Ranger Did It Her Way

Disclaimer: This post was written on February 22nd, 2021.

My cat, named Ranger but who I always referred to as Honey Bunny, passed away on Saturday morning. Being that she was a black cat, Ranger died at the appropriate age of 13. 

I don’t know what there is to say, really. I loved that cat. She was the first and only pet during the course of my life that I could say was mine, and she blessed me with many unforgettable memories spanning the entirety of my adult life. I am going to miss her dearly. 

I brought her home unexpectedly one August afternoon in 2008 while my ex-girlfriend and I were visiting her relatives — who ran an animal shelter — in Cali Mesa, California. We were just there one day, and I saw little Ranger (who at the time was only a few months old) and said fuck it, I want her. So she came home with us that day. 

I remember the day specifically, August 13th, because eight days later I left for Virginia Tech. Essentially I brought a cat home and claimed it as my own, and left it to live with my parents for the whole year I was away at school. My dad wasn’t too happy about that, but Ranger was so sweet and lovable that eventually he came around. 

On the ride home from Cali Mesa my ex thought “Ranger” would be a good name because at the time I drove a black Ford Ranger. It was kind of simple, but also kind of perfect. So we went with that. 

Chillin’ hard af

By the time I dropped out of college and started living with my parents again, in May of 2009, I might as well have been a stranger to my black cat. Over the course of that nine months I was away the only times I saw her were over Thanksgiving, Christmas and Spring Break. She was a typical cat and had no reason not to ignore me (as she was wont to do), but I still loved her and treated her like she was mine. 

She was always so special to me, both for who she was and what she represented. I loved how free and independent Ranger was; in her earlier years she was obsessed with spending time outside. She would roam around the backyard chasing birds (and bagging her fair share to present to the family as tribute), and every so often there would be some rumblings in the bushes as some dispute was being settled between her and the neighborhood varmint. Since Ranger lived to tell the story, I can only assume she was always the winner. 

But she also had a warm, delicate side that only I got to see. After long days eating and sleeping and claiming her stake as the queen of the backyard animal kingdom, by nighttime she was right there, sleeping next to me. In the winter time when I had my windows open and my fan on in my room she would burrow beneath my covers and wedge herself between my legs. Most of the time I would be too afraid to move because I didn’t want to interrupt her comfortable sleeping position. 

Me and my cat

Other nights she would jump up on my bed with no regard for whatever I was doing and plop herself on my chest and just lay down, facing me, demanding the attention she deserved. And so I would spend the next I don’t know, five minutes, or ten, or fifteen, just going to town on either side of her face simultaneously with both my knuckles. When she finally had enough she would let me know, and either bury her head to sleep or crawl off next to me in bed. Just hearing her purr made it all worthwhile. 

In 2016 I moved out and got my own apartment, and Ranger came with me. It was a selfish move on my part, because Ranger was so accustomed to always having so much space to move around, and my apartment was like… an apartment. It was significantly smaller, and the patio had only enough room for a couple chairs and a side table. Her and I made the best of it, but she probably would have been better off at my mom’s house, with an actual backyard and a couple dogs to play with and more room to move around. 

Those are the times I will remember most, since it was just the two of us. Every day when I got home from work she was right there, waiting for me at the door. I would let her outside so she could hang out with me while I was on my computer, and when I went in she was there to lay next to me on the couch. When I went to bed, she would jump up and spend the rest of the night with me. 

She was pushing 10 years old by then, and was transitioning into being more of a house cat than a free range beast prowling around the African plains as her genetics told her to. She got used to being by herself, not having the dogs around to play with, but Ranger was also consistent. She enjoyed the time she had to herself, but when it was time to be cute and adorable I was always more than happy to accommodate.

I moved back in with my mom and brothers in 2017, and it was the last big move Ranger needed to make. She was back in a new environment, but it was her environment. She had a backyard to investigate and experience, she had my mom and brothers to spend time with while I was away, and she had me to spend the night with when I got home from work. She was finally back. She arrived to the exact place she needed to be. 

