Writer, Donna Smith

A Cat of Many Names

I would be remiss if I didn’t write a story about our cat, Mr. Mogley. “Our” because he was adopted by my youngest daughter some 11 years ago at a rescue event hosted by Petsmart then passed along to me when she moved away from home. I’m sure a lot of pets have faced the same situation, leaving mom and dad to care for them when their not-quite-ready-to-settle-down child owners left home for college or otherwise. I got lucky like that twice. That’s how I acquired a second cat, Zion, when my oldest daughter and her husband moved to Colorado. When she asked would I take ownership of Zion, I thought, what’s one more cat? Another reason I inherited Zion was because my daughter’s first cat, King Tubby, enjoyed picking on Zion. So, I didn’t mind taking on the responsibility of Miss Zion.

It did take some getting used to as all we ever owned were outdoor cats. Most notably, Max, Emmylou, Smutcat, and Pussywillow. Max, a male, was short for Max Factor. He was named Max Factor upon learning he was not a she as we originally thought when I named Max, Maybelline. Maybelline because this particular cat had markings that looked liked perfectly lined eyes. You know, maybe it’s Maybelline. Anywho, all’d we ever had was yard cats. And tomcats on top of that. Even Pussywillow was a tomcat. I can’t explain his name, ha. All but Emmylou, a solid white cat who was completely deaf but had no fear. She ruled Falkner’s Trailer Court. As if lots in a trailer park are not clearly defined, she walked the parameter of our lot and dared another animal enter our perfectly square yard.

Mr. Mogley went by many names. In fact, when he was adopted, someone had already named him, Anson. Anson the cat. I know right. Anson quickly became Mr. Mogley. Moni for short. Mo. Mo-Mo. I don’t remember the first time my husband, Mike, called him Shithead. But it stuck. In fact, they had a pretty special relationship. The cat would come to Mike whenever he called him Shithead. Finicky as most cats are, he would sit on Mike’s feet. Nobody else’s. As if he didn’t want him to leave. Mike would never admit it, but he loved Shithead.

In later years, Mr. Mogley went by the name, Bubba. I’m not sure how this came about, but I liked the sound of it and I began referring to him as Bubba, too. And, like Shithead, he would come when called by that name.

In the very beginning, I simply referred to him as, Hislittleblackass. Again, I never had an indoor cat which means I never owned a litter box. The first time young Mr. Mogley, the kitten, pooped in the box, he failed miserably. MISERABLY. He had poop all over, from head to paw. I took Hislittleblackass and held his little black ass upside down underneath the water faucet in my bathroom until he was washed clean. Before that, was the moment our daughter walked into our house with Hislittleblackass to begin with. I emphatically said hell to the no to Hislittleblackass, and I ended up eating every single word.

Unfortunately, Mr. Mogley took up where King Tubby left off, and he worried the shit out of Zion, too. But, I don’t think quite as bad. Zion is no Emmylou, but she can hold her own. And, no matter how worrisome Mr. Mogley was, Zion, whom I dubbed “The Town Crier,” always looked out for Mogley. If their food or water bowls were empty or even nearing empty, Zion would pace back and forth under and between your feet until you filled one or both up. You would think she was starved by the way she insisted on getting your attention, but as soon as you filled the bowl(s), she would turn and walk away. She didn’t eat. Her job was done. A couple of years ago, we decided to make Mogley and Zion outdoor cats. They both were long haired, black cats, and if for no other reason, we could not stand another single piece of fur in our house. Before we did; however, if we went away for the weekend then returned home, little Miss Town Crier would meet us at the door. Mogley, for whatever finicky reason, would hide upstairs as if he was afraid. We’d call his name to let him know we were home, but he would continue hiding, usually under our bed. We’d begin to unload the car, ignoring him, but Zion was not having that. She paced all around our feet, between our legs, until one of us made the effort to walk upstairs and find Mogley. As soon as we spoke to him, Zion was satisfied, knowing she did her job letting us know where he was.

