A Small Story

At the beginning of June, my cat died.  So I want to talk about that today.

I’ve talked about my cats before on this blog. (see here) This one, the one who died, was Smalls. He was our first cat (between Zach and I, I mean), he was a good cat, he died way too young from a sad cat disease (FIP) and I am very sad.

That’s the gist of it. That’s the whole story. It’s a small story, and at the same time a Smalls story.

Oh, yeah, Story.

Our other cat, Story, is totally healthy and fine but sad. We plan to get another kitty soon to help with her and our sadness.

And that is that.

Smalls had such a small, short life. Zach and I would joke that he probably thought of our apartment like the Jacob Tremblay character thought of the room in the movie Room. Running from place to place, meowing: “Hello table, hello dog bed from amazon that is my bed, hello TV, hello bookshelf I’m not allowed to climb…” Smalls’s whole existence was in a one bedroom apartment in North Hollywood.  I’m okay that that was his whole existence, I’m never going to be a person who walks our cat, I’m just acknowledging that is was small.

Pet lovers and friends alike have told us Smalls was really happy with us when he was alive, and we should be satisfied that we gave him a good life. But, the truth is, I don’t know… was he happy?  I’m not writing this to prod animal behavior experts to weigh in on Smalls’s level of contentment. For all intents and purposes, Smalls was a very happy animal. I’m pretty sure of it. But at the same time, I don’t honestly know! We, as humans, don’t ever get to know, really. Because animals don’t speak human speak. They bark, they meow, they purr. We just interpret their body language and behavior and, through many years of analysis by people who are much more passionate and smarter about the topic than me, we have determined what is “good” and “bad” and “happy” and “sad” in animal world and can zero in on what the long desired “happy animal” tends to be like.  Just as we have zeroed in on what a “good” animal is, and even if an animal is not technically good, we love the fuck out of them anyway.

I don’t know if Smalls was a good cat.  But Smalls was good for us. He was good to us.

Growing up I had a dog named Lobo (who had a pretty remarkable lost dog story, read about it here) who, in my eyes, was the absolute best dog in the world. He was quite a character. Excitable. Tail wagging. Loud. Loving.

He was also super overweight, and had fat deposits hanging off his belly and he farted a lot, and when you walked him he pulled so much that he was dragging you.

But still, to me, Lobo was the best. And he was happy. (I think.) And I loved him.

As I loved Smalls. Smalls was the best too.

I bet you’re wondering what my fucking point is.

I guess when I reflect on Smalls’s death, I find myself in awe that people can whole heartedly and deeply love something they never get to truly understand.

Zach and I probably knew Smalls better than we know most people in our lives.  And yet, in a weird way, we didn’t know the little dude at all. I had no idea what he was thinking or feeling at any given time. Everything was just an educated guess.

Again, we would joke that Smalls called us “The tall one” and “the not tall one” in his head, saying things to himself like: “I like the tall one more, though the not tall one is okay too.”  But, really, who knows? Who the fuck knows?

A pet is a chronic mystery. Their whole world is small and at the same time, an endless abyss of the unknown.

And I think that’s pretty cool, that we didn’t know everything about our pet. That’s part of having one, I think. That is part of what makes the relationship with an animal so special.

Because nothing is more human than loving something you don’t quite understand.

It’s also pretty fucking human to decide what is the “best,” even when it’s definitely not the best. And sometimes, not all the time, but sometimes being able to do that is important. Loving flaws is inherently good.

It’s hard to point out Smalls’s flaws, (as opposed to Lobo). Smalls was friendly, but not obnoxiously friendly. He wasn’t mean. He slept a lot. He was sort of fat. In essence, Smalls was pretty unremarkable. I mean, it’s not like he saved us from a burning building or hated Mondays or anything.

But, again, that doesn’t fucking matter. Because to me and Zach, Smalls was the best! He was the best at sitting on our laps and purring. He was the best at playing with toys and eating. He was the best at being around.

Zach and I were almost annoying in our excitement over his unremarkable ways. I’m not stupid. I am well aware that friends and family likely rolled their eyes at our pet obsession. The long list we left for pet sitters, the stupid amount of pictures we posted and sent via group family texts in response to actual achievements, like a baby’s first step or a job promotion. That said, Zach and I have made no apologies about the importance of our cats. After all, it’s our life, and this is how we live it.

When I take a step out of our small (yet Small-less) apartment, and I take an even bigger step out of LA living, and an even bigger step after that, I’m aware that there are much more major things happening in the world right now.

In short, the world totally sucks, you guys.

It’s angry. We’re all angry. We’re all angry at each other and especially the other. And it’s hard to understand people in this divisive, tribal-istic, hateful period that I believe historians will call “The Dumbest Times.” (see tweet) And to have my cat suddenly die on top of everything can easily be looked at as the diarrhea on top of an already shit dipped poop sandwich.

And it is. I don’t even want to get into my fear of joblessness at the moment. Or my helplessness in what was once exciting political efforts to change our current situation. Or Bourdain. Or Roseanne. Or my own self worth. Or immigrant children being taken from their parents. Or fear about how to afford my wedding. Or how one has to have a sex tape in order to meet a reality star president to do one tiny thing in the spirit of prison reform… but I digress.

In a way, while reflecting on Smalls makes me sad it also weirdly gives me a sliver of hope for people. Not to sound dramatic, but yes I am talking about HOPE FOR HUMANITY, folks!

Smalls reminds me that as individuals, we are amazingly good at love. We have an innate ability to love something we don’t even fucking understand. And we don’t give up on trying to understand it, either. We do our best with the knowledge we have, and regardless, our love is sincere. We don’t ask what we love to be anything different, because we know in its own little way, it’s the best.

It’s inherently human to feel that way. It’s inherently human to love the unknown.

And if I am crying over my 3 year old cat Smalls, I am reminded that we have the capacity to love many things even if it takes us forever to understand it. We can find the love and the care needed to be better human beings to each other. Just give it a whirl. Try to care about the things, and the people, you don’t understand.

Smalls didn’t see much or do much in this world, which is okay, he still had a small impact. His death just reminds me that we get a lot longer time to do much and see much in this world. And with that time I have some faith in people having an impact for good.

If we can lean in to loving the other that we don’t quite understand, maybe the other will figure out a way to love back.

Thanks for everything, Smallsy. You’ll be missed. And people, let’s figure out a way to stop being so angry. I know we are capable of loving the other instead.

– One L

“You’re killing me Smalls” –  Sandlot


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