Every cat is somebody’s favorite.
Ike, however, was everybody’s favorite.
Maybe it’s the way he made himself conspicuous. If you were at Tabby’s Place in NJ within 4 light years of Neptune, you could not miss Ike. With a yell that needed its own notch on the decibel scale, Ike was loud. With a body type best described as molto robusto, Ike was not a figure who could hide easily.
The swirly tabby with the Tarzan MEEEAAAAAAAAAOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOWWWW had a story from the pages of a Lifetime Original Movie. The family moved…but they left someone behind. And not just any someone: a very staggering someone. How do you put a cat, who walks like he’s on his 63rd tequila, outside? Ike had a crazy case of cerebellar hypoplasia (CH), making him bob and blunder and weave, drunken-sailor style, without a drop to drink.
No matter: this towering teetotaler made his way, step by wobbly step, to Tabby’s Place. (Note to the literal-minded: no, Ike did not walk to Tabby’s Place. But he would have.) The staff happened to be talking about General Dwight D. Eisenhower the day of Ike’s arrival, hence the name. And Ike would be more like the likeable prez than we could have imagined.
Upon arrival, Ike’s physique was best described (and here I quote a staff member who shall remain anonymous, but whose name may or may not rhyme with Zanise), as “a little old lady.” Bony. Fragile. Apparently Ike did not like his comparison to a frail Golden Girl - because he spent every waking moment of his 3-week Quarantine period pumping himself up.
Like a basketball, actually.
With his new, rapturously round bod, General Ike made the Lobby his own. He started out in the middle of the room, but soon parked himself in the corner between the Community Room, Jonathan’s office and the Sanctuary Operations Center Mystical Realm of Wet Food. What better place from which to conduct his duties? Ike took his daily regimen quite seriously, headlined by the following tasks:
- Consume all wet food offered.
- Spill all dry food offered.
- Splay oneself like a bear rug upon spilled dry food.
- Consume all dry food.
- Stagger into Jonathan’s office, screaming.
- Spill all dry food in Jonathan’s office.
- Exit Jonathan’s office, screaming.
- Stagger past Jonathan’s office, screaming.
- Heave oneself into litterbox. Execute Operation: Poop. (Actual location of poopage: irrelevant.)
- Stagger into center of lobby.
- Locate additional food.
- Love love love love LOVE on human beans. (Extra bonus love for food-bearing beans.)
Occasionally there were indignities at the hands of the humans. Food restriction, called a diet. The foolish declaration of war on General Ike’s 18-pound weight. Even more food limitation after Ike was diagnosed with a very severe liver shunt. Baths.
But, since these indignities came at the hands of humans Ike adored, he purred and bobbled and loved his way through them. A good commanding officer looks the other way when his underlings goof up, and Ike was always offering us grace.
When you have so many underlings/fans, how do you make each one feel special? Ike mastered the art of making each person feel like the only one in his world. There were the cuddle-fests with his devoted correspondent and soulmate, Karen. The baths and songs and laughter with his girl Jane (the first to call him The Mighty Ike). The hilarious interactions with an uber-volunteer known as The Laundry Machine (you know who you are). The daily screams at/to/with Jonathan. The conversations with Stephanie, which so stirred her political soul that she began sporting an I LIKE IKE button.
If you knew someone loved Ike - and had been loved by Ike - you knew something important about them. And, contagiously, you gave them the same grace you’d gotten from the screamy tabby guy with the good-as-gold heart.
That heart has been promoted to heaven now.
Jonathan was the one who said what had to be said. Since Ike’s daily patrol passed Jon’s office door 500 times, it was Jonathan who saw and heard him the most. It was Jonathan who knew first that Ike’s liver failure had gone into high gear.
It was Jonathan who said it was time. And he was right.
There’s never time enough. There’s never an easy, painless, happy-clappy way to do this. We can say until we’re blue in the face that Ike is now dancing on streets of gold with the One who loves him best, but still we’re hurting. We’re without a Lobby General. We’re without a molto robusto piece of our hearts.
Yet we’re not without hope.
Good people will disagree on whether or not Ike still wobbles in heaven. I tend to think he does. The Ike Strut was such a part of who he was that I can’t imagine him loping like a lesser feline. But on this, we can rely: Ike is past pain of any stripe. All his battles are won now - and he knows his Father is coming to win the war.
Until then, we miss him and ache. Every wallpaper at Tabby’s Place has been commandeered by the General today. The Lobby won’t feel right for a long time - maybe ever. But Ike’s all right. And we’re better for having loved and served the Mighty Ike.