Jax at like 4 years old. He always had this kitten face.

“Joy and Sean showed up at my apartment with a litter box, some food, and a box of cat toys.” This is Kristin telling me a story in 2004. We had met like a week earlier as we were both beginning graduate school at Colorado State in the same program. “And I said, ‘I don’t have cat.’ And they said, ‘We know. We’re going to the Dumb Friends League and we’re buying you one right now.’”

Great. Another chick with a pet. It feels like I just got done dating one of these. This is college, man. Why tie yourself down with responsibility?

“And so there were two kitties there. One of them with HUGE feet played so hard with Joy, and then fell asleep on my boobs. That’s the one I came home with.”

Neat. Although now you’ve mentioned your boobs, and I am in fact a human American man aged 22 years, so I’m paying closer attention than I was previously.

“That’s how I ended up with this little man. They called him Sasquatch, which I didn’t like.” [Note: That name is fucking awesome for a cat, by the way] “So I asked him what he wanted his name to be. I went through a few and he didn’t seem interested. I said, ‘Jack?’ He tilted his head at me, intrigued. ‘Jax?’ He meowed at me, and so I said, ‘Ok, your name is Jax.’”

And that was how I first learned about the Alpha Male trapped in the body of what would grow to be a 20-pound cat with the highest pitched meow you’ve ever heard since they snipped his balls at like 6 weeks old.

The first semester of graduate school is one of the most profound stretches of my life, and it’s because it’s the nexus of the relationship that would become my marriage, the foundation of our shared friendship with one of our absolute best friends Kyle, and the origin of me becoming a “cat guy.” The four of us spent a lot of time together that semester and in the 3 that would follow. Kyle would hold a liquor bottle up to Jax’s tiny nose where Jax would want to smell it – but oh it’s poison, no I don’t – but do I? – no I don’t – as Kyle is raising it higher and higher until Jax nearly falls over backwards. We were four troublemakers and we hung out. It was great.

I suppose when the end comes, you naturally tend to think about the beginning. Kristin bringing Jax home was 4 months shy of 20 years ago. I have been fighting with this cat over real estate for literally that entire time. I have never had a longer relationship with an animal, nor a more rewarding one. And now I sit here broken, sad, and incomplete facing a future without him.

Rest in peace, Jax. There will never be another like you.


Annexing the bed as usual

I mean, he has a rightful claim to his spot on the bed, his spot on the couch, and wherever he deems “his spot.” After all, he was ultimately there first. No, it doesn’t matter that I outweigh him by 10x, nor that I tower over him like we’re playacting a fucking vignette from Gulliver’s Travels. He doesn’t care. Jax is not only fearless, he’s righteous. He is the most self-possessed creature I have ever known, and I respect him for it.

In late September of 2004, about a month after Kristin had brought Jax home, I had a party at my house and I was trying to get her to stay with me. She told me she would love to, but she had to get home to her new kitty. As I sat on the front stoop smoking a cigarette, I realized I desperately wanted to be with her. So I ghosted my own party – which was admittedly winding down – and walked to her house. That was our first night together.

That night, and nights that followed when I would stay over, I would find myself awoken by a small, but very insistent kitten face right the fuck up in my grill. It was always as if he’s saying, “Hey, you big dunce! This is where I sleep. Move!” And he would park himself with as much of his defiant kitty ass either right on my forehead or in the most obvious and bothersome place he could conjure just to let me know his level of dissatisfaction with my presence. I started picking him up under his armpits and dropping him the 2 feet to the floor. What I didn’t realize is that Kristin had this big metal tacklebox of makeup on the floor right in the landing zone, so more often than not, my attempts to place him would yield a giant CLANG and a CRASH because he was landing on that tacklebox like some misguided ECW hardcore match.

He was a smart fucker, though. One time I went to execute this oft-repeated maneuver and he transformed into his liquid form and managed to drag an outstretched claw across my bare armpit on the way out. When I woke up, I sprayed my pits with Axe Body Spray (which, I know…), and was greeted with the spiciest chemical sting I have literally ever felt.

Touche, you bastard, touche. A worthy opponent, indeed.


Jax dealing with his mortal enemy – the garbage truck.

Before we lived together, Jax and Finn’s cat hair would mess me up for hours after I got home. So I was worried about moving in with these cats because who can live like that? The body adapts and a daily regimen of Zyrtec became my path to survival. As any pet owner that’s moved in with a significant other can tell you, betrayal lurks.

Jax and I became best buddies in that tiny garden level apartment in West Wash Park. We started out like Brennan and Dale in Step Brothers and ended up like… well, Brennan and Dale in Step Brothers. We’d play, we’d snuggle, we just hit it off in a way that I think surprised both of us. Kristin was mildly annoyed – you’re my cat, you dick, what are you doing? – but this was ultimately a great development. I proposed to her in that apartment some time later, and in his Best Man speech at my wedding, Jason said, “I knew they were gonna get married when Jon started referring to Jax and Finn as our cats.”

