Welcome to Jack "the Ripper"'s Rainbow Bridge Memorial Residency
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Memories of Jack "the Ripper"
Jack the Ripper was an orange marmalade tabby cat that we adopted from the SPCA nearly 15 years ago. He was ~ 1 year old when we adopted him and he instantly became a member of the family although he was always a real "mama's boy". He loved having his head scratched and would lower and twist his head almost 180 degrees so you could scratch and rub his left side - as your arm became tired he would push your hand until you switched to his right side but he always favored the left side. Jack also loved to play "thump-a-kitty" where he would stand contentedly for many minutes so you could gently pat his side, now the right side being favored over the left, regardless of how difficult it might be for you to reach him.

Jack had his own companion, "Mr. String" which was a silly piece of white string ~3 feet long with multiple knots. He would chase the string endlessly after which he would gather it up and bring it to his cracker bowl where they ate together. No matter where Mr. String started out it always wound up in his bowl of dry food - yet remarkably for all that the string ate, it remained slim and trim.

Jack loved to sit in Vicki's lap in his favorite red chair but with a twist. He started in her lap but then he burrowed down between her and the arm of the chair until she had to move forward to accommodate him. The farther forward she sat the more he moved to the back until she began to get up at which point he immediately claimed the chair for himself with a look of smug satisfaction now that it was nice and warm! This was a well choreographed routine that went on almost nightly for years and provided an unending source of laughs and smiles - no matter how the dance began, the end result was always the same - Jack firmly entrenched on his throne wondering why it took Vicki so long to catch on to the program and just move.

He slept with us and could be counted on to curl up and make a nest behind your knees or, more often than not, prop up on your ankles until your feet went to sleep - not a problem until you had to get up during the night at which point a trip to the bathroom became a genuine adventure. Jack was not fond of much movement in the bed and would firmly knead you if this became an issue for him. The resulting new and now acceptable for him, position had to be maintained for most of the remainder of the night or else the kneading process would begin anew. As he got older he became bolder and now would sleep between us so that his head was pressed tightly against Vicki with his feet firmly pushing against me.

Jack was a true sun worshiper and would move from spot to spot across the bedroom floor as the sun traveled across the sky. His trip for the day would end with him snoozing in the west facing bathroom window where he could soak in the sun.

Jack didn't like to be held and would tolerate this indignity only for 15-20 seconds after which his feet and legs went to the 4 points of the compass and it was amazing how flexible he could be - like holding a furry snake.

He didn't meow like most cats either. Rather, he "talked" and could carry on quite a conversation. Vicki marveled over the years at how much he talked to me and how little he said to her. Of course, given what he said I'm not sure that I got the best end of this deal.

Jack kept much of his kitten-like behavior even as an "old man" and enjoyed playing with his toys. He loved to have his catnip mice or balls thrown where he could catch them, sometimes in mid air. Once he had one he would feverishly attack it with his back feet until he almost fell over and then wonder what happened. Up until the very last day he faithfully announced a successful trip to the litter box by bounding up the stairs, shaking the house and running at full speed through the house to the master bedroom. We never quite figured out the significance of this routine but it gave him a great deal of satisfaction and joy.

Jack started his life as an indoor-outdoor cat but he spent his last 9 years as a strictly indoor cat. He did go out for regular but supervised visits with Mother Nature but these were far less satisfactory than his earlier roaming days. Vicki tried to take him for a walk on a leash one time but once he was in the leash he swelled up like a fat tick, sat down and refused to move - the only way this would have worked would have been to drag him around the yard, hence all future outdoor adventures were unencumbered by a leash but were supervised.

For almost 15 years Jack was our furry son and constant companion but sadly the joy he brought to our lives was cut off abruptly last week. On December 20th Vicki found a marble sized hard mass on his lower left jaw and on the 22nd our vet diagnosed him with oral cancer. To say that we were stunned was an understatement. We had x-rays, blood work, and a biopsy done by the 23rd and an appointment with a veterinary oncologist the following Monday, the 28th. She confirmed that he had oral squamous cell carcinoma and that there was very little that we could do for him except to keep him comfortable.

