Fluffy was the third member of our family. He was born somewhere within a couple of weeks of July 20, 1993, so we always celebrated Moon Landing Day as his birthday (as well as our anniversary!). Technically-speaking, Fluffy was a brown mackerel tabby Maine Coon, a member of the only indigenous cat family to North America.

The boyfriend of a neighbor in our condo found Fluffy on the street when he was just a few weeks old and took him home to clean him up. I first met Fluffy soon afterward, as he walked right up to me and let me pet him, just outside our condo. Later, I found out how unusual this was in that he always ran away from people and hid. I didn't know who he lived with, but obviously he was an outdoor kitty, since he stopped by often. Since I didn't know his given name, I dubbed him Fluffy, since that described him perfectly. (If I had chosen a name from scratch, I would have chosen Mobieus, because he had a habit of curling in on himself.)

Several years later, in July 1999, we started to notice that Fluffy was not looking well, and we thought maybe he had somehow been abandoned. We made a vow that, if this appeared to be the case, we would take him in ourselves. We found out much later that Fluffy had decided to leave on his own and had not been abandoned.

 

It started one evening when he came to me at our front door. I sat on the doorstep, took him into my lap, and fed him a slice of cheese. He fell asleep in my lap, and I sat there with him for a long time.

 

Soon after this, when my grandmother passed away and I had to leave for a while, Cherie took the next step of letting him inside our home. From that point onward, he owned us, lock, stock, and litter box!

Fluffy was the smartest cat we ever met. He would trot along next to us as we walked around our condo complex. He never used a leash or collar, he was too independent for that. In our home he was always there next to us. If we were trying to do the laundry, he would jump up into the dryer! When I spent time at my desk writing, he would leap up next to me, then curl up on the scanner, basking in the heat from the desk lamp, purring and stretching on the tiny carpet we got especially for the scanner to make him more comfortable. When not sleeping there, he would watch me type, sometimes batting at my fingers with his paw as I worked, once in a while even giving me a little nip just to remind me who was the most important being at or on the desk!

Other members of our family include a large group of stuffed animals. Here are a couple of photos of Fluffy with his brothers and sisters. Especially in the one above, can you find Fluffy? (Eat your heart out ,Waldo)

Later in life, he started to mellow somewhat around other people, at least those who lived near us and were friendly with him. I could sit at my computer with the window open and look down on the corner in front of our condo by the mailbox. At five o'clock, he would station himself right at the bottom of the steps so that everyone coming home from work would have to traverse right by him after getting their mail. In turn, each would pause for a moment and give him a pet or a pat. In many ways, Fluffy was not only our kitty, he belonged to all those who knew him.

Fluffy loved the outdoors but always came back to us each night. Often he would bring us presents. He was a great hunter and Fluffy brought us rats, mice, birds, lizards, stick bugs, and even opossums. One time he found a very young possum and came to our patio door crying. When we went outside I "knew" the possum was dead. But, sure enough, a few minutes after we removed Fluffy, the possum started to run away. Fluffy had a special relationship with the baby and brought him back time and again several nights in a row. The two of them must have been having a ball playing together!

At home in front of the fireplace or stalking amongst our high book shelves, or drinking all my water at my desk.

When we tried to eat dinner, he would jump up in one of our laps and insist on attention. If there was no food, he would look us directly in the eyes, then sort of drift away as he started to knead and purr, eventually curling up and going to sleep. One time, when Cherie was away in a nursing home, Fluffy jumped up in my lap and refused to leave for six hours! I had no heart to make him move, as I missed Cherie as much as he did.

 

When I had my accident and was in the hospital for several months, Cherie told me about similar things with him while I was away. I was heartbroken that I could not be with him for so long, and felt that those weeks away from Fluffy were stolen from me, never to be regained. I had just over seven weeks with him after I returned home before he left us forever.

One of the most amazing things we ever saw him do was that he learned, on his own, to use the toilet. He jumped up on the seat, did his business, and would actually try to flush with the handle! As I say, smartest darn cat this Universe has ever seen.

For the last several months of his life, he started to go downhill, but still maintained his alertness, even to the point of hunting up until just a few days before he passed away. This last time he amazingly brought us another young possum, probably still with fond memories of his great friend from years before.

 

We will never know exactly what took Fluffy from us, but we could see his worsening discomfort. The three of us had had a long talk in the early hours of the morning on May 18, 2009. As painful as it was for us, we told him it was okay to go, as we didn't want him to ever be in pain. We made sure he had all his favorite foods: a freshly cooked chicken thigh and lots of cool milk. We then held him and petted him for hours, snuggling up to him on our bed to comfort him as much as possible. Such a beautiful and smart cat right to the very end.

 

He took any painful decisions we might have to make out of our hands. Somewhere close to 4:00 am, he slowly walked across the living room to the kitchen. There he ate some nibbles of his favorite food, then took a large drink of water from his cup. Moments later, he lay down and sprawled out in the way he always liked to do. Fluffy then went to sleep and quietly passed away.

 

Fluffy will be missed everyday. He was our child, as much as any we'll ever have. Life will never be quite the same again without him.

The mysteries and comfort of a new shoe box…

Life with him was always wonderful. Cherie and I knew there was no other cat like him, and never would be again.

Fluffy and his long-time friend, Bali.

Sleeping contentedly in the bushes outside our condo or stretched across his Turkish blanket on the back of our couch.

While sorting photographs for my book on the X-15 research aircraft program, Fluffy stepped into the middle of everything, always trying to be as helpful as possible!

Fluffy loved to play, but never with toys, only with our stuff! One of his favorite pastimes was to bat his paw at papers or box tops—or us.

Cherie and myself try to hold onto Fluffy long enough to take a family portrait. I set up the shot to go off at the stroke of midnight on the turn of the Millenium:

00:00 hours, January 1, 2000.

Fluffy's last photo, the day I returned home from the hospital. March 27, 2009. I was so overwhelmed to finally see him again.

Fluffy

July, 20 1993 — May 18, 2009