The story of Bink actually starts with a different cat: a little one, also gray, but with white feet, who started hanging around outside our old Payson house in 1999. I was ten, Hannah was nine, Mio was six, and the boys were three years and three months, respectively. Hannah and I had tried with little success to domesticate stray cats before and we loved playing with the Blanchards’ cat Ed/Viper, so we pretended the new friendly kitty was ours. Our dad said, “You can play with it, but don’t feed it,” so we didn’t.
A few days later, the little gray cat was still there. She cried and tried to get in the back door any time it swung open. Our dad said, “You can feed it, but don’t name it.”
A few days after that: “You can keep it, but don’t let it in the house.”
And a few days after that: “Okay, let the cat inside.”
Those words would change the next fifteen years of our family’s life.
We named the little kitty Athena and she was the best cat. She was friendly and playful and would watch over Adam and Grant while they slept. She never bit or scratched. The vet thought she had been abused because of some damage to her teeth, but she wasn’t afraid of humans at all.
Only a month after we named her, Athena was hit by a car. Our neighbors, the Clarks, noticed her early Sunday morning and took care of burying her so we wouldn’t see. My dad told me at church and I cried and cried all through sacrament meeting. Athena had been our first real non-fish pet (though Gill, Jenny, and Oliver the Cricket were all pretty great) and we were understandably upset.
My parents said we could get a new cat, so we roamed south Utah County looking for the perfect feline. We saw some out in Santaquin that had six toes. “See how cute they are?” said the owner. We all winced. The sixth toe was not an improvement.
We went to see a batch of four kittens out in maybe Salem (my ten-year-old memory doesn’t serve). Three were black and one was a tiny gray tabby with giant ears and a black nose. Supposedly the kittens’ mother had been killed by a coyote (unconfirmed) so the kittens were actually much younger than any other adoptable cats we’d seen. We picked the tabby and took it to the vet for shots.
The vet assured us that it was a female cat, so we took her home and named her Dot Artemis Pullan (I think the Greek middle name was an homage to Athena, or maybe we just had a Hellenistic thing going on). Little then-Dot was too tiny to climb the stairs; s/he would jump up on the riser and hold on with his claws until he fell off. He could fit in the palm of my hand, and we fed him kitten formula from a salad plate. His first night at home he slept in a box in my room, padded with a blanket.
(Somewhere at the Pullan home there is a great picture of me wearing jean shorts holding tiny Bink, but I can’t find it.)
When we took Dot in to get fixed, the vet surprised us with news that he was actually a male cat. We decided to change his name to Bennington, Bink for short, after the baby in a then-Pullan children favorite movie Baby’s Day Out. The gender change was confusing for Adam for a little while, who kept referring to that time “back when Bink was a girl.”
Perhaps acting on a kitten impulse, Bink would climb up on you and knead your arm or stomach or leg with his paws and lick your shirt. He blended into the gray carpet in the kitchen, which more than once led to one of us stepping on him by accident. He would sharpen his claws anywhere but the scratching post, and he always wanted to spit up his hairballs in the middle of the carpet, not on the wood or tile where it would be easy to clean up. He scratched and bit and would make this unearthly howling sound when we tried to trim his nails or take him to the vet. Sometimes he would hang on the window screens, which made him look like a lizard (and made my mom more than a little upset). He had a beautiful coat and coloring and his little black nose eventually turned pink. Adam–generally caped at this point in his life–used to drag a tangled ball of ribbon, which we affectionately dubbed “The Ribbon Animal” after him and Bink would chase him and pounce.
After we moved to the new house (with new carpet and new window screens) we decided to have Bink declawed. He looked so pathetic when he arrived home from the vet with little bandages on his four paws. That night we left him in the downstairs bathroom so he wouldn’t hurt himself trying to climb on anything; when we got home, we realized closing in the door in the bathroom made it incredibly hot. He was so excited to get out and we all felt awful.
Bink had the adorable habit of drinking out of the toilet. Thankfully (maybe?) he had high standards and only drank fresh water. He’d stand by the toilet and whine until you came over and flushed it for him. Then he’d poke his little paws over the seat and drink. He always wanted to be in the bathroom when you were taking a bath or showering too. If you didn’t let him, he’d poke his paws under the door and meow. He also loved jumping on the counter, which he was absolutely not allowed to do, so every so often at the Pullan house you could hear feet pounding as someone ran into the kitchen “Bink, get off there!”
Bink did a lot of lounging. He slept in a little ball (as shown below) and would follow the path of the sun across the living room floor. He respected my dad as the alpha male and loved Grant and Adam, but pretty much ignored the rest of us unless he wanted something. He hated storms. You could tell rain was coming because he’d try to fit himself under the cupboards in the kitchen. He also hated the vacuum and would run away as soon as he heard it revving up.
Bink was a fixture of the Pullan house. When you were there alone, it was comforting to have his companionship. He intuited when we were sick and would curl up next to us on the couch. He always seemed to observe what we were doing with disinterest, or maybe supervisory authority, and then out of the blue he would be playful and wild, like he was a kitten again. When I came home to visit during college, Bink would smell me and rub up against my legs, almost like he was confirming I was who he remembered, and letting me know I was allowed back in his house.
When my mom told me Bink was slowing down, I was incredulous. “He’s not that old,” I said, not realizing it wasn’t true. We got both Bink and Grant in 1999, which made Bink fifteen years old. He never seemed like an aging cat to me, perhaps because he spent so much time sleeping anyway. After a heartbreaking few weeks that I don’t begin to comprehend, my family decided to put Bink down.
They buried him out on the Pony Express Trail, which seemed right even if Bink would have hated the drive. It’s a place we’ll visit, and a place where we’ve made good memories.
It was weird to go home for Mariel’s wedding and not see a curled up kitty sleeping on the back of the sofa. More than once I mistook a sweater on a chair or the coffee table as the cat. I missed (even if Jason didn’t) Bink pawing at the bedroom door, sad that we wouldn’t let him in to sleep with us. His absence made the house seem just a little more empty, like someone we knew and loved had gone away. I’m not an animal person and I never thought I’d be broken up about a cat, but letting Bink go was hard. He was a good cat and we miss him.
(I started writing this back when Bink died in July, but I had to stop because I couldn’t stop crying. Even five months later this was tough to finish.)