Young Larry circa 1999.
Young Larry circa 1999.

One day in January in 1999 I looked out the window and saw a black cat running across the yard toward the house. At that time, we had four cats, including a semi-feral stray who’d suddenly appeared a month before and had moved in with us. She was a black cat with a round and compact sort of build. We’d named her Lila.


However, this black cat was long and sleek, with big ears and lanky limbs. This was definitely not Lila. I went out to investigate. The long black cat ran up to me and began to frantically rub against my legs, over and over again. (A friend who’d dealt with abandoned animals in his job later told me that dumped cats will do this. He was hungry and scared.)

My husband Victor appeared, saw the cat and exclaimed, “What is this? Lila’s cousin Larry?!” The name stuck. And so did the cat.

We weren’t really excited at the prospect of 5 cats, but what could we do? Larry would position himself at the back door and wail pathetically in a soulful voice that could be heard throughout the house. He had chosen us.

Lila never cared much for Larry.
Lila never cared much for Larry.

I think the moment I fell in love with him was when, a few days after his arrival, I saw him wetting his paw in the water bowl in the kitchen, then reaching up behind his ear to wash himself. I’d never seen a cat wet his paw for a bath before. He was adorable, this gangly, yet elegant-looking cat, dunking his paw and washing up after dinner.

Larry circa 2011.

There were quite a few things about Larry that weren’t like most other cats. He was so smart and had such an expressive voice, it was sometimes almost eery. He would talk at me and I to him. If I asked “Do you want to take a nap?” he would sprint to the bedroom and hop up to his spot on the bed, waiting for me.

Larry is featured in Superstition
Larry is featured in the artist’s book Superstiion.

Larry has been mentioned and given credit in at least a couple of my artist’s books, including A Cat’s ABC and Superstition, an edition I’m still assembling for Book Art Object. He was my feline muse.

He had beautiful eyes that changed color from green to yellow, depending on the setting. Through the years I used to tell him that it wasn’t fair, what he’d done to me. Someday he was going to cause my heart to be ripped from me, and I hadn’t gone out looking for that. He’d just appeared and made me fall in love with him.

Larry's Green Eyes
Larry’s Green Eyes

The other cats who’d already been in residence before the arrival of Lila and Larry were older. Over the following years they passed on, and eventually we were left with the two black cats. Or, rather, we had his ‘n her black cats. Lila barely tolerated me but adored Victor. Larry barely tolerated Victor, but he and I were a bonded pair.

My kitty.
My kitty.

Four years ago, Dominic showed up in the yard, just as Larry and Lila once had. And then came Steve, a moment of kitten madness on my part two years ago. Larry grew old and was afraid of the vigorous and playful Steve. I felt guilty for doing that to Larry, the cat who was more a soulmate to me than a cat. But we still managed to all coexist.

Dominic and Larry
Dominic and Larry

Lila grew ill and passed away roughly a year and a half ago. We spent our 20th anniversary that December burying her in the garden. I realized that almost every photo I had of her was either of her with Victor, or of her sitting vigil waiting for him. Such sadness.

Larry’s sleek black whiskers all turned white. His heart began to fail and he grew frail. He was taking almost as many medications as we do. The last time we saw his regular vet, her face grew grim as she listened to his chest. “It won’t be long… months, not a year.” And she warned us to prepare for the likelihood of a sudden death.

Three days before he died.
A few days before he died.

I discovered that “sudden” is a relative term. A blood clot, it turns out, is not a particularly peaceful way for a cat to leave this world. My beautiful, smart and devoted Larry has died of a broken heart, and he has taken a piece of mine with him.

18 thoughts on “Heartbreak”

  1. I knew many of the bits I read here, but it was heartbreaking to read it like this. A wonderful, tender story despite the sad end it always takes.
    Our cat (black with three white paws and a white diamond on her chest) is now 19 years old… sigh

  2. Wonderful tale. I’m so sorry, again, for your loss. It won’t be easy for me when BeeGee goes because he’s my muse and soulmate as Larry was yours. BG’s still got another third of his life left, fortunately. Be well my dear friend. xo

    • Thanks Connie. May BeeGee live to a vigorous and crotchety extreme old age! I always love the expressions on his face in the photos you post. He’s another old soul. Give him a kiss between the ears for me. xx

  3. Weeping again. For you, for myself, for all the cats that have woven their fabric with mine…
    Time will help.A little. And all of us are just a cyber hop away. xx

  4. It’s good to hear Larry’s whole story, even though it made me cry too. I hope it helps a little to tell it here, his obituary. Vale Larry. xx

    • Thanks Amanda. I didn’t mean to make everyone so sad. Maybe I should have included a few more details of his story, such as how he used to sit beside me when I tried to work on the computer… He would yell at me to get up and feed him, in an increasingly annoyed and exasperated voice. And if I didn’t obey fast enough, he’d stick his paw, claws extended, up the back of my computer chair and poke me in the rear… ! As I say, he was a smart one… (Ok… that makes me cry too — I’d give anything to have him shouting at me now. Even with the claw.)

      It’s such an amazing and strange comfort, to have this outpouring of compassion and empathy from my fellow animal-loving cyber friends from all around the world. Thank you. It means a lot.

  5. I am so sorry! Please accept my condolences. We had a stray cat walk into our lives and I have been totally taken by surprise at how I have fallen so completely in love with him. What a wonderful love story this is! Thank you for sharing so much about your smart Larry :)

    • Thanks Amy. I think there’s something extra special about the bond we develop with a cat who has chosen us. I’m sure your former stray has made a wise choice! (And, of course, it really is the cat’s choice to move in, and not ours. ;-)

  6. Thanks for the sympathy, which is always appreciated. I know you are of similar mind when it comes to the feline family members. (And, please, never any guilt for arriving late–I completely get it! And do the same thing…)

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