Aengus, 2011(?)–2018

This morning, when grading essays, I heard Aengus heaving loudly. I ran over, but he collapsed. A few seconds later, he died.

Over five years ago, on December 29, 2012, I adopted him from Sean Casey Animal Rescue in Brooklyn. He was feral; he had been hit and badly injured by a car, and for months he wouldn’t let anyone near him. One day he was so hungry and tired that he curled up in an outdoor flower pot; at that point they rescued him.

They had to force-feed him intravenously for months before the vet could treat him. His palate, right jaw, and right eye were smashed. Finally they gave him surgery–removing and stitching up the smashed eye, reconstructing the jaw and palate, and removing the broken teeth (leaving just two). He almost lost his other eye as well, since it had started getting infected. When I went to the center looking for a cat, I saw him in his cage; he looked scary at first, but when I put my hand inside, he nestled up to it and purred. Here is a photo of us on the day of his adoption:


He was sweet, affectionate, playful, and seemingly dreamy (who knows his thoughts?). He loved to sleep next to me and purr, to gaze out the window, to bat his favorite toys (especially the plastic springs), and to taunt my other cat, Minnaloushe (who was the one taunting him in the beginning).

Because of his fractured jaw and missing teeth, he couldn’t chew his food well, so he sometimes threw it up or sneezed or coughed. His blood tests came out fine, though, and in all other ways he seemed healthy–leaping around, eating heartily, snuggling with me, and watching the outdoors for hours.

This morning, before I got up, he jumped up onto my pillow and purred for a long time. Later, when I was grading some papers, I heard a strange noise. Three loud gasps, and he fell down.

Two hours later, I took him to the hospital (as soon as it opened). The people in the waiting room were kind; one of them offered me a seat and helped with translation. Sitting there among the sweet dogs and cats, I had a chance to cry a little.

The vet said that it may have been a heart failure, a common cause of sudden death in cats. I left Aengus there, made arrangements to have his body taken away, and walked to school. I arrived just in time for my first class; it felt strange to switch right into vocabulary review, but I proceeded with the day.

He was a good sport about coming to Hungary with me–just a few meows, but otherwise calm and cheerful. Over the past few weeks he enjoyed the spring air and sounds out on the balcony. Even when indoors, he would sit for hours inside the curtain and look out. I don’t know what he saw–the balcony railing blocks a lot of the view–but whatever it was, it enthralled him. Here he is, looking in from the outside at night.


Of all the pictures I have taken of Aengus, these three stand out: the one of his shadow, when he began to consider emerging from the den (in June 2013), the one of him on the couch in my last apartment in New York, and the one of him looking out the balcony door, just earlier this month.




Goodbye, Aengus.


I added to this piece after posting it.

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  1. Goodbye, Minnaloushe | Take Away the Takeaway

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    Diana Senechal is the author of Republic of Noise: The Loss of Solitude in Schools and Culture and the 2011 winner of the Hiett Prize in the Humanities, awarded by the Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture. Her second book, Mind over Memes: Passive Listening, Toxic Talk, and Other Modern Language Follies, was published by Rowman & Littlefield in October 2018. In February 2022, Deep Vellum will publish her translation of Gyula Jenei's 2018 poetry collection Mindig Más.

    Since November 2017, she has been teaching English, American civilization, and British civilization at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium in Szolnok, Hungary. From 2011 to 2016, she helped shape and teach the philosophy program at Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science & Engineering in New York City. In 2014, she and her students founded the philosophy journal CONTRARIWISE, which now has international participation and readership. In 2020, at the Varga Katalin Gimnázium, she and her students released the first issue of the online literary journal Folyosó.


    On April 26, 2016, Diana Senechal delivered her talk "Take Away the Takeaway (Including This One)" at TEDx Upper West Side.

    Here is a video from the Dallas Institute's 2015 Education Forum.  Also see the video "Hiett Prize Winners Discuss the Future of the Humanities." 

    On April 19–21, 2014, Diana Senechal took part in a discussion of solitude on BBC World Service's programme The Forum.  

    On February 22, 2013, Diana Senechal was interviewed by Leah Wescott, editor-in-chief of The Cronk of Higher Education. Here is the podcast.


    All blog contents are copyright © Diana Senechal. Anything on this blog may be quoted with proper attribution. Comments are welcome.

    On this blog, Take Away the Takeaway, I discuss literature, music, education, and other things. Some of the pieces are satirical and assigned (for clarity) to the satire category.

    When I revise a piece substantially after posting it, I note this at the end. Minor corrections (e.g., of punctuation and spelling) may go unannounced.

    Speaking of imperfection, my other blog, Megfogalmazások, abounds with imperfect Hungarian.

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