Remember a while back when I mentioned the Old Man and I adopted a crabby-as-fuck senior shelter cat named Sake Stiglitz? That was two years ago. This past Sunday Kaiser General Sake Stiglitz departed this joint and decided to hang with Ceiling Cat for the rest of eternity.
He was 12 at the time. 13 lbs of pure baseball lovin', chicken eating, milk drinking rage. Most people refer to their animal companions as their 'fur babies' or 'kids', dressing them up in adorable outfits and putting ironic mustaches on their wet, little noses.
Sake was like that grumpy grandpa that came to live with you after grandma died and bachelorhood just wasn't working out after 40 years of passive-aggressive marriage. His name was originally 'Saki' and the story behind him was that some woman owned him, kept him in her basement most of his life, got him declawed, and then upon getting married dumped him off at the shelter. Sake would never fully trust women after this experience and turned into a crabby BroCat, minus the neckbeard and fedora-douchebaggery.
The shelter that hosted Sake, a wonderful no-kill joint that Puto and I send cash donations to when we can, posted what we would call his 'mugshot' on their site in hopes to find him a home. No, why do I say mugshot? Well...
That was one rough-looking SOB. I wasn't looking for a cat to adopt; I was just surfing the shelter's site to check out the kittehs and what-all and then maybe dick around on FB or something. Looking at that picture, I knew he needed us. I just had to go and adopt him because he was different. Sure he was 10 at the time, declawed, and weighed a good chunk of meat but Fate likes to fuck with people and throw the curve balls. Or in this case, hair balls.
After a week of debating and anxiety Puto and I 'busted him out of SuperJail' and brought him to the apartment. The woman taking our paperwork kept calling him a 'real baby doll' and didn't even make-sure if out apartment allowed pets (it didn't at the time). Usually this shelter is pretty thorough about that shit, but not with us. Later, Puto would would say that they just wanted to get rid of him because Sake had some anger issues.
The cat wasn't initially impressed with us. In fact, he could have cared less that he was going to a new home. The whole adoption was one big inconvenience for him and the sooner he could go back to sleep the better. We were worried about the 30 minute drive home. Would he pitch a fit like most cats? Did he get car sick? How the fuck were we gonna take him back to WV for the holidays? None of these worries would become an issue: Sake fucking loved car rides. He would get all excited when we passed a big rig or a large city. He would jump up and look out the car window like a dog and his eyes would light up with wonder at all the world around him.
It's pretty safe to say that life in the basement didn't allow him to experience much. Everything was new to him; the rigs, the highway, the car, the flatlands of Illinois...This interest in the natural world would continue for the rest of his life. When summer came we would take him outside and let him slump around the bushes and lay in the grass. We didn't even need a leash for him; he stuck right by us like a loyal dog. Hell, Sake was better behaved and more intelligent than most small children. If he couldn't go outside, we would let him onto our tiny deck where he would nap or watch the squirrels. Never tried to catch them. In fact, Sake tried speaking their language and would repeatedly chirp to them in a very passive manner. He also liked to watch them fuck on the deck, which they did copiously and right infront of the glass door. Sake would maintain eye contact throughout the entire performance. It was like Blue Velvet more weird.
I wanted to name him Hugo Stiglitz because Inglorious Basterds came out and Sake looked like a Hugo Stiglitz. Sake, however, refused to answer to anything other than Sake. He knew I was calling him; it was the principle. We compromise on 'Sake Stiglitz'. He was bitter and tough like the rice wine and could kick your ass easily. He was fine with the name and eventually answered to Mr. Stiglizt at times, but never Hugo. Sake had a limit and he made it known to everyone.
Puto and the cat grew close, super close. Sake was supposed to be 'my cat' but you know how cats roll. Maybe it was because Sake had female trust issues...or maybe it was the fact that I was a bit intense for an elderly feline. Kittens love me. Older cats...well...
