Many years ago, at my very first job, I had the good fortune to meet a technician who was also to become a wonderful friend. We were young, both new to our jobs, and flush with the excitement of entering this field. We had new pets: I had Emmett, 2 at the time, and had recently rescued Mulan as a 5 year old. Amber had just adopted an adorable orange fluffball named O’Malley.
O’Malley was many things: confident, sassy, a bit of a handful. And by “a bit” I mean “a majorly huge handful.” He’d pounce on your head while you were sitting on the couch, bite the dog on the tail and then act offended when the dog reacted, swipe you across the face just for walking by. He would wait until Amber finished cooking dinner, and then just as they were sitting down, he’d go into the litterbox and foul the air with his stinkiness. Every night.
Later in life, O’Malley moved in with another good friend who is also a technician, Libby. Libby’s task was even more challenging, since she inherited not an adorable orange fluffball but an ornery Garfield lookalike with a nasty case of asthma. She tirelessly nursed him through his wheezing, whittled his weight down to a manageable size, and loved him despite his penchant for pooping at inopportune times.
Libby called me this morning to talk to me about O’Malley’s sudden and alarming deterioration in the last month or so. She brought him right in, and the second I saw him I knew he was in a bad place. The cocky arrogant Mr. Suave looked tiny, skeletal, and scared. Something evil and insidious had swooped in on him unaware and now, at a mere 8 years old, he was ready to make an early exit.
Amber made the 2 hour drive with her 8 month old baby to join us, and I numbly started thinking about her tireless support and love when both Emmett and Mulan were sick. She drove Mulan to radiation appointments for me, personally gave Emmett his chemo, and drove to my home, twice, to administer those last injections I couldn’t bring myself to do on my own. This was a debt I owed her, but really, really didn’t want to pay back.
Amber, Libby and I sat quietly wiping away tears as O’Malley slipped soundlessly from this world. As we surrounded him, petting his still body, a sudden enormous howling erupted from outside.
“Guess he decided to take one last swipe on his way up,” I whispered, and we all laughed. It’s true. Feisty to the end.
Rest in peace, O’Malley. Actually- wait a minute. Forget that. Rest in Feistiness, Mallers. There’s someone named Kevin who needs a big bite in the face if you see him, OK?