I mean, how could I not love these insane little bastards? In warm weather we slept with our window open which put it right at foot level with a sidewalk immediately outside of it. I was awoken one night not by the drunk couple having an extremely loud argument right outside our window at 2:30 am, but by Jax incessantly meowing at them with his shrill, falsetto meow.

The couple realized they were getting interrupted by this insistent little dude, stopped their fight and immediately turned their attention to him. “Oh, who’s a pretty kitty! Are you gonna keep meowing at us?” They talked back and forth to each other for a few minutes, the cat and the drunks just totally talking past one another, and I finally got out of bed and got him to stop. The dysfunctional drunks eventually moved along, but holy shit was that funny. Hey, drunkies! Shut up! Pay attention to meeeeeee!!!!


Here he is, for instance, claiming the dog’s bed.

You know when you hear about couples that have been married for like 50+ years and when one of them dies, the other dies within a couple of months from loneliness? We figured when Finn died, Jax wouldn’t be long for the world. Finn died nearly 3 years ago, yet Jax hung on. Two points to make here.

  1. Finn and Jax were on different types of prescription cat food. And since you can’t get a cat to eat at a regularly-scheduled time (or at least these cats), we just mixed both kinds in a bowl and hoped for the best. It wasn’t great for either of them, and for a time Jax looked fucking haggard. We actually thought he might go first, but after Finn passed on, and Jax got on a proper diet, he rebounded spectacularly. His coat became lush and shiny again. He gained weight back. He hooked himself up to the rejuvenation machine.
  2. Birdie, our Bernese Mountain Dog, joined our lives about 3 months after Finn passed on.

And my god did Jax live to fuck with the dog. Birdie was deferential to the cat to a comical degree. She would clear a path for him. One time she literally fell over when she was about to run into him, and scampered off in the other direction.

Jax was like a lunchroom bully in that he’d see her lying somewhere comfortable, and would decide he’d like that spot especially now that she’d warmed it up for him. At one point we thought he was snuggling up with her, but instead of lying down, he started biting her feet. It became too much for Birdie, so she got up and left. Jax parked his ass right in her now vacated spot, satisfied with being the Real Estate King of Eksville.

Screwing with the dog became Jax’s animating reason to live. We think the addition of this guileless, adorable, eager-to-please Berner extended his life by at least a year. As it relates to Jax and the dog, the cruelty is the point, which I suppose made Jax a Republican. At least in this specific context.


Chillin’ with Grace on a different set of stairs.

Near the end of the run of Parks and Recreation, the character Donna (played by Retta) gets married and among her bridesmaids are April (played by Aubrey Plaza) and Leslie (played by Amy Poehler). She says of April, “You have this badass exterior, but inside are nothing but a big ol’ softie. And Knope, you’re basically the exact opposite.” Jax was like April. Like all bullies, very tough exterior disguising a giant cream puff middle.

He’d pick fights with Finn, and once Finn had enough of Jax’s fuckery and square up, you’d hear Jax do the cat equivalent of, “No, time out! Time out! TIME OUT!” He escaped one night, and when he came back in the morning cold and defeated, we could tell he had been roughed up. My guess is he came across an alley cat who showed him what life on the streets was actually like compared to Jax’s Nerf-ass existence. He wasn’t so keen to escape after that.

But here’s what he had working in his favor – he was a freak athlete. Those giant paws that led to the shelter naming him “Sasquatch” lent him incredible power and speed. His body was sturdy and muscular. He was like the cat equivalent of Von Miller or Aaron Gordon. Just strong and fast and stubborn and relentless.

In our first house we had about 15 stairs that connected the entry way with our upstairs loft. The architecture was such that adjacent to them were three landings, each one about two and a half feet higher than the previous ones. If you can picture this, if you stood at the front door, you could see someone’s head coming down the stairs as these landings obscured their body. When we’d sit in our living room, we could see Jax sit at the top of the stairs and look down at us.

We’d yell at him, “Come on! Come on!” And then he’d sprint down the stairs. Dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun-dun like a stampede of chipmunks. He’d get to the bottom and then leap to the bottom landing GA-CHUNK and immediately up the other two GA-CHUNK, GA-CHUNK in one fluid motion and stare at us with his paws draped over the side from his new perch roughly 18 feet above the living room.

Homeboy was STRONG and BIG. But he was also part Maine Coon, so that makes sense, which also explains his extra thumbs on both paws.


Smug and confident, as he should be.