Ranger maintained her youthful exuberance right up until the last year or so. All of a sudden she spent less time outside, enjoying the grass and running around chasing after birds, and spent more of her days inside sleeping in her favorite spots. Still, at night she would come in my room and be with me while I played my video games or watched YouTube. She kept her routines as well as she could have. 

About six months ago she began losing her legs, so I bought one of those foaming step things to make it easier on aging dogs and cats to get on beds. In true form, Ranger rarely used it. I tried to train her to swallow some pride by placing a cat treat on each step, to coax her up level by level, but it never stuck. She always fancied herself as being in the prime of her life. If she wanted to come up to my bed, she was going to jump. She wasn’t going to use some stupid foam step ladder that I paid like $40 for on Amazon. 

I think that’s what I loved most about Ranger, that she was never meant to be an “old” cat. She was forever young, forever a fighter and a killer, and forever the sweetest and most loving feline she could be. If she couldn’t be any of those things, then she need not waste her time. She’d rather start anew up in cat heaven, to be who she is and always was. 

My girlfriend has a couple cats, and they are still in their youthful prime where everything is magic. They chase after strings and sell out for food and scurry away every time I enter the room. That’s the way cats should be. And that’s the way my cat was for so long. 

My girlfriend and Ranger

But by the time my girlfriend met Ranger, sometime in the early 2020 year, my cat was over all that. Ranger refused even to bother with the laser pointer my girlfriend had with her, and most of the time she spent with us was purely by being forced to. Ranger was scared and wanted out most of the time, but there were a few brief moments when she accepted the love we gave her. 

Ranger was my Honey Bunny. She lived a good life. She was a good friend and always got along with the dogs of the family. She was a mother, and she was a good mom to her litter. Her favorite thing in the world was Jack Links Beef Jerky — all you had to do was crack open the bag and she would be at your beck and call. Her favorite hobby was jumping up onto the felt and being completely in the way while I was practicing dealing blackjack, and she loved when I pitched cards in her direction so she could snatch them between her paws. 

She was always there for me. I think back to being 18 years old and getting her and can’t imagine what my life would have been like for the last 13 years without her. She was there before I left for Virginia Tech, and she was there for me after. She was there while my ex and I were together, and she was there for me after. She was there for me when I moved to my apartment, she was there when I moved back in with my family, and she was there to meet my current girlfriend at age-30. I just loved her so much. 

A couple months ago my mom told me that Ranger was probably on her last leg, and asked how soon I would be willing to think about putting her down at some point. I didn’t want to hear it, really, because in my mind Ranger was supposed to live forever. Around the time COVID hit I was thinking about buying a house, and tried to negotiate whether or not it would be a good idea to bring Ranger with me wherever I went. I think we both knew — my mom and I — that Ranger wouldn’t be capable of making another move, but at the end of the day I just assumed that if my cat wasn’t in any pain, where she wasn’t crying out or unable to move around normally, that we would just let her go as long as she could. 

As it turned out, Ranger let us know when she was ready. On Saturday morning my mom woke me up a little earlier than usual and told me that Ranger was gone. I said “gone?”, and my mom said she passed away. I was fighting back tears all morning but I figured I had to go to work and goddamn it what could I do? 

So when I got out of the shower I went to the kitchen, and Ranger was sprawled out, with her front paws about head level as if she was stretching, in a dead sleep. She had already passed, obviously, but I bent down and rubbed her face with my knuckles as I had done so many times before, just how she liked it, and told her I loved her. Fuck man. I’m fucking crying now just thinking about it. I loved that goddamn cat. 

But she looked so peaceful. She really did. She looked like she was just having another sleep, just enough to wake up and say bye to me before I left for work. Soon enough she would wake up, eat her food, and have another day of lounging around and being the sweetest thing in the world. And I would get off work, see her waiting for me, and pat her on the head and rub her face some more just because I knew how much she liked it. 

Ranger was born in May, 2008, and passed away on February 20th, 2021. She lived a good life. She lived a happy life. She was well fed and taken care of. She got to roam around and kill some birds and prove herself. She could leap over mountains, and she could scratch your hands and leave marks like no one’s business. I’m so lucky that she was my cat, and I am never going to forget her. 

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