10/08/2016 10:54 AM Filed in: Blog
Sebastian came into my life in April of 2000. I had recently graduated college and was dating a girl named Sarah at the time. She saw an ad in the Statesboro Herald that there were kittens being given to a loving family. She told me that she thought that "we" should get a cat. Let me be clear here - I wasn't in what you'd call the healthiest of relationships with Sarah. We weren't actually getting along. I have no idea why I thought getting a cat with her would be a good idea.
We show up to a trailer park occupied by college students and there was a young college girl there that obviously cared deeply for these kittens. She had them in her living room in a box with the mother and was very welcoming to us picking out the one we wanted. We looked at the whole litter and I saw this one little dude that had cool tiger striped legs and a nice tabby coat - but that's not what I liked about him. He was a little fireball. He had spunk, was the most rambunctious, and was my pick of the litter.
We were about two weeks early and the girl explained that they couldn't leave their mom until 6 weeks old. I've had cats before but they were strays. I'd never raised one from a kitten - so there were clearly things I didn't know. Even still, we were good with coming back in a couple of weeks and getting this little guy.
I got a call from Sarah saying that she had picked him up and that we should name him.
I went over to her apartment and saw this little fuzzball with ears and claws. His meows were tiny and high pitched. I have to say that they immediately began to tug on my heart strings. The topic of naming him came up and of course I was going to name him after a musician.
"Sebastian", I said.
"Oh that's cool. Like in the Little Mermaid", She said.
(Remember, we fought all the time for absolutely ridiculous reasons. Like one time, she argued that meat wasn't muscle. I explained to her that meat was in fact muscle. She was like: "No it's not, it's meat.". I said: "Really? What part of the cow is designated as "meat" and what part is designated as "muscle"? Like I said - we fought for absolutely ridiculous reasons that I never want to delve into ever again. So there was no way I was going to lose this one based on her not making the connection that I made my living with music and that I obviously wanted a cat with a musician's name.)
"….Yeah…. that works…", I said optimistically.
"Cool. I like that name", she said.
Heck yeah, I thought. I've got a cat named "Sebastian".
Neither one of our apartment complexes allowed pets - so naturally I took him home with me.
His first night in the bed with me was interesting. I woke up around 4:30 in the morning because my feet were warm…. and wet. I turned the light on and saw this cute cuddled up little kitten at the foot of my bed - sleeping in a perfect circle of pee that measured about TWO FEET in diameter. I thought, "Jesus Christ! How can this little kitten pee so much? There's no way his little bladder could hold that much…." Nonetheless, I made it through the night and took my comforter and sheets to the laundry mat that morning.
He actually wet the bed for his first three nights with me. I was sleep deprived, exhausted from going up and down the stairs to my apartment, and running out of quarters…
After that, we were pretty tight. He stopped wetting the bed and started taking showers with me. Seriously. I had a porcelain tub and tile walls in the shower and he just crawled up on the edge of the tub (between the liner and curtain) and waited on me. From time to time he would look in on me and make sure I was okay. Let's face it - water is not a cat's friend. I'm sure he was thinking that I could die any minute in that downpour of death. He would stick his head in and get it a little wet while checking on me.
He did this every single time.
Naturally, we grew fond of each other. I'd come home and play Ocarina of Time or Goldeneye and he'd sleep on my lap. We got all of the bonuses together, got all the gold skulltulas, and he was growing fast.
My landlord was a codgy old bastard named Mr. Rocket. It was his duty to make sure that everything in that house was as he saw fit - even if that meant snooping around when you weren't home. The real estate broker, Betsy, warned me of this when I moved in. She said: "You want to make sure not to leave anything out that you don't want seen. Mr. Rocket snoops around through these apartments from time to time. He'll let himself in - so you have to watch him." I didn't know much about renter's rights at the time or else I would've asked for notice. Either way, I knew I had contraband and that one day I would get caught with a kilo of kitty cat.