The following week on January 5th we took him to a veterinary radiation oncologist who said that palliative radiation could give him some additional time and quality of life so we had an appointment for the first of the treatments on January 12th. Squamous cell carcinoma is a horribly aggressive tumor and by the weekend of the 9th the size of Jack's mass was interfering with his ability to eat even soft or pureed foods. He could no longer take his methimazole (he had been hyperthyroid for 11 months) since he couldn't deal with the pill pockets and he could no longer eat the crunchy treats that we gave him after his pill. We cancelled his radiation treatment and decided to keep Jack with us until the end which came horribly fast.

By the 12th Jack couldn't eat anything although he tried desperately to do so - we fed him baby food which he could lick from our fingers but only in tiny amounts and nowhere near enough to survive. On Wednesday the 13th he couldn't really drink except a few sips of tuna water and even that was almost impossible so Vicki called our vet and arranged for her to come to the house on Thursday morning. On his last night Jack came up very close to my face and purred a bit when I scratched his head - He seemed to know that it was over even though I wasn't ready to let him go. He slept between us near our heads and almost seemed to be somewhat peaceful - he was curled up like normal rather than crouched down.

After the vet arrived Thursday morning and set up we got Jack and laid him down on his favorite soft blanket warmed by a heating pad (the past few weeks he really seemed to enjoy this) and at 8:40AM on Thursday, January 14th the vet administered the last shot he would ever receive. Jack let go and was gone almost immediately and the vet noted that he stopped breathing with only a fraction of the dose administered. Vicki and I were with him as he took his last breaths but despite all of our love it wasn't enough to defeat the damnable tumor. When he died the tumor was about the size of a golf ball and nearly doubled in size in < 2 weeks. We only hope that he knew how much joy he brought to our lives for all of those years and how much he was loved and that we'll see him again!

Jan 22nd. Yesterday morning marked a week ago that we had to let Jack go -- it's almost surreal because on one hand it seems like the blink of an eye and on the other it seems so long ago. I expect to see and hear him but of course that's not going to happen now - the house is stunningly quiet without him almost tomblike - it's remarkable how much comforting "noise" even a sleeping furball could generate. I'll add some memories of him as a way for me to deal with his death because I can't remember 15 years of togetherness in a few hours or with a few keystrokes.

I found a small dead field mouse this morning in front of one of the garage doors and I immediately thought that Jack had returned. In his younger days when he was both an indoor/outdoor pussycat Vicki thought that Jack was a superb hunter and mouser -- my take on these forays was that a poor, small creature died somewhere in his vicinity and Jack stumbled over the corpse whereupon he gifted us figuring that his human caretakers wouldn't catch on to him -- he was a crafty old coot. In any case, for years Jack would bring home some small creature, lay it down in the grass just off the deck, stretch out (he was a full 36" from tip to tip) and smugly await Vicki to acknowledge his triumph. It was hilarious to watch the ensuing production after Vicki quietly removed his catch while Jack was basking in the warmth of the sun or in his success, whichever came first. Suddenly he would look around, leap up, and then frantically circle around the area searching for what he knew he had but was now misplaced. I suspect this kept his little pea brain occupied constantly. After some time he gave up, resigned to the fact that his catch had mysteriously disappeared only to repeat the same dance with the next catch. I don't think that he ever caught on that Vicki was responsible for his loss or if he did know, he never let on.

