Reader Pets: Mr. Sullivan, the cat

I’d been forsaking our “reader pet” segment during the election, but rest assured, it’s back. This one comes from AMERICAblog reader Carolyn, of Palm Springs, CA. It’s about her cat, Mr. Sullivan, who passed away earlier this year.

Mr. Sullivan

With tremendous sadness, we report the loss of our dear Mr. Sullivan – the “Winston Churchill” of cats.

‘Sullivan’ came to us on October 2nd, 2002. Accompanied by my mother, I met Sullivan at the Seal Beach (CA) Animal Shelter. He was the specimen I was in search of that day: a big, old, lazy boy cat who would be an imposing figure on our outdoor bench, a gatekeeper who would insure birds didn’t congregate on the over-head arbor and fly into the house. We could have chosen Veronica that day – also a runner-up for the position (and frankly a long-haired stunner who was more to my liking) but my mother kept lobbying for Sullivan and so it came to be.

Bird duty.

Mr. Sullivan fulfilled his duties as “bird deterrent” beautifully. He also showed us that despite his pulchritude, the boy could ‘dance’. He was amazingly fast and agile, could jump from floor to counter-top as well as catch any prey (mice, lizards, birds and bugs) that we asked him to…..often bringing them to us in ceremonial fashion.

In addition to things of a living nature, Mr. Sullivan also had a proclivity for plastic. We learned this very early on in our relationship. A product that came housed in plastic – specifically chips and fresh flowers – were of no interest but the PLASTIC itself was an enemy that had to be attacked. We put groceries on our new kitchen island one day and Mr. Sullivan jumped up there and started biting and ripping the plastic, drooling and looking stoned throughout the attack. A chip bag never stood a chance. A slight rustle coming into the house would bring him running. We’d have to immediately transfer the contents to a more pliant plastic zip-lock and relinquish the whole Frito-Lay branded plastic. Failure to do so meant he’d puncture and then kitty slobber the contents into uselessness.

Perhaps a good thing, Mr. Sullivan was not one for lots of cuddling. He’d tolerate a bit and never met the foot of a bed he didn’t love, but lap-sitting wasn’t his thing. My mother died on a Friday evening, four months after Mr. Sullivan became a member of the family in no small part because of her insistence. Throughout the entire Saturday and Sunday after her passing, Mr. Sullivan spent his time pressing his 25+ pounds to my chest with purpose to comfort me. He only did this once thereafter in our many years together.

Mr. Sullivan absolutely loved people and adored his dogs, Delphi and Berkeley (Old English Sheepdog and Collie respectively). [Picture not included as unavailable as of this writing]. He was their ‘little’ companion throughout and loved them but one afternoon two strange dogs came home from the groomer. It was Mr. Sullivan’s first summer and the dogs always got a June haircut. Mr. Sullivan was firmly convinced that these two strange short-haired beasts were infiltrating the home. He would have none of it and was determined to hold the territory until his dogs got home. He first took a swing at each dog and then went for them with claws out. He gave them both bloody noses and was viciously trying to get them off the property. We had to put him back into his carrier to break it up until his sense of smell clarified the situation. The summer haircut season always had Mr. Sullivan wide-eyed but he never again drew blood.

Mrs. Sullivan, with whom, alas, Mr. Sullivan did not click.

Delphi first and then Berkeley left Mr. Sullivan to meet their maker. Mr. Sullivan was at each of their sides when they passed away and when Berkeley was gone, we realized that Mr. Sullivan had never been without companionship in an empty house. It didn’t seem right that he not have a pal. Only once had he exhibited interest in another cat; one that he was in love with and would invite into the kitchen to eat out of his bowl in the middle of the night. He’d stretch out on the floor and gaze lovingly at her while she’d nibble his kibble. I spied her one night around 3 AM and while we had moved away from her neighborhood, [and no doubt ripped his heart out in the process] I went in search of a duplicate femme for him, and that’s how we got Mrs. Sullivan.

As Mr. Sullivan came to us, he departed. A lingering decline had started about 18 months ago. His portliness diminished but he remained very divine. He had taken to pressing himself to my chest within the last few weeks. I don’t know in retrospect if it was to comfort me or himself. After an evening with all of us together on Monday (4/23) he went in search of his barbed wire fence (or an accommodating coyote) late in the night. We had anticipated that it would be his way, not one for undignified endings and we were keeping an eye open to his possible escape routes. With keen creativity, he found one Monday night, leaving only a tipped flower pot as evidence of his methodology. Poof! Just poof. Silent absence. A screaming void.

More bird duty.

All day Tuesday we held hope of his return. On Tuesday night, I was tearfully standing at the bathroom sink, brushing my teeth thinking of the whole day passing without Mr. Sullivan….he’d had no food and no water. The Missus rubbed against my right leg and I thanked her out loud for her comforting gesture and looked down to pet her. She was not in the bathroom. She was asleep on the chair in the bedroom, along with both dogs and Brad.

Mr. Sullivan had confirmed his good-bye and left the building. The world will have a few more lizards, birds and mice and be less calm without him. He was the greatest cat – the Winston Churchill of cats and he’s smoking a big old cigar and squawking all about it …. and we can hear him whenever plastic rustles.

He’d want you to know.

CyberDisobedience on Substack | @aravosis | Facebook | Instagram | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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11 Responses to “Reader Pets: Mr. Sullivan, the cat”

  1. lilyannerose says:

    It hurts I lost my beautiful boy Angus in June. Beautiful Border Collie. He was nearly 15 years-old and I had him from six weeks. I knew he was going when he quit eating and took very little water for the week before. He spent a lot of time with his head on my lap and we had some amazing “remember when you did this or that.” I was happy it was peaceful and he died at home where everything was familiar as I dreaded having to get him to the Vet’s Office [he never met the Vet he liked]. It helps [perhaps foolishly] that I had him cremated and have his ashes. I’m not one to believe in “ghosts” or hauntings, but I swear there were moments when I looked out of the corner of my vision and he was sitting there looking about six months old and I could clearly him saying, “that was fun – let’s do it again.”

  2. hollywoodstein says:

    Totally bummed. Those were some of my best black out posts.

  3. Mike_in_the_Tundra says:

    Around these parts, we refer to them as tummy rubs. The decibel level of the purrs provide immediate feedback.

  4. dmhlt_66 says:

    What you call “Bird Duty” looks to me like a tummy needing some serious “scritching”.

    Scritcher-Deficiency in cats can be a very serious malady – but I’m sure the owner more than met the RDA allowance requirement of tummy scritches.

  5. Krusher says:

    Lovely story! But now I”ll all choked up.

  6. Indigo says:

    Thanks. So far so good but keeping my fingers crossed. :-)

  7. Indigo says:

    What a sweet tribute!

  8. karmanot says:

    Working here now. Bodhi Dog likes the Mr. Sullivan—wonderful in our eyes too.

  9. Let me know if folks can’t login. I upgraded us to the new Disqus again, hoping that it’s working better this time around. And I couldn’t log in. I COULD log in by going to and logging in directly, then coming back here and refreshing. If you can’t log in, try that. Otherwise, let me know if the Disqus upgrade is working or not please, here or by email if it’s really not working: [email protected] – thanks, JOHN

  10. hollywoodstein says:

    I got a D twice on papers in high school and college arguing that animals had mental worlds. I thought to myself, don’t these people have pets. Anyone with a dog or a cat would know the truth.
    But the Skinner closed box ruled. Fortunately, that tide is turning as well. Hopefully, someday we will treat them all with respect. Even our food.
    Or with true respect, and not make them our food.

  11. 2patricius2 says:

    Very touching. Thank you for sharing.

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