Aug 23, 2021

Requiem for a Family Member: Osborn the Magnificent Passes

A few sentimental thoughts most animal lovers have had

By Ed Goldman
If reading a sentimental slob’s account of the passing of his beloved pet upsets you, please consider yourself warned. My cat, Osborn the Magnificent, died on August 11. He had just turned 19 on July 14, Bastille Day. 

He had seemed great that day—no, I didn’t give him cake (which could have proved fatal for him), nor try to take pictures of him in a party hat (which could have proved fatal to me: he could really scratch). He still acted healthy and happy for two weeks thereafter.

Edgy Cartoon

Top Cat

Then one afternoon he was afraid for the first time to jump up to join me in my leather chair, where he’d patiently watch me read, do crossword puzzles, tear out newspaper stories to comment on for this column and listen to me lie on the telephone, usually to break a social engagement or tell someone I was feeling terrific when I might not have been. (This has never been stoicism on my part. Instead, it comes under the heading of, Why Bother?)

So I reached down and lifted him onto my lap and was shaken by how light he suddenly was to lift. Over the next several days, and two veterinarian visits, at which I was cautioned that the unthinkable and unspeakable were probably about to occur, he grew lighter and weaker still. I began to carry him around, and it was as though my once-tubby tabby had shrunk to the size of a hand puppet. I literally spoon-fed him, even though eating was no longer high on his priority list. The night before I took him to the vet for the final time, he toppled over, breaking both a little ceramic bowl he liked to drink from, and my heart.

The trouble with pets is that even as we adopt them, care for them and spend money on them, a part of us knows from the get-go that we’re entering a star-crossed relationship. Unless something tragically abbreviates our own lives, we’ll survive them.

With children, it’s usually different. My late Mom lost two of her children in her lifetime and said—with the resigned sigh of an elderly person who feels she’s seen too much but knows the universe doesn’t spend much time each day conspiring to assist her—”No parents should have to bury their children.”

From the time that Osborn the Magnificent entered my life when he was five, he added a daily dollop of mystery (as cats do) and mischief (as this particular one did) to my long-solitary existence.

If I happened to arise early two days in a row, he construed that as our new routine and began to howl at six a.m. to be let onto my little back patio, which he then scoped out as though patrolling the north 40 of an expansive ranch. Then he’d howl for me to let him come back inside for breakfast—and it had damn well better be waiting when he deigned to walk through the door I held open for him interminably.

He rarely annoyed me. When I considered how little time and effort he required for most of his days with me, then compared it to how much laughter and love he provided me, it was a very lopsided arrangement.

To say I’ll miss him doesn’t quite cover it. To repeat what my Mom once said comes closer: No parents should have to bury their children.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).