Yep. I got caught. Old man Rocket had snuck up there one day while I was out and found Sebastian in all his feline glory. I got a call from Betsy saying: "Rocket saw that you had a cat. He says you have to get rid of it or move." I was heartbroken - but I had a plan.
I called Mom and begged her to let Sebastian stay with them for a while until I found a new place to live. He lived with them for about six months and I would see him pretty much every weekend. It wasn't the best arrangement, but it's all I could do for the time being.
I was officially teaching guitar out of my apartment and had about 30 students.
A really cool thing happened. One of my students, Everett, told me that they were going to tear down the apartment I was living in and build a bank on the land. I immediately thought "HELL YES! I can bring back my son!"
So I did.
And there we were. Chris and Sebastian - together again!
I came home from grocery shopping one day and noticed that Sebastian didn't come running towards me like he always had. Instead, he was nowhere in the apartment. I searched high and low and then - I noticed it - the broken window.
I immediately run down the stairs calling for Sebastian because I was terrified that he'd run int he streets and get hurt. He had never been outside and didn't know the dangers of the world.
Then I saw this really FREAKED OUT, bushy tailed cat walking beside the apartment. He had been hiding until I came home and he heard me call his name. You could tell he was really shaken up. So I picked him up and took him back upstairs. I immediately blocked the broken window with a board and made sure Sebastian couldn't get out. When I had him calmed down and made sure he was okay, I did a little investigating.
The glass fragments were about 15 feet from my window. There was absolutely no sign of breaking and entering because the door wasn't broken. Since the window was a 20 foot drop (and not near the stairs), you'd have to use a pole vault to get to it. I immediately remembered what Betsy said and did the math. Sebastian wasn't hurt at all. No lacerations, no falling damage, nothing. He hadn't thrusted himself through a plate glass window. No way 3 pounds of cat could do that. Even if he did, the fragments of glass wouldn't have been 15 feet away. Nope. This was meant to look like he did.
Nothing was missing from my apartment.
I knew it was Rocket. So I did what you're supposed to do. I called the cops and reported a "Break-In". I told them everything I knew.
Shortly after, I get a call from Betsy saying that "Rocket wasn't going to give me back my security deposit if I didn't get rid of that cat". Funny - how did he know I had a cat. Had he been in my apartment? Damn right he had. I made him replace the glass after I filed the police report of a "Break-in".
I was finally tired of his shit. Was he right for making me send Sebastian home? Yes. But now that the apartment was being torn down - really, man?
So I call my Student Everett and ask him if he can help me. Oh - I didn't mention that Everett was taking lessons from me in that apartment and that Everett owned the real estate firm I was renting from AND that Everett brokered the deal for the bank to buy out Mr. Rocket? Well, he did.
A day later Everett said the coolest thing. "I told Mr. Rocket to give you your security deposit because what the hell is the cat gonna do to that place that a wrecking ball is not?"
Chris: $300 security deposit in hand.
Mr. Rocket: 350,000 reasons to be happy. Now leave my cat alone.
My life with that little dude
Whenever I moved, he moved with me. We went from that apartment to a two room apartment. Then I met this amazing woman. I told her about my cat Sebastian. She said "Cool. Like Bach." I knew she was the one.
Little known to me - she was very allergic to cats. She would lose her voice immediately just being in the same room with them. So I was really worried when she first met him. She came over to my apartment and the most amazing thing happened. She didn't react to him at all. Or ever. She just accepted him and before long, she was loving him like I was.
We built our first house in 2005 and Sebastian was 5 years old. I was absolutely terrified to see what he would do to our new house because he was pretty brutal on a few of my Goodwill chairs. He had a knack of sharpening his claws on one chair in particular. By the time I moved, the chair looked like it had lost a fight with Wolverine.
So I called the vet to schedule an appointment to get him declawed.
