It's taken me a couple of weeks to get here--to a point where I can actually compose my thoughts and pay tribute to a guy who was such a big part of my life for 15 years.
When I adopted Nemo, I was a junior in college at the University of Florida. I had just gotten out of a really bad situation with roommates and had moved into my very own apartment. For the first time in my life, I was living on my own. In May of 1996, after about a month of going it solo, a lightbulb went off and I realized I was totally free to get a pet. Not my first pet, but my first all-mine pet. So I called up my friend Paul and we headed over to the Gainesville Pet Rescue together to look at cats.
Having had female cats in the past, I was determined to get another girl kitty. I'd always heard that they were "nicer" (although Snickers, my childhood cat, really challenged this theory) and that boy cats always marked their territory. Not the kind of thing you need when you pay rent, you know? The only cats they had at GPR were adults...and one little tuxedo boy kitten named Chaos. The volunteers persuaded me to give him a try, mentioning that neutered males are actually quite affectionate and don't usually mark. The first thing I noticed about the kitten was how incredibly floppy he was. I could do anything to that cat, and he just went with it. I was completely smitten with that little shrimp and it was a done deal. There wasn't too much to his back story...he'd been found in an alley behind a Gainesville nightclub, called Chaos, hence his name. He was anything but chaotic, this mellow fellow. I was enamored with Winsor McCay's "Little Nemo in Slumberland" at the time (still am) and so Chaos became Nemo.
He was a character.
Hiding in my sheets in my "Student Ghetto" rat and bug infested apartment. I totally get it.
Within the first couple of months of bringing him home, he introduced fleas into my life. I spent many evenings combing them out of his fur and dipping the comb in soapy water to kill the suckers. This was before I discovered the wonders of Frontline.
One day I came home from class and heard a strange crying sound coming from my bedroom. Nemo had tangled himself up in the window shades--he was unhurt but completely embarrassed.
And one night, I woke up and saw him sitting verrry still, staring at my dresser. This was odd, I thought...he's usually curled up on my pillow. So I got up and looked under the dresser. Nada. I looked on top of the dresser. Bingo. Two little beady eyes were staring back at me. I grabbed Nemo and a blanket and managed to stuff a t-shirt under the door on my way out. It was a rat, though as it pulled the t-shirt back under the door and made shredding sounds, I questioned whether it was an alligator. (This was Florida, after all...) Nemo and I waited up all night, watching infomercials together, until the maintenance guy arrived in the morning to catch it.
He had saved me from a potential case of rabies, and maybe even more importantly, from a really bad case of loneliness.
Nemo was really into Kandinsky
Nemo chilling in my apartment tub
OK, so I propped him up like this on my massive bag of laundry. But he stayed long enough for the photo. Such a good sport.
After I graduated, Nemo became my Kansas City kitty. He actually sat on the seat next to me on the plane--sedated and foaming at the mouth a little--I bet that made some of the other passengers nervous. It was Nemo who waited for me to come home from work every night. He was a talkative guy and would always greet me with his signature "me-me-me" when I walked in.
He was with me before my husband, before kids, before any other pet. And when I did meet my husband, it was Nemo who finally (after 6 years of dating) helped him propose to me. He wore the engagement ring on a string around his neck and wandered into the room. When I shrieked upon seeing the ring, poor Nemo took off with it, and hid upstairs. After coaxing him out, I said yes!
He was definitely a quirky cat. He loved pineapples. And I mean, in a writhing around on the floor, practically making out with the fruit kind of way. He loved to play but was kind of Jekyll and Hyde-y about it. He loved to go outside, roll around on the cement in the sunshine and then eat enough grass to make an elephant puke. He dipped his paws into the water and licked them off in order to get a drink. (Always reminded me of an Oreo.) He refused to sleep on his kitty bed unless it was really, really cold in the house. But he could spend hours asleep on a piece of paper in the middle of the floor. And if I left clothes on my bed, that was his chosen spot.
In the years since moving into our home, we've added another cat, two dogs and two kids, and just like the floppy kitten I'd first fallen in love with, Nemo just went with it. All of it. Apollo, who decided he was the alpha cat from the moment he set paw inside the house. Lolly, our shepherd mix, who just wanted to play but was 10 times his size. My daughter, who liked to carry him around and my one-year old son who liked to bop him on the head with toys. He even put up with Ava, our Chow mix, who relentlessly chased him up the stairs at the ripe age of 14. He put up with a lot but whenever I held my hand out to him, he would run over and push his head into it. He was an awesome, wonderful, handsome, spirited, one-in-a-million friend. I wish I could hold my hand out to him one more time. I miss you so much, Neems.
January 17, 1996-March 3, 2011