Baseball season rolled around and my old man fucking LOVES baseball. We quickly discovered that Sake loved baseball too. Never before had I seen a cat that would actively watch TV with interest. He would sit on Puto's lap, licking the condensation of the bottle of beer Puto would drink, and the two of them would enjoy watching the Pittsburgh Pirates. Sure the team sucks, but they didn't care; Pittsburgh was THEIR team. I would always joke that Stiglizt was a White Sox fan because he looked like an agry, rough Sox fan but Puto insisted that Sake was a Buccos fan and I think he was right. Sake would watch the Sox on TV but not with the same intensity that he did when it was Pittsburgh. They would bond over baseball, the two of them, and Sake became the close friend that Puto needed in IL. I was never jealous of that fact, to be honest I was happy. I was happy that we were able to give Sake the home he deserved, and I was happy that Puto got so much joy out of our grump, old cat.
Sake had a lot of fans in the printshop. Even people who didn't care for cats were impressed with his carriage and personality. A good friend of mine called him a 'hater' and said that with the most respect. It was a serious compliment. Sake was, indeed, the biggest fucking hater ever. When I started eating a more plant-based diet he looked at me with utter contempt as I ate my cereal with almond milk. I had failed him. I was the worst person in the world. He would sit on any block I was cutting or my embroidery, taking over my projects with despotic glee. The whole apartment and everything in it was his. This was his tiny kingdom and we were his servants. Milk and tuna in the mornings and evenings, walks and deck naps, catnip treats and empty boxes...I believe he was finally happy after all those years, and that was all that mattered to us.
Sake also had a heart murmur. I learned of this when I took him to the vet for his 'complimentary check-up'. I was worried because my mom had a heart murmur from a bout of childhood Scarlet Fever which resulted in a stroke and valve replacement surgery years later. The vet said he may have had it since birth, or it may be recent, either way not to worry unless he was having trouble breathing or his little pink nose turned bluish. No need to give him a scan. I still worried. When he would sleep I could hear him snore; a really rough, angry snoring unlike the dainty noises my other cats made in their sleep. It was full of piss and vinegar and I knew that snoring was a sign of heart troubles, but what can do? Kitty cat open-heart surgery? Catnip-favored blood thinners? Sometimes I would gently lay my ear to his chest just to see if I could hear the abnormality, but I'm no vet...Sake would glare at me, as if to say 'Just calm the fuck down. I'm fine, alright?' He knew I worried over him like a Jewish Mama, which annoyed him even more...but I also think he understood that I loved him and in his own way he loved me too.
Puto called me into the living room. Sake was hurt, he said. He had been romping and jumped into the air, only to collapse onto the ground. He laid on the floor, breathing, but his eyes were unfocused and his mouth was open. He didn't respond to our voices and in a matter of moments he left.
A sudden stroke. No fanfare. No warning. No time to say good-bye. Cats are like that I guess; fluttering in and out on their own schedule. I think at first Puto and I were in shock, looking at the soft, limp body of our grumpy cat. We found a cremation place in Chicagoland, an hour away, and put him in a box for the ride. I was going to use the cat carried, but Puto said Sake hated the carrier and enjoyed sleeping in boxes. That made perfect sense. The whole ride in I kept looking back at the open book, hoping maybe Sake was still alive and would wake up. He just had a fit but now he was okay. We would give him milk and chicken as a way of welcoming him back, tears and hugs around...
I believe in some form of an afterlife. I'm not dogmatic or religious; in fact I'm the opposite. I was told by these fundies once that animals had no souls and never went to Heaven. Well, they can go fuck themselves because that's bullshit. I picture Sake laying in a field of the dankest catnip beside a stream of fresh whole milk. There are napping boxes of various sizes scattered about because he liked variety. Trees of fried chicken, roast, and tuna bend down at his whim and he feasts on the highest quality of meats and fish while intoxicated by the scent of catnip. It is always baseball season, and there are other cats who also enjoy the sport. They drink milk and eat Italian Beef sandwiches while arguing and yelling about baseball and trades and teams and umpires. It's never violent yelling, in fact they all enjoy it and in the evenings they lay in the grass and watch the fireflies in content peace. Bellies full of milk and meat. No worries. No sorrow.
Kaiser General Sake Stiglizt