The Story of Tas, Part 2: A growing boy
In his first few days at the apartment, Tas stayed in the bedroom while we were at work, mostly, and unjustifiably, because we were worried Simbe might eat him. She clearly didn’t like him, but she grew to ignore him, like she has the other cats we’ve taken in since. Upon coming home and opening the bedroom door in the evening, Tas would leap out and attach his claws to my leg, where he would proceed to climb up my entire body, so he could purr in my face and lick my moustache. I started calling him ‘Puppy’ because of this. He did this to my wife as well, although that stopped the day she wore loose sweats, and got ‘pants-ed’ by Tas who was growing bigger by the day.
At night Tas would curl up on the pillow next to my face, and as he got bigger, snuggling into my armpit, where he slept part of most nights for his entire life. He was becoming my cat, though he was a gift for my wife. The moment I knew he was my cat took place one afternoon in the living room when Tas was about 6 months old. To stop cats from repeatedly doing bad things, like scratching on furniture, or knocking things off of shelves, it is sometime recommended that one use a squirt gun to shoot water at the offending animal when they have been caught in the act. This is an idea my wife and I adopted to some success.
One day, Tas was examining items on a table, reaching up, and swatting them to the floor. He wasn’t doing this to play with them, he just seemed content to knock them on the floor. I was across the room sketching when I heard the commotion. My trusty water-filled firearm in hand, I took aim, and waited for him to knock another item on the floor. It didn’t take long, and at the moment of the act, I fired the squirt gun at Tas. Instead of running, as he had done to that point, he just stopped, looked around to the wet spot on his back, then looked straight at me. He squinted his eyes into slits, and putting his ears back he stalked straight up to me, unafraid, put his mouth around the barrel of the squirt gun while looking me dead in the eye with a determined glare. All I could do was smile, and pull the trigger. He just drank the water, and walked away.
Eventually, our young Tas came of age, and with that came the time for him to get ‘fixed’ as they say. It was a pity, for even though he was likely a mixed breed he had the appearance of a pure bred Norwegian Forrest Cat. But, he was acting like a jerk, a rambunctious teenager, and it was only a matter of weeks before he would start to spray the furniture to mark his territory. So off we took him to the vet, where he would stay the night, and undergo the procedure in the morning. The day of his operation, the veterinarian called us at work to let us know of a slight complication. It turned out that Tas had what is called Crypt Orchid; an un-descended testicle, and further… he had only one, and not the usual pair. On the phone we joked with the doctor “So, I guess that means we get half off, seeing as he only had the one, huh?”, to which the doctor replied “No. Actually it’s twice as much, because the surgery was deeper and more complex.” The joke was on us.
The doctor did however say that he would probably calm down quite a bit after he recovered, and that his rambunctiousness was also partly due from him likely being in pain from his condition. This held true, and Tas became a calmer cat than when he went in for the operation. Although it should be said, he never lost his edge.
Another trip to the vet to get Tas his shots resulted in catastrophe and injury all around. This time, Tas would not come out of the cat carrier, even after it was turned upside down and shaken. I eventually coaxed him out, and the vet had me hold him down so he could… take his temperature. The sound he emitted was one of forcefully restrained rage, a warning. That having been done, now came the shot. I voice some concern to the doctor, and told the him that this might not go over as well as a thermometer. The doctor said “No Problem! I have gloves!” Reaching into a draw on the other end of his examination table he pulled out what he described as, and I believed to be, a pair of Falconer’s gloves, made of thick brown leather. He then pulled out a second set of gloves, these made of thin blue fabric, the same kind used to make drop cloths for house painting. Unfortunately, he handed me the second set…
The doctor had me hold Tas by the front legs, while he goes in from behind for the shot. There was no warning from Tas this time, who upon taking the needle, snapped his head around like an owl might, and bit through the flimsy blue glove, and straight through my index finger. In one side and out the other. In obvious surprise, and not a little pain, I let go of the boy, who proceeded to jump from the exam table and onto the doctor’s desk. Tas threw the tantrum of a lifetime, wantonly and purposefully knocking things on the floor as the doctor chased him around. Despite the pain of having a hole through my finger, I couldn’t stop myself from laughing. I finally caught Tas, and wrestled him back into the carrier, and I’m sure the doctor was glad to be rid of us. (He was kind enough to stitch my finger closed before we left, and he has been our vet ever since.)
Another year down the road and we had bought our house, just down the street and around the corner from our old apartment. The cats were moving up in the world. Instead of a one bedroom apartment, they had a 3 floor, 3 bedroom house to run around in. Tas and Simbe were not alone forever though, and we took in, for good and for ill, a pregnant stray. This beautiful, but vicious, calico birthed 3 kittens, however, she could not stay. Ulee, as we called the calico, was given to the ASPCA after bloody, and I mean BLOODY attacks on myself, Tas, and finally Simbe and my wife, which was the final straw. We kept the kittens around, as we planned to keep one, and found homes for the other 2. In the intervening time, Tas became stepfather to this litter of 3, and did his best to keep them inline. They would bound all over the room, and gang up on him in their ‘Kitten Wrestle-Mania’ as we called it, which was ludicrous when considering Tas by then weighed in at a fit 20 pounds, and the kittens were but a few ounces between them. If one of them went too far, Tas would hold them down and give them a fierce bath.
Potter, the one of the Ulee’s litter that stayed with us, was as much Tas’ cat, as Tas was mine. He constantly looked after her, and slept with her during the day. Time would come another litter was born into our house, from which we kept 2, little misses Janet and Maddie. Tas was good to them as well.
This year, our son was born. Tas took an interest, but kept a respectful distance, knowing this little thing was something special. He liked to sit by as I read to our boy, either on my lap, or on the back of the chair. The time also came for Tas to go outside finally, which he thoroughly enjoyed, and made a small kingdom of our back yard, were he spent his days stalking through the grass and chasing after bugs.
Throughout his life, Tas greeted me at the door everyday when I came home from work, and stood on his hind legs so that I could scratch him on his head. He woke me up when I slept too late by licking my nose, and snuggled in my armpit at night when I would go to sleep. He stayed near the computer while I was working, preferably on my lap if he could, or on the back of my chair if he couldn’t. I thought he was going to be as wonderful a friend to my son as he was to me.
But our time together was drawing to a close.