Over the years, my wife has told me many tales of Jerome's feats of strength. One of my favorites is the story of the bird: my wife swears that she once saw him pluck a bird out of the air. According to her, Jerome jumped between fifteen and twenty feet straight up, grabbed a bird, took him down, and killed him. Another great story involves Jerome's complete domination of a raccoon. According to my wife, she once saw Jerome drown a raccoon in a creek.
I don't know if either of these stories is completely true, but I'm inclined to take my wife at her word. He was an amazingly strong cat. Besides, the image of our sleek orange cat pulling down a bird or taking out a wily raccoon has never failed to amuse me.
When I first met Jerome, he was an outdoor cat living in the wilds of Giles. Although he was a little standoffish, I was immediately impressed by his considerable strength. Even after he was neutered, he was still a brawler; lifting him, I could feel that he was twenty pounds of solid muscle. Frankly, it was hard to make Jerome do anything that he didn't want to do.
When my wife moved in, Jerome came with her. We initially had a slight adjustment problem, as it took him a little while to figure out that he was no longer the dominant male in the household. I convinced him of this by grabbing hold of him and snuggling aggressively, refusing to let him go until he stopped struggling. After a few days, he learned to just give in. We became great snugglebuddies, and he decided that he loved the life of a housecat. He would often bug me to pet him, and regularly climbed in my lap when I sat down.
However, I was also loath to try to make Jerome do anything that he didn't want to do. For example, I never clipped his nails, as doing so involved wrapping him in a towel, pinning him to the ground, and getting my wife to release, and clip, one paw at a time. Besides, Jerome was pretty careful with his hygiene; he would gnaw off his nails and spit them out when they got too long. It was a little disconcerting to come across discarded cat nails, but the alternative was pretty miserable.
When my wife went to New York, Jerome and I bonded still further. We both missed her, and he got used to curling up in bed with me every night. On our own ride North, he was a total sport, sitting for two days in the car with a minimum of yowling.
As I mentioned previously, he acclimation to New York was not nearly as easy.
A couple of weeks ago, Jerome became ill. He had been listless for a couple of days, and stopped going to the bathroom. We called around to a lot of local vets. Before we even had a chance to tell them what was wrong, the doctors offered to euthanize him. Their rates were very competitive, but we told them that we preferred to give him a chance at survival.
We finally found a doctor in Riverdale, a ritzier section of the Bronx, who offered to see what he could do. We had to give him an initial deposit of $450, as he had a lot of customers who had run out on their bills. This was more than we could afford, but Jerome was a special cat, and we wanted to do everything we could for him.
He kept Jerome for about a week. It turned out that our cat had crystals in his urine. This, in itself, was not that big a problem, but he had caught an infection that had caused his urethra to narrow. The crystals had caught in his urethra, causing urine to back up into his bladder and kidneys. His kidneys had shut down, and he had been near death when we brought him in. Over the course of the week, Doctor Cedeno gave Jerome a large quantity of antibiotics and bladder medication, constantly retested him, and ultimately pronounced him stable, if not exactly healthy. We were tasked with giving him a daily bladder dilator and continuing his course of antibiotics. The doctor was honest with us; Jerome wasn't out of the woods, but he had a good chance of survival. If he continued to get worse, the only other course of action was an operation that would effectively turn him into a female cat.
We compared notes with a good friend who is in vet school. She assured us that Dr. Cedeno did everything by the book. In fact, according to our friend, he ended up charging us about a quarter of the going rate for the work he did. Even so, Jerome's medical bill cleaned us out. Still, as long as he was willing to keep fighting, we were going to do everything we could to help him.
Over the next few weeks, we gave Jerome his medication, an often miserable task. He was clearly suffering, but was also fighting hard. As his energy was low, we set up a bed, food, and water for him in the bathroom, where he could relax and not have to deal with our other cat, Bagheera.
On Tuesday, Jerome stopped fighting. He went quietly, on his bed. I was petting him, and he was using the last of his strength to purr. Finally, he closed his eyes and stopped purring.
Jerome was a strong, friendly, amazing, and oddly vulnerable little guy, and I am grateful for the time I got to spend with him. In a household filled with women, he was my sole male companion and consistent co-conspirator. He brought a lot to my home, and I'm going to miss him a lot.