Before I go too far into what a wonderful cat Murphy was, you should know that I'm not one of those crazy cat people. Most cats are irritating lumps that sleep, eat and poop. It's why I think so many women seem to confuse their cats for babies.
And Murphy wasn't the spoiled only child kind of a cat -- we have two other cats, Otis and Norman, and while they are interesting in their own ways, Murphy was a special cat.
As a fellow explorer of life, I can tell you he truly enjoyed life. He was constantly getting into things, not in a destructive, mischievous way, but just to figure out what was going on. He enjoyed eating in an almost culinary way... I think he always hated having to eat next to the two cats that just wolfed their food down. He always waited to be fed last, even though he was obviously the alpha cat, then he would look, smell, and slowly eat his food -- not in that suspicious way that make cats the aloof villains of so many kids movies, but in a genuine, "What are we having for dinner tonight? Ah, some sort of pate..."
He wasn't a big fan of the communal water dish, either, preferring water running in the sink. We would find him standing in the sink, patiently waiting for a kind person with opposable thumbs to come along and turn the water on a trickle for him. This wasn't to be confused with waiting on the bathroom counter for his morning brushing -- we have a round brush and Markie or I would brush him with until he got impatient with our clumsy attempts and he'd grab our hands and the brush handle and then brush himself, looking like the Cowardly Lion at the salon in the Emerald City.
I've had friends that I've visited many times only to find out years later that they have a cat. There are so many cats out there that scurry to the far side of the closet when the doorbell rings -- Murphy would walk out onto the street and say "hi" to people and if we had a party he'd be sitting in the middle of it. (Norman does that too, but sometimes I think Norman does it because he's too stupid to know the difference between fun and danger.)
Our dinner parties will never be the same without Murphy jumping onto the back of a guest's chair to see what we're eating. And beg, of course, but he was so charming about it that even as we apologized and tried to get him down our guests would say, "Oh, he's fine, he can stay on my shoulders and reach around to steal my fork." Not that they would exactly say that, but it was the result.
I have to say that taking Murphy to the vet yesterday to put him down was one of the hardest things I've done in a long time. He's been fighting lymphoma for years, by all rights he should have died a long time ago, but he's been bouncing back and forth -- good days and bad days.
When the vet suggested putting him down a couple months ago I said no. He was still interested in food, sleeping with us and purring. He wasn't playing in the dirt in the yard, but he was out on the porch watching birds -- this was a sick cat, but a cat that was still interested in life and engaging as best he could.
Last Friday he wouldn't come down to eat. He couldn't walk straight as his back legs started to go out. I brought him downstairs, he looked at his food, tried to eat, and then just sat there, staring at it. He wanted to eat, but he just couldn't.
He slept on the bathroom floor, drinking a little water when he could, and slowly losing strength for anything. Norman slept with him -- normally the dying cat gets picked on, but I think Norman was honestly on vigil for Murphy. When we took Murphy to the vet, Markie picked up Otis to say goodbye to Murphy and they licked each other's foreheads.
This wasn't a demented cat, and putting him down was harder because one of the basic rules of quality of life is interest in his surroundings. He still wanted to be interested, he just didn't have the strength. I know he was in pain -- his meow had become a plaintive squeaking when he had the strength to meow at all. He could have hung on for a week or more, but a week of labored breathing on a bathroom floor is no way for a cat like Murphy to die.
I always expected him to die by launching himself off the roof at a squirrel or exploring something really dangerous. But regardless of how he died, that cat knew how to live, and we would all be so lucky to have such a love of life as Murphy.
I'm sure he's found some tall grass and dirt to play in, a bowl of something tasty and a fun adventure wherever he is...