Back in 1995 I was a Junior at the University of Texas in Austin and moved into my own apartment for the first time. I decided to get my very own cat and went to the Humane Society. I came home with two - the last of their litter. Hardy and Serafina. They were both adorable and I couldn't bear to leave one behind. They turned 17 this May and have moved around with me many times. Texas>Germany>Colorado>Texas>Colorado>Ohio.
Hardy has always been good at sneaking off. I used to let them play in my little yard in Schopp, Germany while I cooked dinner and he'd be gone in a flash. He wouldn't ever get far and I'd find him after circling my little apartment building and calling his name a few times. He also ran away for 11 days when I was pregnant with the twins. This was right before we knew about TTTS and I went on bedrest. Dave and I posted signs everywhere and spent countless hours wandering the neighborhood looking for him. We even saw him a couple of times and he ran away from us not ready to come home. Finally, he showed up at our door one day as though he'd been gone only a few moments.
Hardy had long white fangs that hung out of his mouth. It was fun to show them off - everyone was always impressed by them. He liked to snuggle but also liked his independence. After he and Sera started peeing on our new carpet they were cast out of the carpeted area of our house and had to live in the kitchen, fireplace room, and four seasons room area. It was plenty of room but I always felt guilty when we sat on the couch to watch TV in the living room and they couldn't come join us.
Hardy snuck out some time on Friday. He'd been attempting it for weeks. Every time we opened the back door to let the dogs out he'd dash out. I'd scoop him up and put him back in. But I didn't notice him sneak out on Friday. Then I went to give him his nightly pill and didn't see him. I decided to give it to him later and then forgot. Saturday morning I realized he was missing. I wasn't too worried, though. He'd spent the night out at least once at this house. I decided not to go on a crazy manhunt like we did three years ago. He'd show up eventually - or not. Whatever. The little turd.
Then last night, after putting the girls to bed, I went outside and smelled something coming from the neighbors yard. I scrambled up the 7 foot fence and saw something on the ground. I ran in for the flashlight. Dave was outside and caught up to me as I hurried into the neighbor's back yard. He took the flashlight from me and confirmed it was Hardy. We don't know what got him but we've seen groundhogs going under the hole in the fence nearby. There are also raccoons with adolescents all around us. We're surrounded by wooded areas. Who knows what got him but it must have happened Friday because he was already pretty well decomposed. And, in retrospect, we saw the dogs paying a lot of attention to that hole in the fence. They must have smelled him and we thought they were just smelling one of the animals we've seen going under there. Dave pulled him out and let me take a look. I don't know why I had to see. For some reason I had a flashback of the ultrasound when they told me Leila was gone. They were careful to look quickly and turn it off before they told us but I wanted to see for myself. I wanted him to point out her not beating heart. I wanted to see and recognize for myself that that was Hardy and, sadly, it was. We were losing light but Dave used his post-hole digger to quickly dig a hole and bury him. I cried all night. It's amazing how sad you can feel when you lose an animal who was often a major pain in the ass. We loved him.
I'm miserable and keep torturing myself imagining his ending and guilt-ridden at the fact that I was too busy or preoccupied to notice him sneak out. Not to mention my attitude at his initial disappearance. I had to tell Solana this morning that he'd died. She was a total wreck. A 7 year-old meltdown over a lost pet is something no parent wants to see. "How did he get dead?"she wanted to know. Bawling she asked the obvious, "So we're never going to see Hardy again?" I tried to comfort her with hugs but she just wanted to curl in a ball and cry. "What can I do? What do you want, Solana," I stupidly asked for her to give me any way to comfort her. "I want Hardy." She suggested we take his collar and flowers to the grave. He hadn't worn the collar ever since Monty arrived.
We cut some pretty flowers and placed them on his makeshift headstone, along with his collar. "I keep thinking of Hardy and it makes me cry" Solana told me. I know how she feels. I then watered the grass by hand for a good hour and let the girls play in the water. Anything to distract Solana from her crying.
Hardy was a good cat and I miss him. The feel of his fur as I stroked his back. The smell of his stinky breath as he purred in my face. The heft of him. His meow. It's sad to think that we won't ever have a chance to experience those things again but such is life, I suppose. Losing a pet is definitely the worst part of pet ownership. Bye Bye Hardy-Boy. We love you.