Oliver was only a baby when I brought him home. Home, to the cramped bedroom I shared with my sister in Jasper, AB where we had seasonal jobs in the summer of 2003.
My sister worked in a sub shop in town, and got home a bit before I did from my retail gig in a gift shop at Jasper Park Lodge. She told me Oliver would lie beside her on her bed while she read or watched TV and, every time the outer door opened, his head would come up and he would look at our room door, waiting. When the footsteps continued on by toward another room, he would sigh and lay his head back down.
When I finally walked into our room, Oliver would jump up and run to me, winding his soft body around my legs and greeting me with those soft little chirpy meows all people loved by cats know well.
He slept on my pillow, his body wrapped around my head, until he was too big too fit, then he moved down to curl between my knees (I slept on my back). When I moved back home in September, he quickly adjusted to a bigger house full of people and carved out a place for himself in my family’s hearts. I can still see my youngest brother racing past down the hall chasing Oliver, then coming back with Oliver leaping at his ankles from behind.
He would bring me his leash when he wanted to go outside, as I had never let him out alone. I used to take him around the block on harness and leash in Jasper and, while he didn’t exactly heel, he was comfortable with it.
When I moved out for university, I couldn’t find a rental that allowed pets, so I would come home every weekend to do laundry and see my baby. Years passed, and my younger siblings also moved out, eventually leaving my dad (an avowed dog person) alone with the cat.
My dad called me one day more upset than I’d ever heard him. Oliver wasn’t eating or drinking anything. I met them at the vet. Oliver had a tumour on the back of his tongue that was preventing him from swallowing. I don’t remember what was causing it, but she said they could remove it but it would cost thousands of dollars, the recovery would be miserable for Oliver, and it would most likely come back sooner than later.
My little brother, my dad, and I stood beside Oliver’s tiny body, stroking his fur and telling him how much we loved him, tears streaming down our faces as we said goodbye. It’s only the second time in my life I have ever seen my dad cry (the first time was when his father died).
I still miss Oliver. He was one of the family.
Consider yourself at home
Consider youself a one of the family
We’ve taken to you so strong
It’s clear we’re going to get along
-”Consider Yourself” from the musical Oliver!