Goblin died on Sunday.
Those of you that have been following me from the beginning have seen me write a lot about her on my blog, my social media—she’s been with me since shortly after I graduated from college—she’s stayed by my side since the beginning of my writing career and the beginning of my adult life.
I moved from North Carolina to New Hampshire in the second half of 2010 and then lived with my grandmother until mid-2011, at which point I got my first post-college apartment. Immediately after moving in, I went to the SPCA.
The SPCA in Stratham, NH had three different sections of cats. One was a room where healthy cats of all ages wandered around freely. Goblin was not in this room. A second room had friendly cats in cages—these cats were kittens or had recently had medical procedures done and were waiting to get moved into the room with all the other free-roaming cats. Goblin was not in this room, either. The third area had what were considered unfriendly or highly anxious cats, cats that weren’t allowed to roam freely with the others.
This was where I found Goblin—originally named Bella. She was tucked way back in her cage, as far away from the hands of curious children as she could get. She had been there for three weeks, and had barely touched her food and water since arriving.
I was attracted to her immediately because of her calico-like coloring (my first, childhood cat Ginger was a calico), but she was so timid, I wasn’t sure I wanted her. I wanted a friendly cat, one that would cuddle and sleep next to me.
But I still I read her paperwork. She had been returned to the SPCA by three different owners (three!) because of inappropriate urination. Different vets had done many tests, and only once had she actually had a UTI. The most recent owner had written down quite explicitly that she was giving Goblin up because the cat had peed on her expensive oriental rug—I wondered briefly why a person with oriental rugs would even want a cat. But I still wasn’t convinced. A cat with urination problems could mean she just needed a little training, or it could mean more serious medical issues, and I was poor, working four simultaneous part-time jobs that only barely covered my rent and care for whatever cat I ended up with.
But while I was filling out the general adoption paperwork that would allow me to take home any animal, a teenage girl showed up. She jammed her fingers into the cage and yelled, “Mom! I want this one! She’s pretty!”
Goblin got even smaller, moved further back in the cage (if that was even possible), and gave a pitiful yet loud yowl.
This pissed me off. The cat was clearly terrified, and yet this girl felt that yelling and sticking her fingers through the cage was a good idea. She clearly knew nothing about cats and would be a horrible owner for one like Goblin. I knew that if Goblin went home with her, the girl would be bringing her back in only a few days or weeks, making that Goblin’s fourth return to the SPCA in her six years of life.
The next day, the SPCA approved my application. I returned, and for a mere $5, took Goblin home with me immediately.
She cried all the way home. It was only a ten-minute drive, but she didn’t shut up once. She was strong-willed, I realized, and willing to share her opinions on just about any topic.
When we got to my apartment, she immediately hid. For three weeks she vanished into the closet, only coming out at night to sneak food and water from her bowl, and pee on the rug in the spare bedroom.
When she finally came out for real, to actually say hi to me, I made her a promise.
“I will never, ever take you back,” I told her. “You’ll never have to spend another second in the SPCA, no matter how many rugs or couches or possessions of mine you destroy. I’ll stick with you, until the day you die.”
And then I renamed her, so she wouldn’t have to have any memory of her past lives—Goblin, for the goblin-like glint that shone in her eyes.
I kept my promise. We moved to an apartment in Dover, then to a condo. I let her roam outside, and pee on the floors inside (we never did end up solving that problem, no matter what solutions we tried). I got another cat (Rowan) and they became best friends—the two old ladies, I called them; and then came Wilfred, her annoying little brother and new wrestling buddy.
Then I acquired Josh, and his and Goblin’s love-hate relationship spurred on many mornings of arguing—the two of them meowing back and forth at each other like they actually knew what the other one was saying.
Then we moved to Baltimore. She spent the entire ten-hour ride yowling angrily at me for putting her in the car, but she quickly adjusted to the bigger house and its many sunshine-filled, wide-silled windows. Then we got Doggo, the perfect couch buddy, who she spent many afternoons napping a few feet away from.
She found new corners to pee in, yet I kept my promise. “I will never take you back,” I repeated, as I dumped hundreds of dollars into special cat food and cleaning supplies, as I got down on my hands and knees to clean another pee-soaked corner, as I drove her to another vet visit and paid for another round of tests. And I never did.
Right up until the end, where she lay purring on the vet’s table, looking up at me with big eyes, I stroked her fur and told her I loved her, and reminded her that I was still with her, right at the end. And I never left her side, even as the vet sedated her and stopped her heart. I stood there, petting her and repeating my promise over and over and over.
And then she she was gone, after nine long years together.
All I have left are memories, photographs, and the knowledge that I kept my promise, no matter what.
Here are nine haikus, one for each year we spent together.
Orange, black, and white;
Whiskers drooping to the floor;
Perfect white toe beans.
She was the best cat
with the loudest and biggest
Her meow so loud—
a round, bloated melody—
haunts my memories.
I felt her leaving:
a rush of emptiness where
her soul used to be.
Empty eyes staring
unblinking back at my own;
I can’t look away.
Matted fur, an age-
spotted nose, indicative
of a life well lived.
Nine years, just us two
together against the world.
But now Goblin sleeps
forever at peace.
And I will remember her
yowl, whiskers, soft eyes,
and wish she was here
to purr me gently to sleep.
She was a good cat.