If everything goes according to plan, when Steve Munt walks outside his home in Lake Oswego and gazes at the sky with his high-powered binoculars, he'll soon be able to search for a tiny speck floating off in the distance.
It won't be the speck itself that Munt will be looking for, though. It's the much tinier object nestled within the satellite that will draw his attention — the orbiting remains of Munt's beloved cat, Pikachu.
When the satellite comes overhead, Munt says, he and Pikachu's sizable contingent of fans will be able to fondly reflect on the cat's short life.
"To me that's comforting. I can look up and I can know that he's up there," Munt says. "And other people who have shared the love of Pikachu can do the same thing."
It's easy to tell that Munt would do practically anything to protect and honor his collection of cats, which was reduced to six when Pikachu recently died at the age of 7. When a veterinarian told Munt his cat Zee had kidney disease and only nine months to live, for example, Munt paid for Zee to receive stem cell therapy and acupuncture. Despite the grim prognosis, Zee remains alive to this day and enjoys an avid Twitter following of more than 12,000 fans.
Pikachu was initially a neighbor's cat, but he would frequently gravitate toward Munt's home. And when Munt and his daughters would interact with Pikachu, the cat would often touch their nose with his paw.
"It was very endearing. We would pet him and he would actually reach up to touch our noses. It was very unique," Munt says.
With more time than their neighbors to take care of Pikachu, the Munts opted to care for the cat for the last few years of his life.
"Pikachu decided where he wanted to live," Munt says.
"Pikachu wanted to live with us, and they (the neighbors) had actually acknowledged that."
But unlike Zee, Pikachu's illness proved too debilitating. The cat had contracted pancreatitis, his blood sugar had reached an alarmingly high level and it had gotten to the point where he would stare at a water fountain in Munt's home without actually drinking.
A veterinarian recommended that Pikachu be euthanized, and Munt came to agree with him.
"It was an incredibly difficult decision," Munt says. "He had already been through two hospitalizations. But this was the first day I felt he was suffering."
When Pikachu passed away in January, Munt simply told him he was a "good cat" and that he would be remembered for his elegance and affection, among other reasons.
"He was just a loving cat and an adorable cat and a very comforting cat," he says.
After Pikachu's death, though, Munt thought about other ways to honor him. The space exploration idea, he says, was largely inspired by Zee's Twitter account.
Click here to read the rest of the story in the Lake Oswego Review.
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