Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cecil Deuteronomy Johnson: 1996-2011

Cecil chose us.

Over the years Jennifer and I have had cats that we picked out of a “free kittens” box and cats that we adopted, but Cecil was the only one who picked us. He took up residence in the hedges in front of our house in Yukon sometime in 1996, I think it was. We don’t really remember the exact date or year, which is why we could never remember exactly how old Cecil was.

Cecil was, more or less, feral. I could see him peek at me from the cover of the bushes, two great big eyes, always wide like he was scared. Then he would hide. This went on for most of a year, and I actually thought there was more than one gray striped cat living in the bushes. But it was only Cecil, growing up.

Later, Jennifer admitted that she had been feeding him secretly most of that year.

When we formally welcomed Cecil into the family, it consisted of four cats, Jennifer and me. William came along in 1999. Cecil got along with Jake, Elwood, Tara and Miss Kitty - and they grudgingly let him join their odd pack. Miss Kitty was his surrogate mother, teaching him important things like how to climb up on the roof, and which trash cans had the tastiest stuff.

I remember many nights when Jennifer and I returned home to find Cecil and Miss Kitty on the roof. Miss Kitty would sit regally atop our chimney, silhouetted against the night sky, while Cecil prowled around the edges of the flat roof over our kitchen.

Cecil always forgot how to get back down, and we would have to coax him to the back of the garage, where he could jump down easily. And then hide from us.

It was years before Cecil would let us pet him. I always said he was the most cautious cat who ever lived.

When William was born, Cecil took little notice at first. Being an outside cat, he had no idea what was going on in the house. But he did notice that his weird little herd of cats was dwindling. First Jake died, then Tara (who Cecil thought was pretty, resulting in a trip to the vet to get “fixed”). Then one morning Miss Kitty, Cecil’s surrogate mom, died. Our herd was down to 2 cats: Cecil and Elwood.

We moved to Oklahoma City in 2000, and there was no question that Cecil would accompany us. Trapping him in a cat carrier ensured that it would be another couple of years before he would let us get close enough to pet him.

Our first night in Oklahoma City, Cecil disappeared. I figured that he was trying to walk home to Yukon. Jennifer searched for him all over the block, and in the cemetery behind our house, crying, certain that Cecil was gone.

By suppertime Cecil was back. He always knew where his supper dish was.

When William was four, Elwood died, leaving Cecil as our only pet. Cecil lived in the garage, where he had a box, a heater and his food dish. You could pet him if he was in his box (mainly because he couldn’t get away).

Gradually, Cecil realized that petting was a pretty good deal, and he relaxed enough to adopt William as his Pet Boy. And from that day forward, Cecil slept on William’s bed and sat in his lap whenever possible. It was as if Cecil was making up for all the years he ran away and hid.

Cecil became Cecil Deuteronomy Johnson one day when William decided that all his stuffed animals needed last names. Cecil needed one too. I threw in the middle name, Deuteronomy, because I thought he needed a cool middle name.

Cecil made us smile. He was affectionate, he was entertaining, and he kept the house and yard pest-free. Here’s a list of some of the things he caught and ate:
  • Birds
  • Baby birds (his favorite)
  • Bunnies
  • Some poor kid’s hamster
  • Mice
He never caught a squirrel, and he never climbed a tree. He liked to have us rub his tummy, which we discovered was spotted, in contrast to the stripes on his topside. He liked breakfast cereal and milk, which he would then barf up on the floor.

He purred really loudly.

Almost two years ago, he started having occasional seizures. He stopped catching critters. He slowed down, gradually lost weight. He was mostly deaf, and didn't see well either. He never stopped purring.

Cecil passed away on December 19, 2011, leaving behind a very sad Pet Boy and family.

Cecil was the best, and we were unbelievably lucky to have him. We will miss him.

Cecil chose us. Thank you, Cecil.

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