I found Chopper as a 9 week old kitten. It was almost a set up for a bad joke: “A cat walks into a bar…” but that’s how it went. During our Tuesday night motorcycle hang at the Ear Inn on Spring Street in Manhattan, an orange kitten bravely walked in the door and started begging food from the patrons. I picked him up and he started licking my face like a golden retriever. What a personality.
I adopted him on the spot and took him home to my other two foundlings. Even though Chopper was just a tiny little thing he immediately began bossing around my other, much larger cats.
People like to say their cats are like dogs but Chopper really was like a dog. He liked to chase cats. He liked to play fetch. I’d throw a ball, he’d bring it back. He came running when he heard his name. When I went out, he hung out by the front door. When my garage was broken into shortly after moving here, Chopper’s growling is what clued me into it. Even dog people who didn’t like cats loved Chopper. My own dogs didn’t care much for him but that’s mostly because he thought he was the alpha dog.
I guess it’s grim irony that Chopper, age 10 years, succumbed today to hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive cancer which usually affects only dogs. Five days ago he appeared fine. That’s how this particular cancer is. He was such a healthy cat otherwise that I was sure he would outlive even Ripley, one of my other cats who made it 23 years.
This is a home renovation blog so I try to keep personal stuff, especially gloomy stuff, to a minimum. But if you’ve scanned the Photo Diary here, you’ll find lots of shots of Chopper. He was a big personality in this renovation from Day One.
He’s the one who discovered the termite infestation here before my basement stairs collapsed. His relentless meowing clued me into a potentially devastating trash can fire in the shop. When I took a progress picture of some aspect of the renovation, Chopper would invariably jump into the shot as if he thought he deserved some credit for it.
As one lady friend wrote me today, “Chopper was always a part of my rituals when I visited. He seemed to be a focal point in your life.” It’s true. He was to some extent my alter ego, my straight man, and my sidekick whatever I was doing: ripping plywood, hammering masonry, banging on pipes, whatever. He was fearless. If I was on a ladder working on a ceiling box, Chopper would climb up behind me, jump up on my shoulders and lick my cheek with his 30 grit tongue. I’ve had cats since I was born but never one like Chopper.
People have commented that I chose to use natural red oak in my woodwork here because they were Chopper’s colors. That’s just a coincidence, or at least I hope it was.
Sadly, I’ve lost two of my oldest and best friends this year: Amanda and now Chopper. I really don’t want to have to write another obit for a long, long time.