Jack's favorite holiday was Christmas although winter itself, not so much. Once it snowed he adhered to a ritual that was necessary anytime he went outside. Jack would gingerly, and with great care, tiptoe around any snow on the deck boards for as long as he could. If this meant it took 10 minutes and 100 feet to go 2 feet forward so be it. If he did get into any snow then his world came to a complete stop at which time he balanced somewhat precariously on 3 feet while bathing the offending foot and trying not to look foolish. Once bath-time was complete he resumed his sojourn but with the understanding that the entire process would be repeated, as it was numerous times, if he encountered any further snowfall. The return trip from wherever he was going was equally amusing. Vicki and I were never able to modify his behavior no matter how cold it was or how long his outdoor adventure required. On a positive note, any falling snowflakes that he encountered completely destroyed his careful plans and he bolted for the French doors regardless of the snow, distance, time or the consequences. Once inside, he of course required a complete bath from head to toe and usually right smack in the middle of a high traffic area -- it's remarkable how far one can contort your body to avoid disturbing a bathing pussycat.

Early on at Christmas Jack discovered 2 critical cat truths, at least for him. The first was that his tail was long enough that it reached many ornaments several branches above the lowest ones holding decorations. He would walk under and around the tree, flick his tail, and then move quickly to watch Vicki or me try to catch the falling ornament. I'm sure this amused him initially and it was ok when we were up but it was disconcerting after we had gone to bed. His second revelation was that the Christmas tree meant there was a new and tastier water hole available that was replenished daily, as were his multiple bowls throughout the house. Nonetheless, the Christmas tree flavored water was special to him. He would stand next to Vicki with great anticipation as she filled the tree stand and she would barely be able to get up, and out of his way, before he was in to the watering hole lapping up "suds" as fast as possible. This was great for him, for the tree -- not so much. He never seemed to suffer any ill effects from this habit and we are sure it helped him in his last days because Vicki had to replenish the water every day until he died, now not nearly as frequently.

Jack never liked to look foolish although occasionally we could pull a fast one on him. He would sit in his orange rocker (all furniture in our home was his according to Jack) and watch either one of us on the treadmill or just exercising. He never really participated other than to yawn, stretch, roll over and curl up all the while keeping you in view. He did have a fleeting interest in the treadmill but this evaporated quickly and permanently some years back. After Vicki had stopped walking on the treadmill Jack got on and was dutifully showing her how it should be done. He didn't realize that I could turn it on which I did. There was a brief moment where he was completely dumbfounded as the floor began to move with him at which point he jumped straight up about 2 feet and seemed to pirouette in mid-air. When he hit the rug his feet were going a mile-a-minute and there was an orange blur as he headed for the safety of his kitty nest in the master bedroom closet. We didn't see him for several hours but he never had much interest in or use for the treadmill after that -- same could probably be said for me -- if that cat knew how to use a can-opener I would have been superfluous in his life.

Jan 30th: It's now 2 weeks and 2 days since we had to let Jack go and the struggle continues to understand how and why. At some moments I rationalize that the decision to let him go was unquestionably the one best for him and that his suffering is now over and he is forever free of that damn tumor and the pain; although the decision was extremely difficult for us and maybe prolonged because I couldn't accept the ultimate outcome. However, there are many more moments that I sit and wonder what he knew or perhaps better, what he sensed about the entire situation from the time when the tumor first developed in his mouth and before we, well actually, before Vicki discovered the mass. Did he realize how sick he was? Did he know that when our vet told me that he could do nothing for Jack that he was basically being given a death sentence? Did he understand that the long and unpleasant trips to the oncologist and then to the radiation oncologist were our futile attempts to try to help him in some way but that we could only delay the inevitable outcome? Did he sense that Wednesday the 13th, the last night that he was in the bed with us, was to be his last night with us? Did he understand that when Vicki got him out of his safe place from the upstairs closet on Thursday morning and carried him down to the bedroom that he had only a few more moments to live? Did he sense what was going to happen as the vet carefully shaved his leg and inserted the IV? Could he possibly realize how much we loved him and that it was killing us to watch him go and know that we were helpless to help him? All questions among a host of others for which I can intellectually answer but for which those answers bring no relief at all.

