RIP Max (2002 – 2016)

I’ll never really understand how Max got his nickname. Or nicknames, for that matter. I think I just inherited my dad’s gift for fitting pet nicknames. He was Max to pretty much everyone, but to me he’ll always be Spud. It never had anything to do with potatoes or weeds or anything like that. I just looked at him one day and noticed that he looked like his name should be “Spud.”

It stuck.

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Spud was a great cat. He was ultra-friendly, always rubbing up against guests’ legs to say hello. He was also my shadow. On days when I worked from home, he was almost never out of sight. He would sleep on his perch in my office or directly on my desk. Sometimes he would decide to sleep in my lap. When I would leave the room, he’d follow. At night, he would sleep on the pillow above Courtney’s head or, if he was feeling snuggly, he’d butt my head so that I would lift up the covers so he could crawl underneath and lay beside me.

Toward the end, when Max’s cancer started to really get to him, he chose the latter more and more frequently. In the last couple of weeks, he would wake me up almost every night around 3:30AM so that he could crawl under the covers and snuggle. One of the things that makes it so hard to have a pet put to sleep is that you feel that you can never really make them understand. I think they do, though, at some level. He had a reason that he was spending more time with me at night. I think they know when the time is coming.

The day we took him to be put to sleep, he spent an hour or so on the nightstand looking out the window. There’s not really much to see this time of year (birds have migrated away and most animals are hibernating or just holed up) so he usually isn’t up there very often during the winter. But that day he just sat there looking outside, taking it all in. I think he knew it was for the last time. Usually if he was awake when I tried to take his picture, he’d move or do something to completely ruin it, especially when he started hearing the shutter. That day he didn’t move at all; he just let me take all the pictures I wanted.

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The only bad thing about Spud is that he could be a bit of a diva. If his litter box wasn’t up to his particular expectations that day, he would pee on the carpet. If he wanted to come into a room, but you wouldn’t let him because you were trying to get something done without him being in the way, he would pee on the carpet. If you left him home for a weekend, you had a 50/50 shot that he would resent you for it and pee on the carpet.

Eventually, we tried to encourage additional litter box use by giving him treats when he did. This created more problems than it solved, I think. Once he learned what was going on, he would come into the office and yell at you after he went to the bathroom until he got treats. Sometimes, if he was feeling particularly sneaky, he would just go into the litter box and move litter around as if he were going to the bathroom, but not actually do anything. Then he would come demand treats. He would also recognize who gave him treats and try to trick the other person. If Courtney would give him treats when I wasn’t around, he would occasionally demand treats of me when I came in the room. He was a crafty little dude.

The thing I did not expect after he was gone (and the part that hit me the hardest) was how empty the bed felt without him. He was just always there, every night, a fuzzy part of the furniture. How something so small left such a massive void was devastating. It was like there was suddenly a black hole where once there was only light.

The first couple of days after he passed, I would be doing something around the house, and I would see him out of the corner of my eye, but when I turned there wouldn’t be anything there. I’d be left alone with the ghosts in my mind. Thankfully, this has become much less frequent.

It’s been really hard letting go of him, but he had a great life. Even though he could be a pain in the ass sometimes, he gave us many years of happiness to more than make up for it. I’d give anything to have him pee on the carpet again. Or yell incessantly during a conference call. Or have him butt my head at 3:30 in the morning.

But all I can do is remember.

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