There are so many tales I could tell with regards to Mr. Mogley. He always hid if he heard a stranger or anybody besides me or Mike in the house. Except for Julie. He knew her voice, and I’m certain he remembered it was Julie who rescued him. Each time she’d visit, he’d come right out from hiding and greet her. Mogley was the best guard dog we ever owned. If a car so much as stopped on the street in front of our house, he would haul boogity upstairs to hide. That’s how he guarded us, by running and hiding. And it worked. I remember looking forward to Christmas each year when Mogley would enjoy his catnip like it was spiked eggnog.

In recent months, I noticed Mogley would hang out across the street with Stevesdamncat. That was completely out of character for Mogley as he never left our yard. It turns out another neighbor was leaving out cans of cat food for Stevesdamncat whom Steve, the neighbor, abandoned. Well, Mogley’s no fool. All I ever fed any animal of mine is dry food. Mogley was quite enjoying the gourmet canned food, coming home once finished. Stevesdamncat didn’t mind sharing. They were best buds. After several months of caring for him, I remember the day Stevesdamncat’s owner did indeed return. He put him in a kennel and whisked him away to a new home after we had pretty much adopted him. As I looked out my bedroom to see them leave, I looked down and saw Mr. Mogley staring in that same direction. I thought, oh no, he’s so sad.

Mike left for work one morning after I’d had a really bad evening the night before, not getting into bed until 4 in the morning after receiving bad news not once but twice during the night. Mike told me to go back to bed. We exchanged our routine goodbyes:

Mike to me and our dog, Vada: Love you girls.

Us: Love you, Poppa. Be careful.

Mike: See ya later, alligator.

Us: After while, crocodile.

He went on out the door and said his usual “hey” to Zion, followed by, see ya later, Shithead.

I did return to bed, nearly half the day recovering from the bad news and lack of sleep. My daughter called and encouraged me to get up in an effort to pull me out of a really deep depressive state. One that did not occur only because of the bad news the night before but had been ongoing for several months on top of my lifelong fight with depression. It was was a rainy day, too, which sure didn’t help matters any. I told her I’d run out to Goodwill where it didn’t matter if I wore the same clothes I had slept in and no one would care about my tear-swollen eyes with hopes of finding a sweet little treasure that always temporarily cheers me up. I returned home. Mike was called out of town with work so he would be gone the next several nights.

I called Vada, and she followed me out onto the front porch to sit for a spell. I wasn’t out there five seconds when Zion began pacing at my feet. I reached down to pet her, but she continued pacing. I looked down at her, and she looked over the side of the porch. I followed her lead. I looked down at the ground beneath the porch. What I saw next literally took my breath away. There lay Mr. Mogley directly beneath my chair on the ground. I could tell something was wrong. I screamed out and ran to him. I touched him, and then I knew. My son-in-law is a vet technician so I called and asked him to come help. I ran inside and got the first towel I saw and went back outside. Wet from the rain, I began to dry Mogley’s face and fur. I patted him goodbye and covered him with the towel. I went back into the house and closed the blinds. My son-in-law and daughter arrived and took matters from there. They couldn’t determine a cause of death, perhaps it was an underlying condition not revealed during routine exams coupled with his age, they said. I can’t help but think about how sad he looked when his best friend was caged and taken away without a chance to say goodbye. I wonder if his underlying condition was depression, you know, that hard to detect debilitating condition that one has but is invisible on the outside. I wondered did he die of a broken heart. One thing I am sure of, he could’ve died elsewhere and I would’ve never known what happened unless Zion found out and led me to him. But, he laid down directly at the foot of my porch chair where he knew I would see him. As bad as it shocked me when I saw his lifeless body, he knew I would need the closure of knowing what happened to him.

Animals and their unexplainable, strange senses. I know he sensed my depression. If only humans could do the same.

Rest forever in peace, Mr. Mogley. You will always remain in my heart.

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