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“Best Boy”

By Suzanne V. Pabst


It's never easy to lose a family member. Mel was a 12 year old black manx with a stumpy tail. Thirteen years earlier, his year‑older brother became "Best Boy", a term for "mommies" house cat, when he was a six‑week old kitten.  Arriving on the farm the next year when  “Meanie‑Meanie" was already man of the house meant Mel was destined for the cattery where he was paired with "007".

Names are creatively assigned here at Old Spring Farm.  Mel should have been named "Mellow‑Mellow", in contrast to Meanie‑Meanie for their dispositions could not have been more different.  Instead, he became "Mel Gibson" for his good looks and his suave, black and white spotted companion became the dashing "007" of James Bond fame.  Each knew his name, no matter how ascribed.

Mel never achieved "Best Boy" status during his cattery years.  He would have excelled in this capacity but Meanie‑Meanie would not hear of it.  I brought Mel into the house and introduced them, but Meanie greeted Mel with hostility and hissing.

Beebe, another neutered black manx rumpy, had also not been accepted by Meanie and so became "Outside Boy" until his wanderlust banished him to the cattery. Beebe joined 007 and Mel in an adjacent pen. 

And so it was ... In 2003, rapid weight loss signaled a trip to the vet for 007 where it was determined he was in acute kidney failure and was euthanized.  He was buried in a corner of the pre‑Revolutionary cemetery on the farm.  We all mourned..  To ease Mel's bewilderment over 007's absence, Beebe became Mel's soul mate. And so it was... until June of 2006 when Beebe suffered a severe bout of cystitis.  Surgical intervention could not guarantee against further episodes.  With much sadness, Beebe joined 007 and Mel was alone again.  "Batman", another black rumpy, born in March of 2006 failed to fill the void left by Beebe.  Batman's energy level was too overwhelming for the complaisant Mel. I attributed Mel's drop in coat condition and  his not eating as much as he usually did to his stress and inability to adjust to Batman. When I removed Batman, it was obvious Mel was suffering from more than loneliness. Blood work showed Mel's kidneys weren't the problem, but more than likely cancer was.

And so Mel was brought into the house.  We shared his last ten days together often sitting on the couch with a waning Mel on my lap content to purr away his days.  He had little interest in food no matter how tempting or encouraging.  He was given fluids every other day.  It surprised me that he asked to go outside daily for a walk around the yard.  I was afraid he would wander off to die and I would never see him again.  Instead, he spent his time basking in the sun next to his buddies in the cattery, the only home he had ever known.  After an hour or so, he walked unsteadily to the back door and asked to come in for a nap on a fleece throw next to a heat register.

I sat holding him in the evenings listening to him purr in contentment and looking into golden eyes that reflected his soul. He pressed his cool nose to my cheek as if he understood he was for now and forever "Best Boy".

Mel was buried next to Beebe and 007 ‑ his best friends in life. Meanie‑Meanie was allowed out of the bedroom where he had spent the last ten days in deference to Mel. 

And so it is...

Suzanne V. Pabst

November 24, 2006