Rochester Says Farewell To His Itchmo Friends


Hello everyone, Rochester here. First, I want to apologize for taking so long to write. It’s been a tumultuous time here lately. Today I had my first look at Itchmo in quite a while, and I read a wonderful tribute written by Jennifer Moore about her feline friend, Grimalkyn. Jennifer’s willingness to share her loss encouraged me to let you folks know why I’ve been so quiet lately.

To put it as simply and succinctly as possible, I’m terminally ill.

Of course, I knew something was wrong long before the staff did. They didn’t pick up on it until I started to have trouble chewing, especially large pieces of food and stringy things. Because I’d been given a clean bill of health at my “annual” during the summer, the staff believed it was a straightforward dental problem, and they made an appointment for me to have my teeth checked. The examination revealed something far more serious, and a biopsy confirmed that I have a squamous cell carcinoma. I won’t go into the gory details… suffice it to say that the outlook is grim.

I don’t wish to sound conceited, but I doubt that anyone would argue when I state that I’ve handled my situation with all the natural dignity of my species. There is, however, a certain irony in the fact that this malady has taken a lot of the joy out of my most favored pastime… eating. Still, it’s an ill wind that blows no good — weight loss has lessened my arthritis symptoms a bit. My morning walks are actually more enjoyable now, and I can jump onto things that required a boost from a staff member not very long ago.

The staff is doing their best to maintain a stiff upper lip and carry on with their day-to-day duties, but they aren’t always up to the task. My personal assistant has been unrelentingly fussbudget-y. Of course, it falls to her to see that I get my medications and I’ve never been cooperative about things like that. It seems particularly absurd at this point to submit to food that’s been adulterated with all manner of additives, but she’s determined to manage my pain and keep me regular of bowel. There seems to be no way to discourage her.

Fond as I am of my personal assistant, these days I prefer to spend the bulk of my time with my personal chef/chauffeur. He doesn’t fuss. I lie on his bed, watch his television, and take the occasional nap. The only deviation from the norm he’s made in consideration of my illness is that if I’m feeling particularly lonesome, he allows me to spend the night with him. This is a major concession because I am an unabashed bed hog. I could bunk in with my personal assistant, but the Stupid Baby is usually tucked up there.

There is one other staffer in residence… she’s actually retired, but I let her stay on here. After all, you can’t sling them into the gutter after years of faithful service, can you? At any rate, I visit her regularly because we’re both of a certain age and I find her companionship restful. I also take a perverse pleasure in knocking things off of her night tables and bookcases, and watching the other staffers pick them up. That’s what qualifies as entertainment in this household.

I’m not what you’d call the introspective sort, but a cat in my circumstances does tend to look back to sunnier times. I’ve been doing that a bit lately. Moving to this place is probably the best decision I ever made. I remember how strange it seemed at first. I’d always been a town cat, and living in the woods was a revelation to me. For the first time in my life, I was able to go outside. I can’t begin to tell you how empowering it is to chase a deer out of the yard. Doing that made me feel a kinship with lions, my wild African cousins. On my little patch of ground, I am truly King of Beasts. I do sentry duty on the “mouse patrol”. I leap about in piles of fallen oak leaves. I pretend to stalk the chickens. I would never actually attack a chicken, because they are scrappy creatures with sharp beaks, but it’s fun to slither in the grass and hide behind trees.

These are my last days and I intend to enjoy them. My doctor has instructed the staff to spoil me rotten, and I’ve used those instructions to get a lot of my dietary restrictions lifted. Last week, I demanded and actually received a piece of pepperoni pizza. Last night, I commandeered a breast of fried chicken right off a staffer’s plate. My pain medication comes mixed with whipped cream. I get roast beef, I get turkey, and I get my favorite sugar-coated jelly doughnuts. Unless it’s actually poisonous, I’m now permitted to eat it.

A word about doctors here. I’ve never been a fan, but I count myself lucky to have a vet with a darn good cat-side manner. My doctor recognizes that he’s treating the staff as much as he’s treating me. He’s been candid without being too clinical and sympathetic without being syrupy. He has prepared my staff to respond appropriately to any changes in my condition, and every concern they have about my welfare, including my final hours, has been addressed. Having a doctor I can depend on helps us all feel more secure.

