This morning, PJ and I decided it was time to take our little buddy, Marlowe, to the vet for his final visit.

He had been diagnosed with fibrosarcoma, a very aggressive form of cancer, back in February. The cancer was growing in his right jaw and cheek. He underwent surgery in late February to remove as much of the tumor as possible. But we knew then that the chances of getting it all were slight. While the vet had done her best, the cancer returned, and the past eight months have largely been waiting for this day to come.

I can’t say enough about how much we loved him. He was a very special and loving companion for us and our other cat Paisley. He was always PJ’s cat, enjoying time almost every morning sitting in PJ’s lap while he sat at his desk. As PJ noted today, no one (or nothing else) will ever look at him with such complete adoration as Marlowe looked at him. And while Marlowe never looked at me that way, I’m glad that over these last few weeks he had begun to sit on my lap for up to a half hour at a time. I am grateful to have had this time with him.

Marlowe first entered our lives in November 2002 when he suddenly appeared in the back yard of some friends of ours. He was apparently dumped or got separated from his mother, and he decided that our friends should adopt him. They were unable to do so, so they started looking for a home for him. Due to a couple of factors, we weren’t able to take him until January. No one else adopted him in the intervening time, so he joined our family shortly after the New Year. PJ and I are incredibly grateful that he did.

He had lived outside previously, so he was a stinky mess when he came to live with us. We had never washed a cat before, so we didn’t really know what to do. We therefore stuck him in the shower, which did not go well. The bath preceded only when PJ, fully dressed, got in with Marlowe and held him while I washed him off. We both believe that this was the source of Marlowe’s adoration of PJ as his savior from me and that awful bath! We never bathed him again.

It’s hard to remember how little he was when we first got him. Here he is sitting in one of our plants:

He was so adorably muppet-like when he was little. Here’s another pic from the first few months of him being with us:

While it’s true that he never loved me as much as he loved PJ, Marlowe and I did have our own special games and times together. My favorite of our games was something he started shortly after joining our family. He would sit on top of the refrigerator like this:

Then I would put my forehead against the refrigerator below him. He would then touch me with his paw in a kind of papal blessing movement. Whenever he’d get on the refrigerator, I’d ask for a blessing, which he would only do if you sweet talked him. I’d whisper things like, “You’re such a pretty kitty,” and “You’re such a good boy.” When you’d flattered him sufficiently, he’d “bless you.” Of course his claws would always be out when he did this, so it also hurt just a little. But it was our special game, and I loved it. He always seemed to enjoy it too.

But Marlowe wasn’t just a lover. Soon after joining our family, he became the top cat, even though Paisley was older and here first. Once the pecking order was established, however, they got a long well, often napping together and sitting together in their favorite spots. One of these initial spots was on a cat hammock that attached to a window sill:

When we bought our current house, we put the hammock in my study window. The two of them would sit there and stare out at the neighborhood for hours, though he always got the better perch!

He also enjoyed killing small rodents and catching birds. He once tried to bring in a large black bird that he had managed to catch by the wing. We got it away from him, and we like to believe that it managed to fly away and life happily ever after. He also once found a warren of rabbits and proceeded with Paisley’s help, to eat each of the mother rabbit’s babies, bringing each one up to our deck and then eating every bit of it, head first. (It was awful.)

Marlowe also especially enjoyed his dirt hole next to the garage, though we’re pretty sure Paisley would pee in it occasionally:

Marlowe was also a climber. He loved his cat tree:

He would also climb the bookshelves in my study and then walk around the window frames:

He never understood why couldn’t stand on top of that frame too!

He also loved to climb trees and get on our roof. I took this video of him three years ago. His technique for getting down the tree was always fun to watch!

Only two things ever really thwarted Marlowe’s happiness. The first was the neighbor’s cat, Rodney, Marlowe’s archenemy. Unfortunately, Rodney won most of their battles. We were briefly heartened recently when Marlowe and Rodney had one last stand-off in the street, but it was also clear that Marlowe was not well enough to actually engage him in a fight. Instead, he did his backwards slow walking that we always interpreted to be an effort to save his dignity after he had lost.

The other was his health. While we were in Venice in July 2009, our housesitter messaged us to tell us that Marlowe had become seriously ill, was at the vet’s, and was not expected to live. If we could have, we would have flown home immediately. Instead, we had to stay where we were for two more days.

Marlowe miraculously survived that scare, but just a few months later PJ noticed a growth in his mouth. When he went in for his annual physical and shots in January, the vet did a biopsy of the growth, thinking that it was just something that had gotten caught in his gums, perhaps a claw from Rodney, for example.

Then we got the devastating news that it was cancer and that he cancer was a really bad kind. We tried the additional surgery, but our worst fears quickly became reality. As we knew the time was approaching, we valued every moment we had with him. Then last night it became clear that he was very much in pain. He’s already been having trouble eating, and his right eye was being increasingly affected by the cancer; he pretty much stopped trying to open it. When I got up this morning, Marlowe was sitting on PJ’s lap as he on the couch. PJ said it was time. And it was.

The actual visit to the vet wasn’t as traumatic as I had expected. I had read online about what would happen — this was the first time we’d done this. The vet, his assistant, and the receptionist were all very kind, and it was over more quickly then I had thought it would be. Almost as soon as the vet gave him the shot, it was clear that Marlowe was gone. I was especially grateful that the vet confirmed that we did the right thing. We spent a last few minutes with his body, and then we left him there. We’ll pick up his ashes when they’re ready.

All in all, Marlowe had a pretty good life. We loved him dearly and did everything we could to make his life as enjoyable for him as possible.

He wasn’t perfect –almost until the end, he enjoyed spraying inside the house — but he was nevertheless the best little boy in the world, as we often told him. I didn’t know it was possible to love a cat as much as we’ve loved him. When we first decided to get Paisley, it was because we were always told that cats were low maintenance and stand-offish. Paisley and Marlowe proved that to be a myth. They have always seemed to want to be with us — to sit with, on, and near us. Marlowe didn’t like to be overly affectionate, but he would often come in and sleep with us at night once he thought we had gone to sleep. (He’d leave if you indicated that you knew he was there.)

If cats love people, I know he loved us. The joy he brought us has been immeasurable. We’ll miss him terribly.