R.I.P., Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein

His Excellency has gone west.

Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein (commander, 1st Feline Home Defense Regiment), stood his final watch yesterday.

The old soldier was stricken suddenly and definitively, but the medics did their best to keep him here with us. In the end, we chose to let him go, and a fine strong wind arose in the evening to bear his spirit west.

The young Turk, playing with his absurdly huge, pink, bunny feet.

The Turk came to us in the traditional manner (“Hey, want a kitten?”), but with a twist. We’d only ever had girl cats, and back in April 2007, we simply assumed he was a she. Nope. The difference manifested itself in late May.

And he proved a wild boy. Rubber bands, paper bags, cardboard boxes, computer keyboards and the legs leading upward to them … nothing and no one was safe from Mighty Whitey, the Blue-Eyed Bully of Bibleburg.

This included our other cat, Ike, a.k.a. Chairman Meow, who was not exactly overjoyed to find The Great Leap Forward shaking the foundations of her People’s Republic of Oz.

Ike had come up the hard way, from the mean streets of Wetmore, Colorado, to the wilds of Weirdcliffe, where she survived a coyote attack that left her looking like she’d been shot at and hit, and then shit at and hit again. Life in Bibleburg was easy-breezy. All the predators worked for the government. Surely she could survive this latest assault on her person and dignity.

But in addition to her battle scars, Ike also had an enlarged heart we didn’t know about, and it abruptly did for her in October 2007, when the Turk was just eight months old.

“I hope we never die.”

In our grief, we immediately acquired another cat. Miss Mia Sopaipilla came complete with her own medical history (feline upper-respiratory disorder), but once she’d beaten that back we were all one big, happy family.

People without children probably attach outsized importance to their pets. As a teenager I used to enjoy a good heehaw at a neighbor couple who referred to their portly dachshund as their “child.” But I came to appreciate their perspective over the years spent with my own animals. Jojo, Fuerte, Bandit, Ike, Tina, Turk, Mia, and Mister Boo weren’t blood kin, but they damn sure were family.

It was funny. I chose Mia from the congregation of cats at the shelter, but Mia selected Herself as her personal servant. Herself brought Turkish home, but he attached himself to me, probably because I was the dude with the lap who was home all the time, knew where the cat food was, and could operate doorknobs.

Before Turkish came along, I’d never seen a cat like him, and suddenly I was seeing two of him.

Because the Turk’s outsized personality could not be contained by four walls and a roof. And so he was an inside-outside cat for a while. He climbed apple, apricot and maple trees, earning a new moniker (“The Rare and Wonderful Albino Tree Weasel”); scaled the garage to strike a Peter O’Tooleish “Lion in Winter” pose; and even brought home a dopplegänger once. Swear to God, the two cats were identical save for the eyes. Turk’s were a striking blue that made Paul Newman’s peepers look like pissholes in a snowbank.

His vertical leap was marvelous, so much so that a neighbor had to relocate her bird feeder because despite the tall fence separating our yards, it had suddenly become a cat feeder. Whoever said “white guys can’t jump” never saw the Turk grabbing some sky.

But after the big fella came home with an expensive war wound, that was the end of that. He and Mia still went out, but only on harnesses, and under strict supervision.

All I ask is a tall sink and a window to steer her by.

That was OK, kinda, sorta. The house in Bibleburg had a ton of windows, and Turk came to appreciate a relaxing sprawl on the back of the couch, or atop my drawing board, where he could keep an eye on the street.

The long kitchen window was another favorite spot; from there, he could spy on the neighbors, Marv and Judy, and enjoy an occasional drink from the faucet, his favorite source of refreshment. Now and then he’d simply curl up in the sink. Turkish Vans are famous leapers and swimmers, and ours certainly had the family affinity for both.

Turkish working on his tan

Once the Turk was no longer at liberty to roam as he pleased, he settled for watching what we called DoorVision®.

The downside of becoming an indoor cat? Weight gain. His Anatolian ancestors may have been champion open-water swimmers and high jumpers, but our big, big boy developed into an all-American couch potato. It was a struggle to keep him under 15 pounds (Mia, a smaller, more active cat, weighs 11).

When we moved to the Duke City in 2014, the big galoot started giving hints that he would not be what Herself calls “a 20-year-cat.”

He developed arthritis and some muscle loss in his once-powerful hindquarters, which made it tough for him to get to his beloved sinks and windows. Happily, his new digs had two sets of sliding glass doors, so he could still inspect the perimeter from ground level.