This is a sad time for us, but it’s also a sweet time. We go through our daily rituals and we savor them because we know they are finite. I now have almost unlimited freedom to make my own decisions about where I go and when I go there. It was freezing here a couple of days ago, and in normal circumstances I would have been compelled to stay inside, but these aren’t normal circumstances. I wanted to feel the cold permeate my fur. I wanted to feel the frost under my paws. I wanted to smell the salty sea air. I rolled around in the frozen dust, just to get dirty and to have the pleasure of being brushed clean. Yes my friends, it’s a sweet life.

I know that mortality is a touchy subject for humans, and I wouldn’t dream of forcing my personal philosophies on other cats and their staff members. However, for the record I will say that in my opinion I have been a good cat and an honorable employer. I am entitled to enjoy my last days, and I’m also entitled to a gentle end. The staff has my criteria defining what is an acceptable quality of life for me and what is not. They have their instructions and I trust them to carry out their respective duties at the appropriate time.

I’d intended to write many more pieces for Itchmo, but I will leave that to my personal assistant now. The Stupid Baby might want to help. He’s not really a baby, and he’s certainly not stupid… I just call him that to tease him. He’s an ex-feral, which means he has his own story to tell, and he’s also a chronic renal failure cat, so he’s no stranger to medical issues.

In my nearly twenty-one years among people, I’ve learned a lot of human language. This is one of my favorite quotes:

This river flows from dark to light,
So I will say adieu, my friends.
If my ship sails from your sight,
It doesn’t mean the journey ends,
But simply that the river bends.
– J. Enoch Powell

Thank you, Itchmo readers, for allowing me to share my experiences with you.

38 thoughts on “Rochester Says Farewell To His Itchmo Friends

  1. Well, bless your heart and fur. You are dignified to the end, and you are clearly loved by your Staff, even if you don’t necessarily admit that to them. (i know, i’m shared by three cat employers).

  2. Rochester, thank you so much for sharing with your two-legged audience. We will miss your honesty and wry sense of humor. As my 20-year-old Pia passed on in October, your words of kindness and wisdom somehow comfort me. When you get there, please tell her I send my love….

    Blessings to you, mb

  3. Rochester your words of wisdom will certainly be missed. I am sorry to read you are terminal big hugs to you and your staff.

  4. Rochester, I send you my heartful wishes for a gentle end. That is truly the best gift you could get. Strength to your staff as I am sure you will be greatly missed……….x0x0x0

  5. It is with tears that I read your final column here, Rochester. You are truly a cat among cats! Thank you for gracing us with your wit and wisdom. I just wish you had been here longer. God speed, dear boy. I have a lot of Bridge Angels who will be good company for you once you arrive there.

  6. Rochester,

    We are going to miss you so much. We always look forward anxiously to your posts. You are sterling example of feline greatness as you look to the future in quiet dignity. Our humans can learn alot from you. Live in the moment and milk life for all it is worth!

    Please give our Mother’s love to your staff.

    And from us, dear friend, we wish you all the turkey and donuts you can possibly eat.

    Head bonks, kitty kisses and sweet rest, dear Rochester.

  7. Dear Rochester,

    You have been a steady tom cat held in the higest regard. My Toonces is also not doing so well…..She has taken to attempting to sleep in her litter box (used) in the last 3 months and that is not like her AT ALL. She has always been a cleanliness freak of a cat, even enjoying her baths. She is over 16 yrs now and I am wondering if she is showing a loss of mind? Her poor little frail body, not steady anymore, although her appetite is still great. She has seen me through everything for a long time now. Rochester, we love you. You are such a charmer.

  8. Sweet Rochester, you do indeed have a lion’s heart. Rest well, my little fur friend….we will all miss you terribly but will see you one day at the Rainbow Bridge, where you will be young and in the best of health. When you arrive, please tell all of my furbabies that are there waiting for me that I love them.

  9. Oh dear Rochester, my heart goes out to you and your humans! After being together only five short years, my beloved Justin was diagnosed with oral SCC, and he was sweet and loving throughout the entire ordeal which included chemotherapy and surgery. He never stopped purring and kneading and cuddling during that time. I spoiled him rotten during the last weeks of his life and held him in my arms, close to my heart, when the vet sent him to the Bridge. He is still in my heart.

