23 May 2011

Goodbye to my old friend Catdog

Anyone who knows me at all knows about Catdog, my beloved cat.  You pretty much couldn't escape hearing about him at some point.  The really privileged have received mail from me with a Catdog photostamp.

Even my blog featured him once in a starring role in one of my "Airline Fare School" series posts, in which he perfectly illustrated the fare concept of the open-jaw.

At 6:30 this morning Catdog was alive and well but soon to die an ugly death, killed by two dogs roaming our neighborhood.  Not the way he would have chosen to leave this world, I'm sure, and definitely not the way I wanted.

Catdog entered our lives toward the end of 1999.  As these things so often go with cats, he adopted us.  Guess he thought that my partner Keith and I needed a cat in our lives, and of course he was right.

That's how he got his name. Instead of slowly sizing me up, and then trepidatiously allowing limited contact at first, he bounded up to me on the back patio while I was reading, as if to say, "Go ahead and pet me.  I want you to". More dog-like than cat-like.

Added to his sometimes dog-like behavior, was the historic fact that my father in silly moments would sometimes refer to cats as catdogs, and there you have his name: Catdog. (We didn't hear about the half-cat, half-dog cartoon character named Catdog until years later.)

He moved from being surreptitously fed (by me), to being openly fed (by both of us), to living in the Catdog Condo (a cardboard box with a blanket on it on the backdoor step), to full-fledged citizenship with in and out house-privileges which he liberally exercised.

Since Catdog came to us as an adult cat, we don't really know how old he was but upon his first visit to a vet he was judged to be between 3 and 5.  We're pretty sure he was closer to the "3" end of the scale, so he was likely around 16 when he died.

Though never much of a hunter, Catdog was quite the fighter fearlessly taking on other cats who invaded his turf.  From long ago he had a slightly shredded left ear, the result of a battle where he came out the loser.  I have no idea of the number of times that we had to run outside to intervene because we heard the sound of an impending or ongoing cat fight.  Surprisingly, Catdog was already a neutered male by the time he arrived on our shores, yet he acted as if he still had "them". Time and older age did seem to have mellowed him over the past two years, because the catfight became a rare event.

Catdog was a fighter in another way.  Like a number of cats, he carried the FIV virus which is similar in cats to the way that HIV/AIDS works in humans.  As with HIV, the virus itself never goes away entirely but some cats, just like some humans, manage to live with it yet not be troubled by it.  Early in our life with Catdog, Dr. Elizabeth Colleran at Chico Hospital for Cats gave us a very simple regimen for his care (anti-oxidant, salmon oil, interferon) that sure seemed to work.

Except for two very bad bouts of ilness long ago (2001 and 2003) that had neurological symptoms, Catdog never again showed signs of FIV.  Other than the low days now and then that any mammal can have, it was pretty clear that Catdog had boxed the virus into a corner.

Just the way that people get on with each other, pets and humans who live together acquire rhythms of expected behavior.  It was no different with us.  Between us and Catdog, it was mostly about food.

Catdog could just as easily been named Catgoat because he was always badgering us for food.   About five years ago Catdog had reached 18 pounds, and his vet strongly recommended a diet.  We knew it was in his best interest and we also knew it would be difficult.

You have no idea.
But a year and half later with diet cat food and much impassioned meowing under the bridge, a new trim Catdog emerged at 13 pounds.  He kept the weight off, got to leave the weight-loss kibbels behind, even seemed slightly less food-obsessed as he got older.  He actually learned that you can leave kibbels in the bowl, and they'll still be there waiting for you when you want more.

Still the rituals of feeding him four times per day (one larger serving first thing in the morning and then around dinner time, plus small servings at mid-day and beddy-bye), and his morning milk after we got back from a run were the points on our shared Keith-Greg-Catdog clock that if not as punctual as a Swiss train were certainly followed in a precise order that both he and we were well accustomed to.

One of my favorite memories of Catdog took place maybe 6 years ago.  It was a warm summer day, and I was putting some clothes up on the backyard clothes line.  I always liked to tease Catdog and I had been doing something - probably touching his belly which he didn't much like - while I was simultaneously dealing with the clothes.  He grew tired of my being obnoxious and left the immediate area.  But no more than a minute or two later he zoomed in, gave my calf a friendly little chomp and ran off again.  Nice work, Catdog.  I deserved it.

Because this spring has been so cool and wet, the clothes line hasn't gone up yet but I reckon it will in the next few weeks.  When it does I'll probably be overcome with memories of my old friend.

You were a great cat, my best feline friend ever, and I'm going to miss you very much.


  1. This is a wonderful tribute to your singular guy--why we love our familiars. Nicely done, fellow cat (dog) lover. pb

  2. Great story, and a great cat. You were all very lucky to find each other...

  3. Greg and Keith --
    Alas, I did not know Catdog well, but I know how much he enriched your lives. Your post was so nice, Greg. What great memories of a special feline friend.

  4. Greg, I'm a friend of Pam Beck's, the one with the Lu (chow) stamps. I was a lucky recipient of a postcard from you with the Catdog stamp. That was super gracious and I still have it. The photos of him are magnificent. What a fierce little spirit he was. Thank you for sharing what he was like and how your life was together. I wish you and Keith peace and healing in the seasons and years ahead.

  5. Martha FischerSunday, 29 May, 2011


    Sorry to hear about Catdog! What a great relationship you had with him.

    The photos are a great tribute to him. They give a good idea of who he was. The pictorial presentation really shows a lot about him. I know you will miss him tremendously.

    Fondly, Martha

  6. I'm so sorry to hear about Catdog. I hope the awful dogs are caught. One of my favorite Christmas cards ever was the infamous one with Catdog. I'm sure you will miss him. RIP Catdog! Love, Jen