2002-2017: Woodrow, who didn't like you, is in cat heaven. Maybe.

Woodrow the cat died Monday after stubbornly refusing to do so during a long illness. At the end he drank a lot and often, staggered as he prowled the garage, pissed indiscriminately and complained loudly and often about the numerous things that upset him.

“That’s the way I want to go,” said owner Dave Thomas.

Woodrow was an asshole. Most of the time. He did not care for strangers. He didn’t care much about friends. He liked to pass his time looking sullen, but every once in awhile would be social. A little. For a short time.

“If you’re feeling uncomfortable about making that ‘pets resemble their owners joke’ about my dead cat, consider it made,” said Thomas.

Woodrow was born a poor feral kitty in the spring of 2002. An American-Statesman employee found him and emailed a picture to Thomas. The picture showed a cute, bright-eyed, black-and-white kitten gazing adoringly at the camera.

“Yeah, I bet the next photo is of him biting the shit out of your hand,” Thomas replied.

The coworker sent Thomas the next photo, showing the furball wrapped around her hand with his teeth sunk deep into a finger.

“I’ll take him,” Thomas said.

Thomas was hunting for a rental house at the time and while thinking about what to name that cat, he saw a bus stop sign that mentioned Woodrow Avenue. The cat was technically named after a bus stop, but it was clearly “Lonesome Dove” that gave the name resonance with Thomas.

After staying at the apartment just long enough to bite a gazillion tiny holes in the bottom of all the vertical blinds and cost Thomas his deposit, Woodrow moved into the rental house on Brentwood (just a block down from Woodrow Ave.) with Thomas, newly-engaged Shannon Williams and her elderly dog Annie.

Being a cat and having no clue about karma, Woodrow ruthlessly terrorized toothless Annie, relying heavily on a Foreman-esque punch (technically, it WAS a bitch slap) that could … “WHAP!” … be heard across the house.

“You’ve seen those old Tom and Jerry cartoons where the cat goes down to hell?” Thomas said. “That’s where Woodrow was clearly headed. Kitty Hell. He was a total jerk.”

The old house had a window-unit air conditioner and Woodrow soon learned that it would make a particular sound before the coolant kicked on. During the summer, he’d run up to the unit after he heard that noise and stick his head up there and bogart all the cold air.

He played tough, but all it took was a junkie burglar or a hyperactive little girl to reveal him for the coward that he was. After each episode, he hid under the bed in the spare bedroom for days.

After the family moved to their own house in Far South Austin, Annie passed on and Woodrow gained a new companion when the family inherited Meow Cows — who was older and having none of Woodrow’s shit. Ever. Apparently immortal, Meow Cows had already seen it all.

Woodrow inhabited a succession of rooms, getting kicked out of each by a new child, whom he learned quickly and terribly that he was not to fuck with either.

These were dark days for Woodrow. Though strangers came less often, extended family came more often. The kids kept multiplying. That other old cat was a real bitch.

Then came the little girl. And Woodrow softened. He had learned his lesson. And so she didn’t learn the lesson of tiny sharp teeth like her brothers had.

She followed him around. She talked to him. She put hats on him. And he stoically endured it. He wouldn’t have admitted it, but he probably liked the attention. Just a little. Even if he didn’t, his look of resigned disgust was lost on the wee child.

And each time the little girl accidentally smacked him on the head in the course of pretending a plastic saucer was a fancy hat — and he patiently waited it out — a sin was absolved.

Karma came calling about a year-and-a-half ago when a new puppy named Lucy joined the family.

By this time, Woodrow was living out his last days in the garage. He had already had a mini-stroke and was weak in his hindquarters. But that didn’t stop him from coming inside every time he got the chance to drink from the toilet, which apparently had an appeal that his water bowl could not match.

Lucy was the unknowing agent of Annie. It took her little time to discover the joy of herding Woodrow around the house, the old cat too weak to jump to safety. And yet, every time Lucy stuck her cold nose where his balls would have been, Woodrow’s black soul came away a little lighter. A debt was being repaid, one awkward snuffle at a time.

When the end came, Woodrow was rail-thin and in pain. Thomas paid for his passage.

Woodrow died a little after 10 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 2.

He leaves behind Lucy, who might miss him, and Meow Cows, who, unmoved, has seen the last gasp of countless souls as she has journeyed through the ages.

He leaves behind a 7-year-old boy who might not notice he is gone, and Shannon, who didn’t dislike him enough to want to see him in pain.

He leaves behind a 5-year-old girl who doesn’t quite understand, and a 10-year-old boy who is taking this hard.

And he leaves behind Thomas, who held him on his lap in the old recliner one last time. Just a cup of coffee and SportsCenter short of the good old days. The man was relieved when he could tell Woodrow was no longer feeling any pain.

Thomas dug the grave. He told the kids. He went to work.

But he’ll miss that cat.

Just a little.

48 responses
From one old copy editor to another -- I'll repeat what I overheard Jack Adams, of the old Chicago Herald-American, say to a writer many years ago. "You write good. New York good."
Just like kids, the ones who are biggest pains are the ones who leave the biggest footprints on your heart :)...good luck Woodrow, wherever you ended up .
Great story well told
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