“Just leave some food out for him and he’ll find his way out.”

A university maintenance employee said these words to Sonya and me after our cat managed to get stuck inside an air duct, 12 feet off the ground. No one knows how this happened – not that it would make sense if we did. He was high on catnip at the time, somehow got into the duct and freaked out when he sobered up hours later. Fortunately the worker’s advice was right on, and Rocky emerged the next morning.

Sadly, he was not even the slightest bit wiser after his ordeal. Rooms get dumber when Rocky walks through. No piece of plastic in our house has ever gone unchewed, unswallowed and unregurgitated back onto the floor. He has smacked his apparently empty head into every wall in our house and fallen off of virtually every piece of furniture we’ve owned. He has even managed to cause house problems when there’s no house: when we did our renovation project, he somehow ran up to the unfinished second floor and got stuck.

Owen has had the cat pegged since he was a little kid. When I asked if Rocky might like to join us for a game we were playing, he said, “The only game Rocky likes to play is ‘Let’s pee on everything.’”

I mention all this because Rocky turned 16 last week, and given that 16 human years works out to 84 cat years, this is impressive. You know how people think of all the crazy stuff David Crosby or Keith Richards did and marvel at how they’re still alive all these years later? We look at Rocky that way.

His physical speed now matches the speed of his mind; the kitten who used to race around our living room, sometimes with a garbage bag inexplicably caught around his midsection, is now an old grump fueled almost entirely by irritation. His favorite pastime is giving neighbor cats the evil eye when they visit our yard. “As soon as I can break through this window,” he seems to say, “I’m gonna fix you for… (yawn) I’ll… (stretch) take a… nap…”

And yes, we fully expect this to go on for at least 16 more years. We’re just going to leave food out for him and let him find his way out of these situations.