“You’re going to have to get up. He’s not going away.”
“SPEAKER! SHUT UP!”
“Ok, I’ll go feed him. What time is it?”
Sometimes it was earlier, sometimes later. Later was worse because I couldn’t get back to sleep. When I finally did my alarm would go off. Jenn and I tried several things to deter Speaker from crying at our bedroom door. First it was “StayAway”, a pet deterrent consisting compressed air with a motion sensor and buzzer attached. The first few nights we’d awake to the BEEP of the buzzer and HISS of compressed air jetting out. This worked until the air supply was depleted a week later. I replaced the manufacture’s can with an aftermarket product. The pressure was laughable. Jenn and I awoke to beeps and hisses. The deterrent became a ready made “wake up” contraption for felines. We moved onto the Scat Mat. This also worked temporarily. Speaker realized he could sit a foot away from the mat, cry, and get us to come out to feed him. We tried locking him in our screened enclosure at night but he would cry. Finally we locked him in our guest bathroom at night. The window was cracked. He had a litter pan, food, and water. And a sink.
Which wouldn’t matter for most cats but Speaker loved the sink. He would curl up in the bowl and sleep for hours. Jenn or I would go to the bathroom and find him snoozing. I never understood why he’d choose the hard porcelain or acrylic over the cat beds and towers we had all over the house. Maybe he got used to it before we brought him home.
The PetSmart employee who “sold” Speaker to us said he was found in an abandoned apartment. When rescuers named him Speaker due to the frequency and volume of his cries. We decided to keep the name when we picked him up on February 4th, 2001. Jenn and I only had two cats at the time; Tigger (deceased) and Lila. The prior week I was working in Mobile and ran by PetSmart to pick up pet supplies. I walked by the homeless pet window and glanced in. The moment I saw Speaker I wanted him. I’m not sure why. He was a full grown tuxedo cat, nothing special. That evening I told Jenn about Speaker. A few conversations later and we decided to make him ours.
Speaker fit in well with Tigger and Lila. He respected Tigger’s place as the alpha cat. He was affectionate, and never hesitated to curl up on a lap or lie on top of us when resting. When Jenn and I got sick he was the first to lay besides us, purring to comfort the afflicted. We often said he would be the ideal cat to live in a retirement home with his gentle and patient nature.
It was my turn to comfort Speaker today. To hold him, stroking his thin frame and holding his head while we waited for the vet to enter the room. The last month was excruciating. Several medications, subcutaneous fluids, and force feeding (which led to Jenn and I getting several deep scratches when our cat burrito unfolded). He struggled to breath through a steady stream of mucus caused by some unidentified infection. The cat we loved and knew as a healthy 13 pound bundle of love wasted away.
This year I’ve already held two of my pets (Topeka and Tima) while the vet delivered a merciful shot. In each case I remained calm and dry eyed until the final heartbeat. Not today. From the moment I walked into the vets until I walked out carrying Speaker’s remains I was weeping.
For the first time I am going to miss his midnight cries. Replacing his deep majestic meow the night will be filled with silence.
Rest in peace old man. We love you always.