    Enjoy these precious days with your people. And when your time comes, I wish you the same peaceful, gentle, and quiet end that my Justin had.

    And may you both play together at the Bridge, whole and healthy once more.

    Purrs and cuddles and skritches to you.

  10. Rochester you are so brave. I lost my little pup Muffin to lymphoma cancer when she was 7 years old in 2004. we could not save her. I am confident that she is in heaven feeling well now. I think she will be there to watch over you. hugs Rochester and god bless you.

  11. Rochester, you old gentleman, thank you for sharing your wisdom with us. I wish my dogs had half the dignity you have, but what can you expect? Take care of your folks, who may not be as clear-sighted as you are about this whole thing. Eating whatever you want is certainly sweet, isn’t it?

    When you come to the Rainbow Bridge, ask to speak to Strega, who will show you around.

  12. nora and rufus and toonces.-

    with age cats can get senior dementia and alzheimers like symptoms-one of my older gals would forget i fed her 2 seconds after i fed her- i could have stood there for hours placing plates down. and they get absolutely desperate about food until the very end when they might not want to eat. they tend not to be able to groom like they used to-and this was a calico who kept her fur pristine. it’s part of aging-i dont think there’s much that can be done but keep them safe, as comfortable as possible and let them be.sadly ive become a bit of an expert in senior cats, aging and mortality as i lost 4 of my elder gals this year. they all died at home, surrounded in the the familiar and those who loved them and i for one would certainly like to go that way too.

    rochester, sir, if you see a poofy tortie persian on the other side by the name of persia please please dont mention my new tortie persian-just say it’s a half bald mongrel with an eye patch and greasy tufts here and there. the ladies do get jealous….

  13. I echo the sentiments expressed above.

    If your staff believes in an afterlife as I do, they might find some comfort from knowing that the medium John Edward routinely confirms the presence of pets on the other side.
    It is indeed a bend in the river.

  14. Love you Rochester, say hello to my beauties who have passed the bend in the river. I certainly look forward to seeing them & you someday. Enjoy the time.

    Kisses to your staff, they seem lovely.

  15. Farewell Rochester. May you go gently into that good night. Foots, Frankie, Elvis, Spot and Chloe will show you where the best catnip fields and sunning spots are when you arrive.

  16. Rochester, you are a very wise (and handsome!) old man. Thank you so much for sharing your insight, dignity and last, but not least, your wit…it’s been a real pleasure. And your choice of quotes is so appropriate. Enjoy your last days here, dear friend, and may that river bend come peacefully for you and your staff. God bless you all…..

  17. Poor baby ! Staff, I know how hard this is..I lost my 15 year old poodle 3 years ago to spleen cancer. God bless this kitty, I know he’ll have a happy rest of life…and to his “staff”, may GOD help you thru this time I do believe we’ll meet our sweet babies again at the Rainbow Bridge and then in heaven, together forever!

  18. Hi Rochester
    What a wonderful post this is – you sound like such an amazing cat, I wish I had known of you before today.

    I am so sorry this awful illness has got you too. I am in remission from a large-cell lymphoma in my gut, luckily chemotherapy was an option (I guess it wasn’t viable with your cancer type – I am so sorry if that was the case). Like you, I have a wonderful vet who has promised my Bean to do his best by me and to make sure I do not suffer and to be honest and helpful when needed – this is such an important promise, our Beans need strength, support and guidance when we get sick.

    I am not at the stage yet where I can be spoiled rotten with all the foods I have not been allowed over the past 12 years…I know your Beans are feeling sad right now but I also hope they draw strength from this illicit pleasure that you have now been granted! Cream! Steaks! Cheese! My mouth is watering – thank you for letting me know that when my time approaches I will be allowed such delights :)

    Rochester…enjoy what time is left, love your Beans (even when they make your furs wet with their tears), and one day I will see you again over the Bridge xxxxx

    (My Bean sends hugs to you and your Bean, and said feel free to drop us an email if you need to. She totally understands how you are all feeling…we lost our bunny to cancer too)

  19. I am not sue my previous comment got posted correctly…I can’t see it anywhere. Rochester if it didn’t I just want to say that I wish I had met you before. I too have been struck with this illness, luckily though I was allowed to have chemo and am in remission – it sounds like this might not have been an option for your type of cancer though(I got a large-cell lymphoma).