Chronic constipation reared its ugly head, but was brought under control with a light dose of stool softener. Then, like Mister Boo before him, Turkish developed bladder stones, which happily required only a change in diet rather than surgery.

Also like The Boo, The Turk had a profound lack of faith in the medical-industrial complex. And he was not shy about airing his opinions on the topic. One was inclined to pay close attention to these diatribes, because a pissed-off 15-pound cat with teeth like a young Dracula and paws like tennis balls studded with X-acto knives is not something you want to turn your back on.

Waiting for a snuggle.

If the Turk occasionally got a cursory once-over during a regular checkup, it was because the vet didn’t want to have him sedated by a robot orderly just to be able to sneak into the exam room. Also, it’s hard to practice medicine in body armor.

It’s a pity that his doctors never got to see his softer side. True, the voices in his head were not all friendlies; more than a few of them came from outside the wire. And he had been known to actually bite the hand that fed him.

But he relished a short snuggle in the bed nearly every morning and evening. And he loved performing his dance cycle, The Roll of the Happy Cat, on some sunny spot on the brick pavers.

So why should yesterday have been any different? But it was.

The day began with rolls and happy cat and breakfast and ended with an injection in emergency care, after an operation to remove an unidentified mass from the Turk’s spleen. It had ruptured. There was internal bleeding. Kidney failure. Part of his pancreas had to go, too. He crashed three times, the last time as we discussed heroic measures and likely outcomes. Brain damage. Cancer. Diabetes. Dialysis. Pancreatitis.

We said, “Enough.” We said our goodbyes. And we went home without my friend, my comrade, my big, big boy.

In the night, I went to a place where the Turk lounges in a backyard tree, drinks from a faucet, and performs the Roll of the Happy Cat in a perpetually sunny spot. The breakfasts are large and endless and nobody gets fat. Snuggles come with.

But they wouldn’t let me stay. And I woke up crying.

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26 Responses to “R.I.P., Field Marshal Turkish von Turkenstein”

  1. khal spencer Says:

    Our deepest condolences, mate. We are also a child-free and four legged critter rich abode and have gone through several of these heart wrenching days as you and Herself have. Either we live too long or they don’t live long enough.

  2. Pat O'Brien Says:

    “Observe the turmoil of beings, but contemplate their return. Every separate being in the universe returns to the common source. Returning to the source is serenity.” Tao te Ching, translation by Stephen Mitchell, Chapter 16. I’m thinking we go where they go. So, who knows, we may see them again. Maybe I’ll get to see Turk again, and he will give me another chance to meet him. He ignored me the last time I visited you guys. Or, he smelled the Duffinator all over me.

  3. Dale E. Brigham Says:

    I feel so terribly heartbroken for you, Herself, and Mia (who will miss the old boy, even if she will not admit it), in your time of loss. I love our household’s current crop of cats (Frankie, Ivan, and Fiona), just as I have loved all of those that came before them. We give ourselves to them, and they themselves to us. The only sour part of the deal is that they leave us before we are done loving them. Boy, does that hurt. I am shedding tears on the keyboard for Turk and for you, Patrick. My sincerest condolences, friend. Dale in Missouri

  4. Libby Says:

    I am so sorry. My deepest sympathy to you and Herself. A beautiful and powerful tribute to your companion. I am crying, too. Farewell, dear Turk.

  5. debby511 Says:

    I’m very sorry for your loss, PO’G. That was a beautiful tribute to your little guy. I’m crying now too. These little creatures really weave themselves into our hearts.

    I lost Snowy (my avatar) to kidney disease and thyroid disease 5 years ago. It’s hard when we have to say goodbye.

  6. katholoch Says:

    Oh, no. Always so hard and so sad. He was a young guy. Loved the kitten photo!

    I haven’t gotten another pet since my longtime girl (of 18 years and I got her as an adult cat so who knows how old she was), went to the chow bowl in the sky.

    Sorry for your loss. And I will miss hearing of his exploits.

  7. SAO' Says:

    The 1st FHDR had an exemplary record under his command. Tough boots to follow in (follow, not fill, because that just ain’t happening).

    Hang in there. Takes a while, but at some point all you remember are the good times..

  8. DownhillBill Says:

    My heart goes out to y’all. It hardly seems like seven years since The Chairman departed, and yet here we are again, so soon. Too soon. A quick death is usually easier on the honoree, but gives the survivors so little time to come to terms….

    My cats, my kids, my grandkids occupy a plane above all other mortals. I think I’d rather go myself than lose one of them.

    Turk enhanced my life through your always anticipated reports. Your fine in memoriam has done him proud. He is, and will be, remembered, even by those of us he never met in person. We share your pain. Hang in there, my friend.

