He was the most beautiful kitten I’d ever seen. It was just before Christmas, 1999. I was poking around online, looking at pictures of Maine Coon Cats to show my then husband what the breed looked like. I was clicking through pictures and WHAM, there he was: the most gorgeous ball of blue-gray and white fur ever, his grape green eyes sparkling. It looked as though he was smiling for the camera.
I was completely enchanted.
It took six more weeks and more planning than a major military operation to finally hold that purring baby in my arms, but I made it happen. I had to. We greeted each other with a mutual head bump. That was the beginning of a love affair that lasted almost 15 years. 14 years, 11 months and 13 days, to be precise. I named him Orion, because he was as heavenly as I could imagine, a bright faced, shiny eyed star.
Little Orion learned manners from my elderly rescue cat, who put a stop to kitten antics with a heavy paw placed on a tiny head. True to his breed though, Orion grew. And grew. AND GREW. In his prime, he topped twenty pounds. From nose to tail, Orion was over a yard long. Speaking of his tail, it was a luxurious feather duster, guaranteed to drape across my face at the very moment I fell asleep. He claimed the spot on my pillow, over my head, very early on. When my son was born, Orion pouted for a month, sulking just out of my reach, refusing to answer my calls. I knew he forgave me when I woke up to nurse my son and Orion’s tail was across my forehead. I have never seen a cat so happy to have his own kind around. Always sweet, nurturing and parental with our other cats. Our black rescue kitty, Licorice, will never be as well groomed again.
He would welcome guests with a birdlike “Whrrr?” and offer his head to be scratched. Orion hated dogs, and were the only animals I ever saw him be less than tender with.
I have fallen asleep to his purr for so many years that the nights ahead where I won’t….I can’t even think about them.
Dots of reflected light or laser pointer ‘bugs’ on the wall.
Kentucky Fried Chicken
Deli meat. Boars Head Roast Beef and Turkey.
When anyone petting him figured out that the bridge of his nose and up to the top of his head was guaranteed to make him purr.
Sleeping on the table. In the dead center. Heaven help your centerpiece or runner.
All dairy products of every variety. He could not resist milk, even if it had nuisance cereal floating in it. If you decided to have ice cream for dessert, it was at the risk of finding his nose in it if you didn’t eat it instantly.
Sleeping under the Christmas tree, hidden behind presents.
Being in my lap the minute I sat down.
He was a movie and television freak. Many, many nights, Orion would sit down and watch a movie from start to finish with me. I caught him watching “Laurence of Arabia” and then just paid attention to his behavior. The photo below was from the night he watched “2001 Space Odyssey” with me, but it could have been any movie. He was partial to scary movies. I don’t know why.
Orion was never sick a day in his life until last week. 15 years caught up with him in seven days. He stopped eating, wouldn’t drink water. I syringe fed and watered him. I tempted him with drops of milk on his nose to get him some nutrients. Concoctions of feline cuisine were blended together in my kitchen to make the food he got more nutrient dense. I even bought him catnip, hoping to boost his appetite. Orion tolerated all of this with decent spirits, but it wasn’t enough.
He took up residence under my bed and this morning, I knew that it was the end for him. Maine Coons have a life expectancy of 12 – 15 years. He was just a month and a half short of his 15th birthday when he died in my arms today at the veterinarian’s office. My son couldn’t stay in the room with us. It was too much like watching an older brother slip away, and I couldn’t make my 13 year old son do that. I told Orion to find old Sherman and the pretty Misty, our other Maine Coon that we lost seven years ago to a rapid infection, and tell them how much we loved and missed them. I said goodbye with a head butt and a kiss, just like I said hello on the day we met.
It was today, and it was years ago all at the same time. I’ve fallen in love at first sight before, and that beautiful kitten was the one love of my life that stayed by my side every day – wanting nothing more than my lap, a sunny window sill or the pillow over my head. He was my best friend, my constant companion and the purring quiet that soothed so many troubled nights away.
Goodbye, my Starhunter. There will never be another like you.