    Thank you for your dignity and strength, I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful this post is to read for a kitty like me. Please feel free to spin by or drop us an email if you or your Bean need to – we totally understand what you are going through.

    Enjoy what time you have left your Beans (they need it right now) and one day I will see you over at the Bridge…Lots of Love, Stormie xxxx

  20. My CatGods, Little Kitty, Booger and Gracie send their best wishes for you on your journey across the Rainbow Bridge. Good hunting!

  21. Rochester, you are in my thoughts and prayers. When the time is right, may you go peacefully and be free. Love, Jenn, Sasha, Oscar, and Little Bit.

  22. Rochester, go and romp in the sunshine, gentle breezes and friendships of the Rainbow Bridge. Live in the knowledge that you have brought this world a friendship and kinship that will be a legacy to all that learn of it. I wish you peace, comfort and continuing love in this time and forever more.

    Smile upon us and remind us that this is just a whisper of time. One day we will all be reunited.

  23. Hi Storm I am so sorry to hear you had lymphoma too. My pup muffin had it and chemo but with dogs and cats its a little different. They push for a cure for people but with dogs and cats its usually a short remission. our friend linda is going though the same thing right now. Storm I am so glad you got in to remission. I wanted to tell you that I found out my neighbor had lymphoma and got in to remission in 1988 and it still is in almost 20 years later. god bless you. Denise

  24. My Dear Rochester,
    Please say a hello to my beloved Chelsea when you reach the Rainbow Bridge, she’s a dignified lady whom I still miss every day.

  25. Thank you Rochester. When you get to the other side, please give my Lefty a hug from me. He also had squemecell carcinoma. He is a great little guy. You will really like him.

  26. Dearest Rochester, we wish you and your earthly assistants comfort and peace as your time to pass over the Rainbow Bridge nears. There’s a little Maltese named Nikki who loves to cuddle and play with cats there now to greet you. She had SCC too last year. But watch out for a big black lady cat called Jinx, she’ll boss you around like she did all of us!

    All our love, Disco, Lincoln and Mom

  27. Rochester, may your remaining days on earth be filled with the peace and love you deserve and when the sad day comes, may you find everlasting joy at Rainbow Bridge.

  28. Dear Rochester,

    Smiled and cried as I read your “last post”. May you have many more epicurian delights before your air lift to The Bridge. When you deplane, look for a funny little black and white hell-fire, her name is Indianna (she’s newly arrived), and ask around for Bailey and an a very cool orange tabby by the name of Christopher. Like you, he loved sentry duty. Indianna was ratter par non. Do me a favour and ask about Miranda and an old guy, Blue Point Siamese by the name of Toy. Wow, your social calendar is gonna be full!

    Wishing that you could send comments back down here from the other side of the Bridge. Cyber hugs to your staff, a hug to you dear one. Pleasant journey when the time comes . . . but please, take your time . . . the humans are so fragile about these things . . .

    Deborah and Pandora (Calico . . . just 9 months old)

  29. Oh, what a great cat spirit you have my friend. Having also a 21 year old cat, I learn wisdom and knowledge from her.
    You will be missed Rochester,enjoy kitty heaven!

  30. I am writing this through lotsa tears. God bless you Rochester. There is no way in the world I could ever read again, but I will never forget it. It makes me wonder what my 17 year old Boo would have written if she had known. She’s been gone close to two years and the pain hasn’t eased. Now I’m crying so hard, I can’t even see. Thank you for your letter. See you on the other side.

  31. Thank you all for your kind words. Rochester sailed around the bend in the river this day, January 17 at 1:15 p.m. His last days were tranquil and his passing very gentle. He continued to eat his meals and take his walks around the grounds until today, but was obviously failing. When he refused his breakfast this morning, the expression on his face was enough to let us know that he was ready to set sail. He was a noble old gentleman and will be greatly missed. We are comforted by the knowledge that he led a good and full life, that he died without suffering and that many beloved pets were waiting at the bridge to greet him. Hugs to you all, and to your fur kids.

Comments are closed.