Some days are harder than others. A lot harder. During this time of enjoying my friends’ grand hospitality, there have been hours or portions of the days when both have been off at work, or at other business and I have hung around the house on my own. But not really on my own since the presence of Charlie and Max has always been either at hand or in the periphery. On Thursday I sat on the patio watching Max perched on the birdbath lapping at the water, seeming to tease the cat waiting below with his lingering enjoyment, finally jumping down and stalking off on long legs. And about the same time old Charlie stumbling out from behind the Japanese plum, catching his balance the moment before a tricky back leg throws him down. Two black and white cats living the life of Riley in their diamond years, Charlie and Max have always been around, asleep in a sunny spot on the patio or maybe curled onto a sofa dozing the day away, and on some days dashing at squirrels or birds across the driveway.
The older of the two cats, Charlie, was born in 1993 and came to live with Raymond and Dee from an animal rescue service in Baker, just north of Baton Rouge. He was named after a good friend. Anyone who has ever brought a cat home will tell you that cats are quick to exhibit a distinct personality. From an early age Charlie learned to drink Snapple from the bottle, as long as someone held the bottle. Another favorite was cheese which always brought him running. We don’t often associate the game of “fetch” with cats, example telling us that it’s a dog’s game, but don’t apply that rule to Charlie, a cat expert at retrieving balls of paper.
Max, by coincidence also came to Raymond and Dee from the rescue service in Baker, but two years later in 1995. His name came from the character Max Prince in the Neil Simon play, Laughter on the 23rd Floor. Despite the two-year difference in age and the fact that both were male, the bond between Charlie and Max was instant—tight buddies from the start. But of course their personalities veered. For many years Max was a standoffish cat slow to approach anyone but Dee, but age mellowed him and just the other night he crawled up on the sofa to rest against my leg. A favorite trick of Max’s was frequently digging up the plants in pots, but there were also the times he was fascinated with nudging or pawing his water bowl in a circle around the kitchen. Friends visiting the house sometimes called him the cartoon cat for his way of arching his back and bristling his short hair to resemble a Halloween cat.
No doubt it sounds trite and obvious, but when they come into our homes, cats (and certainly dogs as well) become a vital part of our lives and the house we share with them. Trite maybe, but all too true, especially to those caring for the animals. Like it or not, we are all subject to the ravages of time. In January of this year Dee first began questioning the health of Charlie and Max: Charlie was 19, Max 17 and it was visible in their movement. Both cats enjoyed excellent health over the years, but age forces us to face hard questions.
On Friday Raymond and Dee took the two cats to see their longtime veterinarian. Following his advice they said their goodbyes to these family members and stepped aside to allow Dr Stringer to do his work.
Charlie and Max have moved on to a favorite spot near the back patio, a spread of ground where flowers can grow up around them and redbirds can tweet their memories.
CHARLIE • 1993-2012
MAX • 1995-2012