  9. balboa19 Says:

    Condolences, Patrick. Our Irish household suffered a similar loss a few months ago when our Abby (18 yr. orange tabby) lost her battle with renal failure). For those many years you shared the trials, triumphs and tribulations of the Turk and Miss Mia, I am very grateful as it always reminds me of how those little furry creatures enrich our daily lives. With warm regards, Mike Roark

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  10. silas Little Says:

    Wonderment. We all should be so eulogized.

  11. John Says:

    They bring so much love and happiness to our lives, which is why it hurts so fucking much when they leave. There will never be another Turk. I’m so sorry. I feel for you, man.

  12. lisafw Says:

    We are so so sorry. Beautiful eulogy for a wonderful feline. Condolences – Lisa & Bret

  13. Bob Hollister Says:

    Patrick (and ‘Herself’) my heart goes out to you (and to Mia). I’m a cat person (apologies to all dog lovers), have been forever, and I have buried far, far too many dear, sweet cats over the years.

    I will shed a tear and raise a glass to Turk, may he live in our memories forever and may his shade continue to guard your home.

  14. JD Dallager Says:

    PO’G and Herself: The Turk brought so many blessings to both of you, and you both did the same to His Excellence. Old soldiers never die, they just pass away. Beautiful eulogy that helps us all better appreciate the beauty and miracle of life, friendships of all sorts, and the special love we all share for our four-legged friends. Hand salute and 21-gun salute here for the Field Marshal.

  15. r! Says:

    Damn sorry to hear that The Turk has shuffled off this mortal coil.
    Can’t really offer anything that hasn’t already been conveyed more eloquently.
    Many a moist eye here.

  16. Karen Says:

    So sorry for your loss of your family member. I have certainly enjoyed hearing about exploits of and seeing pics of this fine cat over the years.

  17. Hurben Says:

    I am so, so sorry

  18. Dave Watts Says:

    …and I’m crying too right now reading your absolutely wonderful tribute to a special kitty. So very sorry to hear he’s left. Always enjoyed the stories and pictures of The Turk over the years. And oh my yes, they damn well are family(!), in almost every way. Like you, our only children over the years have been our line of cats, past and present, of which three currently grace our humble home. They help make life enjoyable and always interesting. Despite the scars that our most recent, and former feral, “devil cat” has marked our bodies with, I love him just the same. Wife thinks otherwise, and that’s why “otherwise” includes “wise.”

    You gave The Turk a great life, and vice versa; all that counts. My condolences to you both.

  19. Dave Watts Says:

    and I’m crying too right now reading your absolutely wonderful tribute to a special kitty. So very sorry to hear he’s left. Always enjoyed the stories and pictures of The Turk over the years. And oh my yes, they damn well are family(!), in almost every way. Like you, our only children over the years have been our line of cats, past and present, of which three currently grace our humble home. They help make life enjoyable and always interesting. Despite the scars that our most recent, and former feral, “devil cat” has marked our bodies with, I love him just the same. Wife thinks otherwise, and that’s why “otherwise” includes “wise.”

    You gave The Turk a great life, and vice versa; all that counts. My condolences to you both.

  20. Jett Says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  21. gmknobl Says:

    I’m sorry for your loss.  Losing any loved one is very difficult.  Text may be “corrected” by my phone.Geoffrey Knobl1410 Hillcrest DriveBlacksburg, VA 24060540-961-0608 H540-315-8011 C

  22. SteveP Says:

    Ah shame. But it was quick and you were there. We give them the ultimate cradle to grave security – so a good life, well-lived. Condolences

  23. Shawn Says:

    Shit!….. Perhaps we are all just a memory. But a good memory that we’ll never forget.

  24. sherkat Says:

    He will always be the field marshal.

  25. mooremediaone Says:

    Allow my most heartfelt condolences and comfort with the loss of your one and only Field Marshal.

    Wife and I are monitoring our own feline commander, Mrs. Marbles, as she is in decline and we often wonder if “today will be the day”.

    And,yes, we have also shed tears for previous lost felines as they have crossed over the divide. It can’t be helped.

    Best wishes from the Los Angeles Foothills,
    ~doug moore

  26. John A Levy Says:

    My deepest sympathies for you and herself,Have lost a ABC (a black cat) and a 15 yr old Golden Retriever i the last 3 months.
    The house is not the same and neither are we. But remember they give so much to us. Entertainment, affection and companionship. Gift we cannot repay. The memories will make you cry for a while but you will smile later at those same thoughts..

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