Ray came to live with us in late 2003. One of the two cats I'd lugged around since New Jersey had died that spring from lung cancer, and the survivor seemed lonely and withdrawn. In the fall, a friend had trouble getting Ray on a flight, so he arrived one night for a temporary stay and remained here for the next five years.
Ray was the closest I've come to owning a purebred. He belonged to the Ragdoll and Flamepoint breeds, cousins of the Siamese, which gave him orange clown ears and the complexion of pound cake. Look up "Flamepoint" on Google Images and you'll see the varied faces of Ray Ray's diaspora. His eyes - the piercing blue of all such cats - had a mild genetic defect that kept them in constant wiggle. It was a little disconcerting at first. Then it made him appear searching, imploring, and occasionally intellectually curious.
He didn't really get along with the other cat, but in every other respect Ray seemed to quickly grasp the fundamentals: humans take on cats as surrogate infants, cats entertain humans by seeking out surrogate mice. It's a classic symbiotic relationship, one that has served both species well for the last 20,000 years. After mastering the basics, Ray majored in human relationships. He minored in "hair fetishism" and "chaos", and excelled in all these functions for the next five years.
We buried Ray on Thursday, in the suitcase in this photo. I've had to put down a lot of pets in my life, and Ray makes the third cat in five years we've said goodbye to. This, however, was the first time I've found myself completely debilitated with sadness. Putting down an animal is a foreshadowing of all the death and horror still to come, most of which will be human. But at least with other people you don't have to arrange to have them killed.
I know there are people out there who find it silly that someone would grieve over a seven pound animal. Up until last week, I was still working on excuses for selling my car. It seemed far easier to say, "my transmission died" than "I'm gathering cash for a feline kidney transplant with only an 80% survival rate." I just wasn't up for the scrutiny of the many, many people out there who can't summon even a baseline smidgen of human empathy when it comes to the life and/or death of a pet.
If you're one of these people, seriously: fuck the fuck off.