was off about him, we were told he was 2 years old, an adult. He had the wide eyed wonder of a baby, we soon realized we had a 12lb KITTEN on our hands! When we got Lulu fixed a couple weeks later we asked the vet about Garfield's age, she said "Mr wide eyes? oh he's no more than 7 months" I could only assume he had Maine coon in him, he had a wide head but wasn't long haired. Years later I would learn about the "M"... he had one so I was right.
He didn't really play with the other cats, Bones was already middle aged and Lulu was anti-social... Stevie wasn't big on playing either, so he found a playmate in Chuck, our beagle. He would hide on a dining room chair and wait for Chuck to pass by, then would jump on his back. Chuck being the exceptional dog he was would let him slide off with a happy looking face, he was never fazed by it. If you visit Chuck's memorial, Garfield is in his picture, it's still my favorite picture of any pet I ever had. Chuck passed in Garfield's first year with us but he loved him. Garfield earned many nick names, Baby bear (he had the soft voice of a tiny kitten his entire life), Fieldsey (my wife's nickname for him I can't really spell it), and Puddy Bear or Pudz for short. He lived up to his name so well, with one exception, he was a fussy eater! only his dry food and a specific brand of cat treat (which were like crack cocaine to him so bad in fact we stopped buying them). But he was such a brat, if he wanted attention and wasn't getting it or was unhappy with it he'd bite, HARD.
I think as well as he coexisted with the others he'd have been a wonderful only child. One of my favorite "Garfield" moments was when he was maybe a year old (Chuck was still with us), he liked to follow us onto the front porch which was not something we wanted, but he only wanted to be where we were. He followed me out and a car went by, scaring him, he tried to jump into my wife's arms inside the door (he was already a mommy's boy) and learned about glass (we had a glass storm door), he splatted against it legs splayed out in all directions like the iconic Garfield scene. As he slid down the glass i caught him and took him in, and immediately handed him to my wife. Unfortunately since he was so big whenever the cats got in a scrape he seemed to take the heat, and he became timid with the other cats when they were aggressive at times. This was only an issue later in his life mind you for the most part. When we took in Missy to have her kittens (we found her a good home and 2 of those kittens are with us today) she got loose in the house after giving birth (a couple weeks later) and attacked Pudz, who fought back, he was much bigger but she was FEROCIOUS. We quickly broke it up but Pudz thought he was in trouble and hid for several hours. He never defended himself after that and we had to defend him.
He really was a big baby, so sweet and loving. A total cuddler, he slept on my wife's hip for most of his life. He was the very definition of a good cat, he eventually went back on the porch with Sharon and would just hang out, but never again with me. When you have 5 cats and a dog sometimes the attention isn't spread out evenly. After we moved here Garfield was MIA often (except at night he was right there on Mommy's hip) he would hang out in the "cat room" upstairs in the sun or in the basement (he enjoyed clearing Daddy's stuff of the work bench) but in my opinion he didn't get enough attention for such an affectionate cat (from me anyways). I blame myself for that. When Sharon injured her hip last year and was restricted to the couch (she couldn't climb the stairs for love or money) I was surprised to find Pudz chose to sleep with ME, which included demand for pets and cuddles before sleeping. He even slept ON me, albeit with his butt in my face. Tigger and Peanut kept mommy company. I was quite frankly honored
I did notice he had lost weight when this happened, we attributed it to age and the possibility that Tigger and Louie weren't letting him eat. So we made sure he was eating and kept the brothers away from him as much as we could. Speaking of Tigger, Pudz kind of adopted him, much the same as Lucky once adopted Bones. He would groom him and then they would play fight (basically patty cake). So when Tiggs started to bully him I was shocked, the brothers are HUGE cats and Louie is very timid (the very reason we kept him) except with his brother. We again attributed this to age, but he was only 13 not really old at all. They didn't turn on Bones till he was 17 (same routine protect him make sure he ate). The commonality was they both had cancer... we didn't find out about Bones till we took him for his final vet visit, when we thought age had taken it's toll at 18.
