To many, he was just a cat. To most of my neighbours, he was a holy terror, but that was a bad rap mostly based on his tough guy name. Sure, he'd often sit on the window ledge across the street and taunt the two male cats trapped inside. They would hurl themselves at the glass in furious impotence while Boris licked his foot and yawned. He wasn't doing anything wrong because his cat logic dictated he owned that property long before they all moved in so in fact, they were the interlopers, not him. It was simple feline logic, as far as he was concerned. He was confused, almost offended, when the owner would emerge and throw buckets of water at him, but he learned to sidestep quickly. And it didn't stop him from doing it again and again, usually the minute she stepped back inside.
Another neighbour, a street gossip universally loathed for her no-holds-barred approach to spreading rumours, pulled me over one day and gravely reported that Boris hissed at her whenever she went up to him. I wanted to say "well, don't go up to him" but I nodded and tried, unsuccessfully, to stifle a smile. He was a cat with the gift of sentience and could see straight into people's souls, I reckoned.
I watched him move about the neighbourhood for years, and I know he was never the aggressor. Our little white cat Kicia, yes. She will take on animals several times her size, but not Boris. However, while he didn't actively seek out fights with other cats, he was stubborn in his refusal to back down when a fight presented itself.
As for humans, when Boris was outside, he pretty much ignored or hissed at you, depending on his mood. My next-door neighbour put it best; after she shooed him away from her porch, Boris turned as he sauntered away and gave her what she described as a "fuck you glance" over his shoulder. "That's exactly what it was, a giant 'fuck you' right to my face!" She laughed and added, "But I have to say, I really like the old bugger. He's got attitude, that one."
He was my boy, devoted, and deeply loved in return. And now he's gone. He lost weight for months, and in the past two weeks refused all food, even his favourites like raw salmon and roast chicken. Then he stopped drinking water, grew weak, and we knew it was time.
I miss him most in the evenings. During the day, he did his own thing, but at night he craved affection, purring loudly beside me while I read or watched TV. He was a solid cat in his day, huge, a mass of tightly wound muscle and soft fur with a thick tail the size of a stove pipe. He'd sit on my lap like a Buddha while I rubbed his belly, and tolerated the clipping of his claws without a struggle. When he slept it was deeply, usually sprawled on his back, back feet propped up on the back of a comfy chair, his front feet curled up like an otter's. He snored soft squeaks of pleasure, no doubt dreaming of bountiful fields of lame mice and hobbled squirrels.
When I came upstairs to bed, no matter what time it was, he'd bound up behind me, and enter the bathroom like royalty. He'd flop on the bathmat, always on that thin bathmat even when it was wet, I think because it held the whole family's scent. Sometimes I'd wiggle my finger underneath it and he'd get wild-eyed, then pounce. I could feel the strength in those massive paws, but he kept his claws withdrawn. Then he'd flop on one side as if saying, "I could kill you with one blow, but I won't. Because I love you. And I need you and your damned opposable thumbs to turn on the tap for me."
He'd wait until I was finished brushing my teeth then he'd jump up for a drink and watch the dripping water with the same fascination it has held for countless years. And every night, as I closed my bedroom door, he'd sprawl at the top of the stairs with a view to the front door, consumed with the very important job of guarding the family from intruders.
The hallway is empty now. And I feel it keenly.
Boris was a gentle lion. I know I shall miss him my whole life. The pain will get easier to bear, it always does, but for now my heart aches for my loss. Silly, to mourn so deeply for a cat so old his black coat was threaded with silver, and so slow and weak he sometimes leaned into a wall for support. I have close friends who have suffered worse, much worse, losing husbands and children, but they have written to say they understand, because they too know the exquisite pain of losing a cherished pet.
I am bereft. But I will endure.