You know there’s a sad day coming when you sign on to keep a pet. If all goes well, you will outlive your critter.
That tough day came for me on Friday, June 23 when my tomcat, Boat Dock, left the planet. He was about 10 when he died.
Boat Dock was the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette feline outdoors columnist for years and served as chief judge of the newspaper’s fish story contest.
He’d been dealing with a medical issue for about a year that eventually used up all of his lives. Boat Dock was a trooper through the whole thing. Two surgeries trying to shake it didn’t faze him. He took them like the tough tomcat he was, neutered, of course. That figures because he got extra treats after his trips to the vet.
Boat Dock’s “I’m the cat, I’m the boss and you’re not” attitude made it easy for me to slip into cat columnist mode from time to time to write things from his perspective eight inches above the living room carpet.
A big kick for me was when a reader would chat me up about the newspaper and say, “Your columns are OK, but we always enjoy Boat Dock.” I was proud to be his cat butler.
Cats don’t do deadlines, so his columns “appear when he feels like writing one,” as the note said at the end of each one.
Around the house, our shack-ri-la, he was a constant source of entertainment and a great buddy. I always scan the newspaper in the morning, but like to read it carefully in the evening. Boat Dock would always jump up on the counter and lounge right there beside me while I read. I knew the end was near when he got too weak to make the leap.
About a month later he was off to kitty heaven, as they say. He’s been good, mostly.
Cats can be aloof, but Boat Dock was Mr. Friendly. When friends would visit the shack-ri-la, Boat Dock would hide, for about one minute. Then he was out nuzzling whoever came knocking, quick to make friends.
One night some pals came over and a music jam broke out. It was winter, and we were sitting around the living room playing. Our singing would send any other cat sprinting to the next county, but not Boat Dock. He sat right there among us, like he was one of the guys. I swear I saw his little orange head bobbing along to the music a couple of times.
Morning was his time. He was a ball of fire, the Tasmanian Devil of tomcats, from 4 a.m. until about 7. Then it was snooze time in his rocker.
Boat Dock is actually Boat Dock III. The first Boat Dock wasn’t a writer. That started with Boat Dock II, then Boat Dock III carried on those columns when he showed some cat attitude. All were orange tabby males, bossy ones.
Some folks wonder how he got his unusual name. When the first Boat Dock was a kitten, his name started out to be Bois d’arc (BO-dark), like the tree. Didn’t take long until it morphed into Boat Dock, mainly because he lived at Beaver Lake, which he claimed as his federal water dish.
Boat Dock III was the first Boat Dock to have his own Facebook page. I kid you not when I tell you the little guy has 268 Facebook friends. That’s more friends than I’ve had my whole life.
We’d post some occasional photos of Mr. Handsome himself posing nicely or doing something goofy. It was a challenge after his surgeries to show his good side, since he had more stitches than a pair of overalls and a quarter of his fur was shaved off.
If Boat Dock could, I know he’d tell each of you readers, “Thanks for reading my fine columns.” I hope he brought some joy and smiles to each of you. He sure did me. I’ll never forget my buddy. I loved Boat Dock so much.
Flip Putthoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWAFlip
Sports on 07/04/2017