Garfield seemed fine he was a bit skinny but ate well and was very active. A few weeks ago the brothers became outright hostile to him, we literally had to guard him at times. We couldn't imagine why they would do this, we didn't see the red flag. Animals have a perception, they can tell when one is gravely ill. One Morning sharon's daughter noted "something is wrong with Garfield", that night we noticed he was drooling. the next morning I looked up possible causes, and we immediately made a vet appointment. We expected some expensive dental work (Peanut has had most of her teeth out, but she didn't drool). We got the worst possible news, he had a mass on the base of his tongue. Our vet suspected it was cancerous but we agreed before doing expensive tests to try antibiotics in case it was a foreign body lodged in that got infected (I work with wood he loves the basement it could be a splinter). He gobbled up the treats he was given so he was able to eat ok. Which meant his treat addiction was about to come back as we wanted to ensure he was eating
2 weeks of pain meds and handfuls of cat treats later he went back. The news wasn't good but was hopeful. The mass hadn't shrunk but hadn't grown either. His bad breath was gone and a massive infection HAD cleared up. The recommendation was more antibiotics and to have a CT scan done. We were referred to the same hospital that did Busters MRI, the appointment was made and vacation days were scheduled. In the 10 days that followed pudz stated to get skinnier and started to have some difficulty eating, the drooling was worse than ever. He had become so accustomed to us wiping his mouth that he no longer fought it, the pain meds were another story, Sharon couldn't administer them he would bite and scratch so I did it twice a day, he fought me too but I have bigger stronger hands (it was a liquid in case you wondered).
We went to his appointment with hope, but hers was much stronger than mine I suspected the worst. They took him back and called us less than 10 minutes later. The vet was not going to waste our money with the test, she was 99.9% sure it was a carcinoma (cancer). It was untreatable, he could not live without his tongue so it could not be removed, you can't do radiation in the mouth and chemo was ineffective with this type of tumor. For the second time in a year I had to hear a vet fight back tears as she told us our baby was going to die. She recommended pain meds and anti-inflammatories for hospice care, to keep him comfortable until his quality of life declined too far. Weeks at best she said.
The tech who brought him out to us with his meds also fought tears, he had charmed them all he was so sweet she said. So we made the long drive home wondering how long. We would not let him suffer, as much as we didn't want to let go we didn't want hinm in pain. That night I gave him his meds and his treats and while he was carefully eating them I saw blood on them, not drool. He was bleeding profusely from his mouth. He let me clean him up but the drool continued to be bloody. The decision was made that moment. Sharon noted the next morning his water was bloody.
Our vet will not allow both of us to be with him as he leaves for the bridge (covid what else) so we sought another who would, a local vet here was recommended so we called them, and were told they weren't accepting new patients?? 1, I have never heard a vet say that and 2, we were looking to end his pain not establish him as a new patient, so they will never see any of our pets we'll happily drive 15 miles to Mollie's vet with the other 4 cats (Mollie is our newest addition, beagle #4). Anyways, Sharon called Lap of Love, they do in house services and his final appointment was made. during the next 4 days he declined rapidly, he tried to groom but made a mess of himself. He looked like a starving alley cat caught in the rain. We tried to wash him and brush him but the dried drool was too tough without an actual bath and we were not putting him through that. It was among the worst weeks of our lives, along with waiting for Buster's last ride.
On a sunny warm day Garfield left us peacefully on our (his) bed. He left with my voice in his ear and our hands on his fur. He was not ready to leave I HATE CANCER. He was so special, so sweet. He was the only cat to know all our beagles, and loved them (even Freddy the cat chaser) he was the 1st to accept Mollie into our house. He was mostly unfazed by the others until he was sick. One of the worst moment was when the boys cornered him in the basement and until I could get there I had to hear him screaming in fear. All our babies have torn holes in our hearts, this hole is bigger than most. We brought him home the year we were married and he was our baby bear. It will be a long 2 weeks waiting for him to come home to us. I try to console myself knowing that he's reuntited with all those who passed before him, and that he can finally meet Lucky, who I kind of think sent him to us.
WE LOVE YOU BABY BEAR