There are times now that I look up and catch a glimpse of movement out of the corner of my eyes and I expect to see Jack ambling over for one of his multiple, daily marathon head scratches. He had a remarkable second sense such that no matter where he was or what he was doing, which was usually sitting on his stool in the bedroom surveying his kingdom or sleeping somewhere, he knew immediately when I was anywhere near the kitchen table and he would appear mysteriously before I even settled into the chair. He parked next to the chair and would wait to have his head scratched, first between his ears but then on the left side and only when he twisted his head so that my hand was between the floor and the top of his head. As his enjoyment increased, judging by him sounding like an idling diesel engine, Jack would gradually move farther away from me so that I had to lean farther and farther out of the chair to reach him. I never completely fell out of the chair but I looked pretty ridiculous and goofy trying to satisfy this foolish cat -- all part of his plan I'm sure! After my shoulder surgery this ritual became more problematic for me but continuing it elicited no sympathy from Vicki -- her suggestion was just to stop. Once I stopped scratching his head Jack would wait patiently to see what was next, which was usually a "thump-a-kitty" session where I could pat his side -- he seemed to love this and would purr constantly and loudly -- didn't matter which side was thumped although the right side and the more difficult side for me to reach was his favorite, naturally. I did find that if I patted both sides simultaneously he was sufficiently confused that the session ended very shortly thereafter.

Jack's bedroom stool was his throne from which he could safely survey his outside kingdom and upon which he could stretch out in the sun and sleep when his kingly surveys taxed him to the limit. His daily ritual began and ended on the stool with him peering out from beneath the window blinds on his world. Actually, if you slowly lowered the blinds Jack would hunker down ever lower to keep watch on the outside world until he was as flat as a fritter in a last ditch effort to keep tabs on things. His mornings began on the same perch, requiring that one of us, almost always Vicki, had to raise the blinds for him immediately after we got up which preceded his morning chow down by only a few minutes.

For years an on-going daily battle was choreographed between Jack and Vicki over ownership of a smaller stool in the master bedroom closet. This stool was a convenient one for her to sit on while she put on her shoes but one that Jack ran to and occupied completely as soon as she moved towards it. We found, however, that we could drive Jack nutty if I sat on his bedroom throne to put on my shoes while Vicki approached or even sat on the closet stool -- he was never quite sure what to do and frantically tried to assess the odds of capturing both. Alas, invariably he wound up on the bedroom throne -- many times even before I stood up!

For all of Jack's lifetimes of successes he was remarkably ignorant of any concept of time. After sleeping remarkably comfortably between us all night (us -- not so much) he ambled off to the family room for his first pre-breakfast snack of crackers sometime around 5:30AM. The resulting CRUCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH usually served as a fine alarm clock for us. After an interminable length of time and amid much racket he then returned to the bed and spent at least 10-15 minutes, first bathing -- remarkable how loud licking soft fur can be -- and then kneading one or both of us until we adopted a suitable position whereupon he curled up behind Vicki's knees to sleep. Of course the real alarm clock was set for 5:45AM when we got up which then distressed him to learn that bedtime was over. This ritual went on for nearly his entire life and he never figured out how to make this scenario work for him.

Jack could count or at least understood prime numbers. I say this because we gave him crunchy treats after he took his methimazole to help make the pill pockets a less unpleasant experience. He looked forward to the treats after his pill which we placed on his bedroom throne. He circled after them almost faster than we could put them down. An even number of treats was somehow never acceptable and small prime numbers like 1, 3, 5, or even 7 were only temporarily satisfactory. He quickly determined that once he had the first round of treats he could "plead" his case with Vicki when she came home and, being moved by the PPP ("poor pitiful pussycat") she would reward him with round 2 or sometimes even round 3. In his last months the costs for his treats rivaled the costs of his food even when the treats were on sale. Our own grocery shopping expeditions were often dictated by which stores had treats on sale and the requisite quantity limits.

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