Roger could open the screen door to the back yard by himself, and he stomped out Thursday night, angry at me because I put his Christmas collar on him. "Oh, Roger, don't go out in your Christmas collar!" I called after him. Dick Whitman was over and I was distracted. But Roger had gone out a hundred times and always came right back in. On his own. Opening the door. Sometimes he even let the dogs in and out for me.
But I shouldn't blame Roger. I always stood by my belief that cats should be allowed to play outside, even if it was dangerous, and my whole life I've had cats live to a ripe old age, with no problem. Roger did not have that kind of luck.
As soon as I woke up Friday morning and Roger wasn't in the bed with Edsel and Tallulah and me, I knew something was wrong. I went to the door and called him, and when he wasn't there, I just knew he was dead. I don't know how I knew.
My tarot cards, which I read every month, had said I may need to put a pet to sleep this month. I tried not to think of that. But what I didn't know is that at about 1 a.m., Roger had been hit by a car. My neighbor saw it happen, and it looked bad. He grabbed a shovel to get Roger out of the road, but when he went over there, Roger was still breathing, in a labored way.
He took Roger to the all-night emergency vet. Because Rog had on that Christmas collar, he had no tags on so he didn't know who the cat belonged to. My neighbor was really upset about the whole thing and called the vet the next morning. They told him that Roger had made it though the night and was probably going to be transported to the county animal shelter as a stray. Then yesterday, the neighbor's girlfriend finally saw the signs I put up. That's when he called me.
"Hi, this is PJ. I found your cat."
OH MY GOD! REALLY!?!?!"
"Now, it ain't good, ma'am. He got hit."
"OH MY GOD! Booo hooo hooo hooo!"
"He didn't die. At least not right away, ma'am."
"OH MY GOD! WHERE IS HE!?"
I mean, who wishes he had never driven up on that scene, do you think? Anyway, as soon as I hung up I stampeded to the animal shelter FOR THE THIRD TIME THIS YEAR to try to find Roger Dodger.
There are five damn rooms at the shelter of cats who just came in. Then there are three more of cats who are ready for adoption. This is why when someone tells me they just bought a cat I want to smack them with my adenoids. I looked and looked and looked for Roger, and even sneaked a glance for Winston while I was up, but nothing.
"Yes," I said, my voice getting wavery. I knew it was gonna be bad when one of the other workers ripped off a paper towel and handed it to me.
"Come over here," she said, pulling me aside.
"I'm the one who euthanized your kitty," she said. "Once I remembered the Christmas collar it all came back. It was Friday morning, real early. They brought him in from the emergency vet. They can't put cats down at the vet–we have to do it. His head trauma was real bad, ma'am. It was the humane thing to do. But I felt bad because I knew he was someone's Christmas kitty."
"He was my Christmas kitty," I said pathetically. Roger effing hated that collar. And he had to die in it. If you think he isn't gonna haunt me for the rest of my days, looking crabby in his jingles…
I thanked her and she seemed very sorry for me. I started walking to my car, but halfway there I grabbed Roger's picture and just bent over and started sobbing in front of 394939292949393 people visiting the shelter, and all the workers, and all the dogs in the dog run, and God who apparently hates me, and the rooster who inexplicably is up for adoption in case anyone needs one. I cried and sobbed and wept and carried on and did not care that I looked the fool.
Because I am gonna miss the crap out of that cat. I have had cats my whole life. I have known mean ones, sweet ones, shy ones, smart ones. I never met a cat like big old Roger. He was spectacular, with his squirrel-killing, refrigerator-jumping, dog-attacking, unflappable self. In many ways he reminded me of my all-time favorite cat, Mr. Horkheimer.
Whatever the story is, I am glad I had Roger for as long as I did. I will never forget that giant puma of a kitten.