I didn't sleep at all the night before the appointment. I couldn't stand the fact knowing that he might have to go outside at some point and not be able to defend himself. I also didn't like the fact that he could lose his claws. I didn't find out until later just how traumatic that surgery is on a cat.
I got up at 8:00, called the vet and cancelled the appointment. They understood.
The big move
We moved into our first home and after about a month, I decided to let him go outside. He was always staring down squirrels, birds, and lizards, and I knew he wanted to go outside and be part of the world. I was just terrified to let him do it. After all, he was 5 years old and had never gone outside on his own. What the hell did he know about outside?
So after a month of living in the new home, I took him outside and sat him down in the yard.
He did the most peculiar thing.
He walked over to the edge of the house, placed his right shoulder against it, and began to walk the entire perimeter of the house while pressing his shoulder against the house the whole time. As soon as he circled the entire house and got back to where he started, he walked in the front yard and sat down in the grass and looked around. It was almost as if to say "This is my house. This is home."
From that point on he was always an inside and outside cat. He would stay out all night and come in during the day. Then he would go out when Ashlee got home and come running toward my car as I pulled up the driveway. He absolutely loved his new world of inside and outside. The new house had more room for him, but the yard offered endless possibilities. He was in heaven.
We lived there for ten years and he enjoyed every minute of it. He brought us birds, rabbits, moles, and other surprises. He would occasionally get into scuffs with other cats but he was always okay.
We sold the house two Christmases ago and I was a little worried about him moving in with Ashlee's parents. They were awesome enough to let us stay with them during the build of our house. So I decided to take him there first to scope it out. The best time was during football season. I knew that they would be yelling at the television and that if anything would freak him out — that would. Then he could acclimate to anything that followed.
The first day he stayed under the bed for 6 hours. Then we went home. The second day we visited he only stayed under the bed for two hours. Then he came out to inspect. After the third visit, he was fine. When we moved in with them during construction, he was ready to go outside and inspect their yard as well. He loved their deck.
Our final stop
We moved into our new house in February and I knew he'd love the yard. Plenty of open space and no real traffic around.
He walked outside a few times but after a couple of weeks he just stood at the door looking out. He no longer wanted to go outside. I thought it was because he could smell the cows.
Then around June or July I noticed that he started to seem listless. He would just walk over to a wall and stare. He wasn't acting like himself. I thought that he might be going through some sort of dementia.
The truth is, he was going blind.
He was beginning to meow for us when he couldn't find us and he was constantly under foot. If we were home, he would walk right under us every minute. This was very unlike him.
I didn't know—but he had been crying at night for us when we slept. I couldn't hear it but Ashlee could.
One day in September I walked into work with tears pouring down my face and Ashlee asked me what was wrong. I had just spent two mornings in a row cleaning up after him. He had missed his litterbox twice and I don't think he could find it. I told her the worst thing that I ever told anybody.
I told him that we were going to have to put him down.
I came to a realization that he had been getting more frail. He wasn't eating as much and began to lose weight. He was blind and was crying for us at night.
I spent the last Sunday with him and took the photo at the top of this page. I knew it would be the last time I would ever take his picture. It was haunting just thinking about it.
I was with him the entire time. I held him during the procedure. I held him in my arms the entire trip home. I cried harder than I had in years. I buried him in our back yard with tears in my eyes the entire time. He was my best friend. I told him things that I never told anybody and he never talked back in words that judged me. I took most of the day off work because I honestly couldn't think straight. My heart felt like it was being torn in two pieces. I was in pain.
I've lost parents but this was my buddy. My sister told me one time that your heart never really knows all of love until it has loved a pet. There's truth to that. There's also a place in your heart that feels a special pain when they're gone. It's been two months and I'm crying as I type this.
I look back at the memories I have of him and I'm extremely happy he was in my life. I'd have it no other way. It was worth the pain.
I do know one thing.
I will miss him forever.
Sebastian Mitchell 2000 - 2016