My Best Friend

Chester. Cheezy Chester. Chester Man. Chezza Man. Silky Smooth. Silky J. Silky Johnson. Lando Calrissian. Ladies Man. Buddy Boy. Booka Man. Booka. Dooka. Asshole. Orange Bastard. El Tiegre de Naranja. Orange Man. Sunshine.

Chester went by many names. But the one thing that didn’t change was that he was one of the best friends I ever had.

I got Chester on Halloween 1998. He was six months old and at the Humane Society in Clay County, Iowa. The name tag on his cage: Mischief. Boy was that accurate.

I took this rambunctious orange tabby kitten home with me. My then husband K and I had lost the day before a three year old tabby to an accident. While that cat was more K’s cat than mine (the cat wanted nothing to do with me, really), I still felt a loss and a hole that needed to be filled. Love that I needed to give another cat.

Enter Chester.

I changed his name from Mischief to Chester because I’m the kind of person who gives cats people names. Since I was completely unoriginal, he was named after the then Cheetos mascot “Chester Cheetah” – lame, right? But the name seemed to suit him.

Remembering back, he was the naughtiest boy. In his twisted logic, if he didn’t see you then you couldn’t hear him. An assortment of his naughty behavior:

  • Making himself comfortable on top of the dinner plates in the cupboard.
  • Getting up on a table and throwing glass beads out of a decorative candle display. He’s toss one out, watch it clang down the stairs of our split level, lather, rinse, and repeat.
  • Sleeping on my spider plant to the point of it being squashed. He never dug around or did his business in it, just slept on it.
  • Playing “splashy-splashy” in the toilet. It sounds like exactly what you think it is. Stand on toilet seat, splash the water everywhere. Repeat.
  • Stealing the straw out of any fountain drink I ever purchased. Most of the time, knocking said fountain drink over in the process. I would only turn my back for literally 5 seconds and BAM! Straw was gone and Diet Pepsi would be running all over the table and floor.

He would sleep on top of the water heater. He’d get in the ceiling and run around in the rafters, then yowl when he got “lost.” He’d chase wet clothes into the dryer and got a couple of thumps on the head after I turned on the dryer. (that actually happened only once – after that I was super paranoid and would check the dryer for an orange cat before starting it)

He would play fetch with a teddy bear that was almost as big as he was. This started because he wouldn’t stop attacking my legs when I was on the computer so I threw this bear that was on my desk to get him to chase and beat up something other than me. He brought it back a minute later. So I threw it again. Brought it back again.

He’d steal balled-up socks and make little piles of them all over the house.

He’d knock the Christmas tree down in the most spectacular of fashions (running the full length of our L-shaped sectional couch and launching himself off the end of the couch onto the tree like a flying squirrel) and afterwards give you this look of innocence that we would eventually call the “hey, did you see that cat knock that stuff over? I was just here minding my own business” look.

Most cats meow. Chester never meowed. He’d make a squeaky chirp whenever he would carry around his bear or his sock and other times he would make this “merrarowll mowww” sound that he would sing to his sock. Yes, he had a sock – named Sock – and carried it around like it was his baby and sang to it. But he never meowed at us.

Chester, from the moment we brought him home, was my shadow. Wherever I went, he went. He was totally and completely a mama’s boy.

In 2001, K and I split up. He was from the town we were living in and my plan was to move to the West Coast (eventually). The day after I quit my job in Iowa was 9/11. So my plans were thrown for a loop and since I wasn’t sure where I was going to end up, I – with great sadness – decided to let K keep Chester.

Fast forward to late February 2007 when I found this comment on my then blog’s about page:

I’m a cat lover too!! However, my wife has become allergic to cats and wondering if you knew anyone interested in a loving, fetching, orange male cat that goes by “Chester” If you know anyone I would be able to deliver, Thanks

At the time I already had two female cats in a tiny two bedroom townhouse, but I couldn’t let my boy go to someone else.

Thus on a Saturday, I spent 5 hours round trip driving in a blizzard to meet K halfway between his house and my house to pick up Chester.

Needless to say, the two girls were not impressed. Chester was like a stranger to me – but after a few days of hiding, I think he remembered who I was, because he was my big orange shadow again.

Tim and Chester became buddies and I fell back into being Chester’s mama. Gone were the antics of a kitten and now the assholery of an adult. He was super-picky about the litter box and would pee on the floor if the conditions weren’t up to his standards. He would get up on shelves and knock things off. He would make sure you saw him before he fully knocked things off too – the little jerk.

For the first few months we lived there, he would not jump on the bed. We had the joke that the “bed was made of fire” because even if we placed him on the bed, he’d be right off again in a flash. Then one day, he jumped on the bed, draped himself over my ankle, and fell asleep. Guess bed wasn’t made of fire anymore!

This brought on other “let’s lay on the mama” games such as “trapping mama’s legs” and “kitty backpack” – which sounds exactly as it sounds. I would be snoozing on my stomach, and he’d drape himself on my back like a backpack. Super adorable.

He would also high five. Like people thought we trained him to high five. He would just high five – no training necessary.

He also had the most amazing eyes. Gorgeous green eyes that he worked to his advantage. We always joked that he got away with so much shit because he was so handsome. And a giant flirt. He loved the ladies. 🙂

Then, once I started traveling for work he was having none of that business. Tim said he would destroy things, knock things over, pee everywhere – all because he was pissed I was gone. When I got home, he was sweet and lovey and would sit on me as soon as I sat down on the couch.

He was a trooper when we moved to Oregon. The girls we had to sedate, but Chester just hung out and rolled with the punches.

He was settling in nicely, when he suddenly he started to slow way down in the past week – we could see it in his body language and actions that he wasn’t feeling well. We took him into the vet and on Friday came back with the diagnosis of renal failure and diabetes. If it were just one of those things, we could probably treat it. But both? We cried and agonized and came to the decision that we couldn’t put the old man through all that for a possible 6 more months. He was already 16 and a half years old! What was the quality of life were we talking about here? Just so we could feel better about things?

We spent the past 24 hours hanging out with him, giving him all the wet food (which he loved) and treats he wanted, giving him all the pettings and loving that we could give him. I took some pictures of him today too – the one at the very beginning of the post was one of them. It perfectly captures his spirit and attitude.

It was with hearts full of love and sadness that we said our last goodbye to our Sunshine around 2:45pm today. He went very peacefully, without any pain, and with the two of us there until the very end.

It’s been so fucking hard coming home without him. Seeing little remnants of him still around the apartment: Sock. A wet footprint on the floor by their food bowls. A cat brush with orange fur still in it from the brushing we gave him earlier. Sitting on the couch without him sitting next to us. Giving Pixel her thyroid medicine (which always gets her treats afterwards) without having Chester lurking about wanting his own treat.

Memories. Ghosts. Feelings that don’t just fade away and cause you such gut-wrenching pain. Feeling like your heart was torn in two. Feeling like a part of you is missing. Wanting to cry and scream and curl up into a ball. It’s not fair. It sucks.

But it was his time to go. And anytime we lose someone we love so very dearly, the time we had with them was never enough. Ever.

This is my tribute to my best little furry friend. It says so much, yet doesn’t even scratch the surface of how awesome he was. I loved that little orange bastard so very much.

Here are some of our favorite photos of him. Rest in peace, little buddy.