PHOTO: Fluff enjoying his favorite tree root, July 2016. One deep blue eye, half asleep.
I called him Fluff, which was a nickname. "Fluff Guy" sometimes. His occupation, among other things, was to convert ordinary matter into the purest fluff, a task he performed with exceptional skill. So if I had to print out his full name on a birth certificate, it would likely read: Fluff Converter.
Nomenclature perhaps too formal for daily use.
Tricia and I discovered him in my first workshop. He and I and a raccoon and a colony of bats all shared an abandoned house positioned exactly one long extension cord away from our tiny cabin in the woods near Frenchtown.
We knew about the bats, based upon piles of guano and rustling in the walls and ceiling whenever we walked around on the second floor. My guitar shop was on the first floor, chosen primarily because there was less likelihood of the water damaged floorboards giving way beneath my feet, and more importantly because I could staple clear plastic over the window and door to keep some heat in the room when temperatures reached the low twenties.
I was building Halie's Orchid bass that moment, just prior to considering making a perhaps leap into lutherie as an occupation. At the time, working in a bat-shit-infested-ruin seemed a more enticing option than putting my Masters to use as an elementary school teacher.
The human mind never ceases to amaze.
Tricia had the advantage of entering the building without earplugs (I always wear them while working) so she detected a creature of some size knocking about on the upper floor. Investigation proved it to be an emaciated skittish wreck of a cat, taking refuge in insulation inside a collapsed wall. It took a few days and bowls of homemade chicken soup to coax him close enough for detailed inspection.
Matted fur. Left eyeball deflated and lifeless in an empty socket. Infected, maggots. Raccoon fight. Front canines missing, gums rotted. He stood swaying on his feet, wanting to be friends, barely able to stand.
"Can we please keep him?" she asked me, breathlessly.
Josie the dog was unconvinced. Cats were an alien species, more closely aligned with "prey" rather than "pack" — and undivided time and attention from her people was highest on the list of preferred activities. She disdained this unfortunate visitor who stayed on day after day.
Fluff was undeterred. He fell instantly in love with Josie. When she returned from one of our woods runs, drenched, muddy, panting, to collapse into her dog bed, he casually sauntered over and curled up by her belly, grooming Josie's fur so as not to soil his own precious fluff. At first she staggered to her feet, disgruntled, to relocate near the door. After a few weeks, one and a half pairs of eyes from their combined fur pile tracked us as we wandered about the cottage, doing our caffeinated people dance.
Tricia made the difficult decision today. My heart broke more than a little, I truly loved him, a best friend for almost ten years.