Farewell to a Friend

Dear Friends,

Holding back tears to write to you about the joys that Eric brought to me and the In-Sync family seems to be impossible. The more time that Eric is away from me, the harder things seem to become. I miss him more and more everyday.

I can remember when Eric first came to me and what a handful he was. Eric always seemed to be the one of the 8 who always had a mind of his own. Eric did what Eric wanted. He had the goofiest look in his eyes, as if he was wide-eyed all the time. Nothing got past him. He was into everything, and there was no getting him out. He thrived on being difficult. Emma seemed to be the only one who could control her brother. Eric and his friends spent 3 months in the house as we worked frantically to build their enclosures so they could move outside and have room to run and play.

Once the cats were outside, I had the best time watching Eric’s crazy antics, and he had many of them. Sometimes, he would jump high onto the fence as he was chasing butterflies and hang there as if he was waiting to pounce, earning him the nickname, “spiderman,” for a while. I loved watching him play with his tire. He would dunk it into his tub and then leap from the tub to the top of the barrel with the tire around his neck. And for awhile, Eric had a nightly, after-dinner ritual of kicking a 25-gallon barrel around his enclosure, and then picking it up and throwing it into his tub. He would fill the barrel with water, hang it over the edge for the water to drain, and then repeat the process over and over again. However, my best memories of Eric were when Jeni and I would go down to feed each night, and we could almost always count on Emma and Eric having pooped in their tub. They would slosh the water around until it looked like chocolate milk. Eric would then crouch down in the tub and wait for Jeni or me to get close enough before pouncing the fence in play and slinging that horrible water all over us. The more we tried to stay out of range, the more of a game it would become to Eric.

Eric also had a more serious side.

He was the obvious leader of the group. No matter the weather or time of day, he could be found moving around the enclosure or on top of his den, watching over his friends. Eric’s friends loved and respected him dearly. His sister, Emma, loved to tease him, but also looked up to him; his girlfriend, Nadia, adored him, and Mohan look to him as a mentor. Strangely, after one of Eric’s surgeries, Saber and Lucca were the only two who didn’t have trouble accepting him back into the gang.

Eric had a love-hate relationship with Sultan which resulted in daily sparring matches. The first thing Eric would do when he entered the playground was head straight to Sultan (who’s in a separate cage) for a new round of bully busting. The two would pace back and forth until both were exhausted. Even when we put up a sight barrier, they pressed on. At first their sparring concerned us, but later, as Eric became more ill, we looked forward to their battles, knowing it was a source of enjoyment for Eric. I feel Sultan realized the impact of the battles on Eric’s well-being, and that he did his part to keep them, and Eric, going.

Dr. Stephens once told me to pick 3 things that Eric liked doing most, and when he stopped doing two of those things then I would know it would be time for him to go. The first thing I chose was playing in the water. Eric loved water. Although he had a tub in his cage and a larger tub in the playground, I felt the only thing I was unable to provide him was a big pool to run and splash in like his wild cousins did. After reading an article about Eric and our new training program, a very generous guardian angel donated the money to build Eric’s pool. Within a month, with the help of the board of directors, Eric had his pool. He climbed atop the huge waterfall and was king of the world, but he did not go into the water. He would lie beside the pool and take a drink but would never put more than a front paw in the water. I remember that I hadn’t really seen him in his tub either until about 3 weeks before we lost him, he graced us with an hour long play session.

The second thing I chose was his daily battles with Sultan. This seemed to be the highlight of Eric’s day, and, even when he was sick, seemed to be one of the things that kept him going. However, when Eric became more ill, he stopped going to visit Sultan, and we even stopped lowering the sight barrier.

The third thing I chose was food. I remember how he would bust out of his den to eat his dinner, grabbing his bowl with both of his front paws to hold it close to him as if to say, “This is MINE!” When we gave him a bone, you could hear his threats a mile away. Eric maintained a hearty appetite up to the end. Not once did he miss a meal. But towards the end, he would just calmly step out of his den and eat standing up. And when we gave him his bone, you could only hear him a few blocks away.

When Eric had stopped doing two and a half of the three things I had chosen, I knew his time was close. We even started having trouble getting him to go into the playground to lie in the sun or sniff the smells left behind by the other cats. He no longer wanted to do his training sessions, which he loved. And when Liz and I hit a can of whipped cream on the concrete floor, he wouldn’t get up to come get some, or any of his favorite treats like salmon and ice cream.

On Friday, April 20th, I could not get Eric to go out to play, no matter how hard I tried. It was then I knew I had to let my baby Eric go. Ten months of research and cancer treatments, both conventional and homeopathic, was not going to save my precious Eric. I didn’t want to let go. I knew there was something out there that would save him. I just had to find it. But Eric didn’t have time. He was tired. The tumor on his foot became very large and the pain medication was no longer working.

That night, we fed Eric top sirloin steak, salmon and his regular food. For dessert, he had whipped cream and ice cream. I spent the night next to his cage, along with Jeni and Andrea.

The next day, I sat beside Eric, and he put his head on my knee. I leaned over and rubbed his face with my face and asked him to please let me trade places with him. I also asked him to please get in his pool, just once, like I had asked so many times since it was built. When it was time for Eric to go out on the playground one final time, he needed no encouragement. As if understanding his time of peace was near, he paraded around the playground. And when I saw him get into the pool, I couldn’t stand up, I couldn’t believe he was doing that for me. His final gift to me. While he was in the pool, I swear he looked at me several times straight in the eyes and told me he loved me. “This is for you, Mom!”

I think all of his friends miss him. Before, I can’t remember seeing Emma around the water fall much. However, the past few days, she’s been spending a lot of time on top where Eric used to lay. Maybe she thinks he will return there, or perhaps she feels closer to him there, but I think it’s strange she was never up there before. Nadia seems to be taking up for her man by pacing with Sultan, although they don’t bark at each other like Sultan and Eric did. And Mohan likes to lay on top of Eric’s den more than his own. As a matter of fact, you can often find all 5 cats on top of Emma’s and Eric’s den at the same time. Mohan will spend most of his time in Eric’s house and will nuzzle with Emma.

Losing Eric made us realize how short life can be. It’s our job to make sure our cats get everything they deserve, not just what they need, while they are with us. Eric will always hold a special place in our hearts, but his memories and his legacies will live on.

(Pictured: Top to Bottom – Baby Eric, Eric in pool, Saber saying her goodbyes)