Then of course, there was Hugo, and from the beginning, he was, and always will be, The Guy.
“It’s pure and simple,” I would say to Hugo, after he offered me yet another round of support as he purred away on my pillow, millimeters from my head, “you’re the guy. You just are. I don’t know what I would do without you, buddy. You’re the guy.”
This has been a rough patch of years for me. I don’t need to get into the gory details, because my friends know about them, and plenty of them are mighty personal. Suffice to say: these have been times that tries a man’s soul.
Three years ago, at the recommendation of Megan, I sought out a tuxedo cat from The North Shore Animal League. I always adopt cats; everyone takes the kittens, and the cats have difficulty finding a home.
Hugo, in particular, was a tough sell. He had FIV, which unfortunately sends alarm bells ringing in the head of any prospective adoptee. In truth, FIV is far less serious than most make it out to be; it simply means that the cat is more susceptible to infections. Yet unlike the other cats, he nuzzled my fingers when I stuck them in his cage; I took this as a good sign, and it was.
I took him home with the promise that I didn’t have any other cats in my apartment, and for a few days, he hid under the couch, getting used to the new digs. He was nervous; he’d had a hard life on the streets, and in fact had a nick in his ear from his earlier days as a street fighter. After a few days of this, my father came over, and all at once he came out of his shell, winding around my father’s legs.
That was the start of it. For the next three years, he was my companion, my friend, and my familiar. I would wake up, feed him, and write my morning journal entry, during which he would jump up on my desk and usually lie down on my forearms, as if he were suggesting edits.
I wrote many blog entries from his point of view, and when I did, I would hear his distinguished voice in my head. I often imagined his voice having the cultured inflection of someone who grew up in rough circumstances and took elocution lessons, and went to finishing school. It felt right, for Hugo was, in every way, a gentleman.
He never shied away when people came over. He always walked up to them and introduced himself, eager to receive a petting or a chin scratch from a stranger, who, in a matter of seconds, became one of his friends. He was, easily, the most affectionate animal I’ve ever had, cat or dog.
There were so many times, these past three years, that I felt down, so down. And there he always was, by my side, telling me that things would be better. He turned out to be right, and I will always be grateful to him for getting me through those tough times.
Whether his compromised immune system had anything to do with his untimely passing will remain unknown to me. All I know is that he seemed listless for a couple of days, and on Thursday evening, laid down for the last time. Perhaps he was in pain those last few days, but it really didn’t seem that way; it simply was his time.
It was almost as if he knew that he had a limited amount of days on this earth, and wanted to devote it to someone. He chose me, and my life was much the better as a result.
I will miss him more than I can say, but will carry with me a lifetime of memories.
So long, pal.