On September 27, 2006, Zachary and I walked up Rocky Butte, which is right behind our house. It was a pretty typical walk, except that at the top we spotted a small white animal crouched at the base of the stone wall around the park. “Oh, look,” I said. “A bunny.”
It wasn’t a bunny, although for the rest of his life we often called this little mostly-white cat “the bunny,” or “the bun.” It was a cat who was clearly sick, but with pristine paws and fur. He didn’t look like he’d been living outside for long at all. No tag or collar. He came to us eagerly, and I wasn’t prepared to leave him up there on the butte as evening fell; there are plenty of coyotes and great horned owls around, not to mention reckless drivers. And the cat seemed a bit out of it. We wound up carrying him home, where we happened to have a litter box and some cat food because we sometimes hosted friends’ cats when they went out of town. Our thinking was that we’d locate this cat’s owner the next day, and if we couldn’t find the owner, we’d take him to the shelter.
The upshot: several weeks and a thousand dollars worth of medical tests and treatments later, we had a free pet! He’d been very ill with infectious bronchitis in both lungs; the vet said he probably wouldn’t have lasted long without treatment, even if the predators didn’t get him. The vet also mentioned that that park is a known “dumping ground” for unwanted pets. Grrr. Anyway, with an age estimated at four, this neutered and exceedingly friendly and loving male cat entered our lives. He was never perfectly healthy: he suffered from asthma, and he had that incurable virus that causes dribbly eyes. But we gave him the best of care, and he had a great life, with lots of leash-walking around our wooded lot, basking on the terrace in warm weather, occupying whichever lap was available, and sleeping with us every night. The best part of every trip was coming home to be greeted by Xerxes, who would lie on his side, wrap his paws around the petting hand, and purr.
All good things must end, sadly, and the end came for our beloved blue-eyed boy on April 6, 2022. He had been diagnosed a year and a half earlier with the beginnings of kidney and intestinal disease. Steroids had kept the symptoms at bay . . . until they couldn’t, and it was time to let him go. He is buried behind the house in a spot he liked to bask in. I have loved all my cats–and some that weren’t mine–but Xerxes was special to me. I will miss him every day of my life.