My Friend Waldo

(Content warning: loss of a pet. This was written the night before I lost mine.)

In 2008, a friend I knew offered me a room at her place and also a job doing bookkeeping for the small business she ran out of her house. At the time I was effectively homeless. I had a place to stay, but it wasn’t mine, had only a few things of mine there, no job, and was really a toxic place to be. I took the job and the place to stay.

When I went over there for the first time, I met the other employees that worked there. But then I met Waldo. He was an adorable tortoise-shelled brown cat that happily greeted everyone with a friendly “meow.” Not just that, but the whole neighborhood knew this cat. They’d let him outside and he’d wander the yards. I’m sure the cat heard “Hey Waldo!” fairly often on his little journeys into the neighborhood. He’d always wander back.

Waldo back in 2008 when I got her

Then I learned that Waldo was a she. Apparently the owner got the cat from an old ex-boyfriend, and just took care of it. It seemed she had no interest in the cat really, just took care of it. Waldo was named by the owner’s daughter. “Waldo” seemed to suit this cat. And, well, she answered to it. Over time, the cat also found me every night and would sleep on the bed with me. I didn’t have to hunt the cat down, she just knew it was human sleep time, and could gain some extra cuddles.

When the house we were in went into foreclosure, I had to find a new place to live. Thankfully by then I had made some money and wasn’t in as much of a financial mess anymore. The cat fell in love with me, and I had fallen in love with the cat. She came with me. I was taking care of her at the place anyway, it only made sense.

I moved around from various apartments and houses for a few years. I felt bad when I lived in buildings without yards, although I often could just open my door and let the cat roam the hallway, which seemed to help. I did discover that if I put a harness on her, she’d pleasantly go on a “walk” with me. (Walking your cat is TOTALLY different than walking a dog. The cat stops all the time. Tugging on the leash just gets you a stare. It takes a lot of patience.) So at several apartment buildings I lived at, I became the “lady that can walk her cat.” It made me happy.

Many cats are introverted, if you can say that. They seem to like their hiding holes and to crawl in them. People don’t always interest them. Not Waldo. Waldo LOVED people. When I came home, even with new faces, Waldo came out of hiding to offer more pleasant “meow” greetings. You could carry on a conversation with the cat. But the most important thing you could do was be a lap for her. She was always more interested in people, and only three times that I can remember as she ever played with a toy (and it was like 15 seconds or less).

There had been a few multi-day conferences I have been to. I always dreaded leaving because I missed her. And when I returned I realized how much she missed me. I couldn’t do ANYTHING without the cat following me all around the home. I swear she was saying “I will NEVER leave your side EVER again!” I wasn’t just a food-providing human, Waldo truly claimed me as her owner, and the love was always evident.

Earlier this year, she stopped climbing on my bed. It seemed she had trouble gripping her claws into it to get herself up. She fell a couple of times. I felt bad, and would sometimes pick her up and put her up there. Almost every night she continued to snuggle with me though. She got up in the middle of the night though, so often I woke up without the cat. I got used to it.

One night (several nights ago from the time of this writing), I picked her up to put on my bed. She screamed in pain. When I put her on the bed, she fell over and screamed again. I noticed when she jumped down she was limping. I cried. My friend was hurting, and unfortunately there wasn’t a thing I could do.

The vet the next morning took x-rays. He showed me the problem. Waldo had been developing arthritis, and the bones of the spine had been losing some of the cartilage, and bones were starting to fuse together. “Only one of those looks right,” he said about the vertebrae. He showed me the inflammation around the spine, as well as the gas and waste that was trapped inside the cat because she was tensing her abdomen to relieve the pain. It’s what caused the limping too. I was sent home with some pills, and Waldo was sent home with some shots. And for the first time in years, I had to take the cat home in the cat carrier because I didn’t feel I could hold her or put the harness on.

Over the next few days Waldo acted more cuddly than before the visit, but still not her usual self. She still limped a little. I didn’t see her use the litter box for days. She finally did, but went on my roommate’s jacket. And on the floor of the basement, which I felt like I had to leave her in to not make the roommate mad anymore.

I stayed the night at another friend’s house because she broke her leg and she needed help doing things around the house. I locked Waldo in the basement. When I went home after work, I called Waldo’s name. I heard no response. I looked under and around boxes. Finally found her. “Meow,” she said, showing me that she wasn’t dead like I started to believe. I fed her the pill, but cried. She is dying. I could give her a ton more medicines and get more x-rays and blood tests and all the works. It would only do temporary measures for her kidneys or spine or pain levels or anything else.

When I learned my best friend Charity died, my heart ached. I cried for a whole day and then off and on for several more. I knew it was absolutely silly, but I wrote her an email telling her things I wish I had said, how I wished I visited more often, how I wished I could have said bye. I knew she’d never read it, but I wrote it anyway. My heart now aches that Waldo is at this state. I decided it was time to let my friend move on. And I feel like the most horrible person on the planet right now. And I feel really silly writing this post right now too.

I’m writing this on my bed, with the cat between my legs. This will be the last time I get to sleep with my cat. If she gets up in the middle of the night, I won’t wake up to her because she can’t get back up here. And in the afternoon, we’re going to the vet for the last time. Just like Charity, I’m losing one of my friends. One that has loved me unconditionally for many years. One that was always there to send me love. One that always reminded me “Hey, I’m here for you no matter what.”

So, goodbye Waldo. You were the coolest, friendliest, most wonderful pet I’ve ever met. I’m sorry we couldn’t be together longer. You cannot be replaced. I will miss you, friend.

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