When I was in elementary school, basically every assignment I ever had I would use as an excuse to talk about my parakeet Vito. I’d write stories about him. I’d draw him. I’d do research reports about South American parrots and parakeets. I fell in love with tropical birds thanks almost entirely to Vito… well, him and professional wrestler Koko B. Ware who came to the ring with a blue and gold macaw and whose shirt I actually wore today without knowing that today I would say goodbye to Jax… and in short, he’s always been my favorite pet.

At some point in the last 5 years I told Kristin, “You know… Jax is my all-time favorite pet.” And she said, to her eternal credit earning my undying love, “Wow! More than Vito?!” And I said, “Yeah.” The gravity of that hit her in a way I will never forget.

I will be both forever grateful and eternally resentful for her, Finn, and most of all Jax for turning me into a cat guy. After living with a cat this funny, this self-possessed, this full of personality, how would one even consider NOT being a cat guy. Choosing to live with a cat is a choice to inject chaos and comedy into your own life. It’s a life with more joy, more unpredictability, and more whimsy. I’ll chose that 100 times out of 100.


One last party for the dude. He loved being carried like a baby all the time.

I go to bed later than Kristin most nights. And since entering his geriatric years, Jax has made a delightful habit of crawling up onto my chest of lap and planting his nation’s flag in either my corporeal body or in compelling me to move so he can have the real estate underneath me. In basketball terms, he’s basically got Old Man YMCA Game where he can’t move much, but he’s so crafty and stubborn, you’re forced to surrender to his will. And here’s the thing, I’m no longer mad at it. I welcome it.

Jax has always been a snuggler, which was doubly awesome because he had the softest fur of any animal I’ve ever felt. He was an absolutely primo nap partner, and I always felt like Ross and Joey in that Friends episode when we would doze off together.

I had stress dreams when our first daughter was born that she was on the bed with us and I was still holding her for some reason. I’d dream that she’d slowly but surely drift toward the foot of the bed and be close to falling off. This was never the case as we never fell asleep with her in the bed with us, yet I dreamt it all the same. Sleep deprivation is WILD.

One night I woke up and I was actually cradling a creature the same way I held the baby. But it wasn’t Grace, it was Jax. He was asleep in my arms and never looked happier. He must’ve sensed what I needed and played willing stand-in. First few months of parenthood worked out A-OK for Jax.

Handsome boy in the cat bed.

In his old age with his health declining and his hearing gone, he’d follow me around the house and just want to post up next to me wherever I was. In my office? He’s in the cat bed next to me. Answering emails on the couch? He’s pressed against my leg. Night time after the house is closed up and everyone else is asleep? He’s laying on my chest as both of us fall asleep watching episodes of Daria, Nuggets games or music videos. I can’t think of many other times in my life where I have felt as comfortable or as at peace as those late nights when I’d have Jax fall asleep on my chest, which seems to be something of a motif for him.

He already had our hearts. Maybe he just wanted to physically lay claim to his turf. He was welcome anytime.


We knew the end was near, but Jax did his best to disguise it. His back legs stopped working right. He didn’t make it to the litter box 100% of the time. He was deaf. He slept so much and so peacefully, we’d stare at him to make sure he was still breathing.

Yet the other day as I left our back gate open to traverse down our long ass driveway to gather our garbage cans, here comes Jax sauntering down the boulevard like, “I ain’t dead yet, bitch. I’m exploring the neighbor’s yard!” I took a photo and sent it to Kristin and we both marveled at his defiance.

On his jaunt to the neighbor’s yard a mere 4 days ago, as of this writing.

But a mere three days later, Jax was throwing up his pills, falling asleep in awkward positions, becoming unable to even move his tail, and rapidly nearing the end. We knew it. It was undeniable. And having waited too long to recognize the steep decline of Finn, we decided it would be better to be a day early than a day late. We were assured of the end when he rejected taking any licks of some ice cream we tried to give him. If he turned down ice cream, no way was he going back for any more cat food.

So we brought him to the vet and made the unhappiest of unhappy decisions, but did it from a place of love, of mercy, and of compassion. We sat on a couch inside a special room in the vet’s office, my arm around Kristin, Kristin cradling Jax in a soft bed and blanket, and freed him from his old age and pain to reconnect with Finn who awaited him on the other side. As he closed his eyes for the final time, I said, “Goodbye, Jax. I love you. Thank you.” I repeated those lines again and again even after he was gone.

And I remember thinking how beautiful that full circle moment was.

Jax’s first moment in any of our lives was when he fell asleep on Kristin’s chest, next to her heart.

His very last moment was asleep on Kristin’s chest next to her heart, which is where he belonged. Two of my very favorite souls linked together at the beginning and the end for the time we all shared together. I am forever grateful to be connected to them both.

Rest in peace, Jax. I will miss you desperately, but will never, ever forget you. I love you. Goodbye.

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