Pogo was the first pet I had after leaving home. I had always had animals around when I was growing up. Always. After getting to college, I made it through freshman and sophomore year before deciding I couldn't go another moment without a furry buddy, so in the summer of 1996 I went to the MSPCA and picked out a tiny bit of orange fluff. I will admit it was a bit impulsive, given that I hadn't signed up for summer housing. And was living with my then boyfriend. And hadn't discussed it with him first. Better to ask forgiveness than permission, right? Well, not exactly...his brother was coming to visit the following week, and had a severe cat allergy, so Pogo and I were promptly exiled to the dorm lounge where we couldn't contaminate the boyfriend's room. We lived there for a couple of weeks before I was able to wrangle a room of our own, and in that time Pogo became the dorm mascot, a responsibility he accepted with his typical prickly gravitas.
Many people have remarked to me that my cats are not really cats, but rather dogs - or maybe human, but definitely not cats. Not so of Pogo. Pogo was the embodiment of what "cat people" love and "dog people" hate. Pogo didn't come when called. He didn't like to have his belly rubbed. He took his space when and where he wanted it, and resisted any and all efforts on my part to train him. He did, however, very quickly have ME trained to suit his needs. The first year I had him I had a loft bed, which I got up to by getting on the desk, stepping to the dresser, and finally the bed. I could dismount fairly quickly, but of course not instantly. Well, Pogo figured out that if he pushed a cup of water I had thoughtlessly left on the desk toward the edge of the desk, he could get the funniest reaction from me...first a quick shout, then a fake lunge toward the cup, then a real lunge, at which point he would pointedly look up at me, give the cup a final nudge over the edge, and then bound to the top of the bookshelf, safe from any wayward splashes. It says a lot about my laziness and unshakable confidence in my own command abilities that it took a few weeks of patient instruction on his part for me to completely stop leaving cups of water anywhere.
Flash forward many years, and I was finally ready to destroy my life by going to medical school (kids, I'm telling you, don't do it). I was really worried about my ability to properly take care of everybody as a student, which is when my friends, R&A, stepped in to agree to assume responsibility for Pogo. It was the absolutely ideal solution for Pogo and I. R&A had just lost one of their beloved kitties to cancer, and were thinking about rebalancing their home to a comfortable 3 cat load. Pogo couldn't have landed in a more cat-friendly household, and I could hand him over knowing that not only was he in fabulous hands, but that I would get to see him regularly, if only so he could give me the feline finger for old-time's sake. After some initial kerfuffles, he settled in with R&A beautifully, and even had the unexpected bonus of having a stay-at-home dad in A for the past year.
Pogo was stubborn. He was at times grouchy, but only defensively - he was never the aggressor. He enjoyed eating the finer vintages of plastic bags, and exploring half an outside hallway before sprinting back to safety. He resisted manhandling of any sort, but when he decided to cuddle, he was just as firm. That spot. Yes, that one. The one where your hand/food/computer needs to be. That is where I will lie. He did this funny sneaky thing with the computer in particular where you would push him off several times, think you'd succeeded in getting him to give up, only to realize several minutes later that he had snuck back under your arm and gone to sleep, forcing you into an awkward typing position without you even noticing. Masterful.
Pogo and I have been through some very formative years together. I was 18 when I got him, and I'm 35 now. He has seen boyfriends, jobs, homes and friends come and go. He was the first being I truly had full responsibility for besides myself, and I tried to live up to that trust. He kept me company through so much bullshit. Yesterday, my friends and I held him, together, and petted him as the vet put him to sleep for the last time. He was relaxed, soft and peaceful. Frankly, he was beautiful. He always was a beautiful cat, so I should not have been surprised. I will miss you, Pogo, for a long, long time.