I am sitting in my usual spot in the family room but something is missing. My legs wrapped in the fuzzy blue W & L blanket stretch out over the low coffee table. I have a rectangular pillow wedged behind my lower back for lumbar support on this saggy worn sofa. Even though the temperature outside is hot for this early October afternoon, I am cold. It may be the forced frigid air coming up from the floor vents which also puffs up the bottoms of the curtains. I believe my cool core temperature is due to the painful void I am trying to accept. Kitty is gone forever.
She will never again sit on my lap. It was only hours ago that I held her in my arms on the black Wake Forest fleece blanket, stroking her sleek grey coat. Each time I pulled my hand away she opened her eyes and tried to lift up her head. As foggy as her brain was getting due to the cancer, her sense of family nearby was sharp. Whenever she was left in the room alone, we would return to find her sitting up in an odd stiff manor staring blindly. Once she realized we were in the vicinity she turned in our direction and cried out for the comfort of our soothing touch.
She’d stopped eating or drinking. The wet meal delivered by syringe had been tolerated at first but became more of a battle in the end. Mobility and ability to relieve herself were rapidly declining. My daughter cried, “How long can this go on? What if she is in a lot of pain right now?” It felt selfish to want to keep her alive just so we could continue to pet her and love on her. She had several rounds of steroids. It just came to a point where her quality of life was in question.
“Quality of life for Kitty,” I thought to my self. This tabby cat has lived many years of quality life in our family. She was born in 2002. On the sad one year anniversary of 9/11, I wanted to boost my spirits so I took my two younger sons off to the place that we go for free smiles: The pet store. The kids liked to go inside and see all of the different breeds of puppies through the glass windows. This pet store had a little area where customers could pet a puppy. So we went into the little booth and they brought us a couple different dogs. Each one hopped around and licked the boys. Before leaving we stopped in front of the cat windows. That’s when I saw her. Petite, grey and black with large round eyes and big pointy ears. She pressed up to the glass between us. The boys and I all three sang, “Awwwww.” Then my son said, “Can we bring her home?” His younger brother echoed. “Can we?” I gave it maybe a moment of hesitation (as at the time my husband was not a cat person), then I quickly made up my mind. This sweet little kitty was going home with our family on this sad day to bring happiness into our house. She did just that!
After absorbing the shock of my impulsive actions my husband rallied around the idea of a new member of our family. We decided on the name Liberty because of bringing her home on 9/11. That name was pretty tough for our youngest to pronounce. We also called her Kitty. The nick name Kitty stuck and fit her perfectly. Kitty was the little sister my daughter never had. Kitty was tough, fast and agile, as she had to be with four rambunctious kids in the house. We moved into three different houses with Kitty, and even one 2nd story condominium while we house-hunted. Kitty was just over a year old when we brought home her baby sister, an Australian Shepherd puppy, named Dot. Kitty wasn’t sure at first about Dot, but they eventually became best friends. They slept in different spots on the rug or sofa, then ran to greet me at the garage door each time I came home. They play barked and air wrestled. Even though Dot was larger, Kitty was boss. Kitty was also fast, and big fun chases would ensue. Especially with one of the boys encouraging Dot to, “Get the Kitty, Dot!” She’d hiss and run off as Dot barked and ran after her.
When Dot died a little over a year ago, Kitty’s behavior changed. She sensed the deep sadness that filled our house. She made her presence known. She became very vocal, meowing in the evenings upstairs in the hallway or in the middle of the kitchen while I was cooking. She also followed me around everywhere, and even began the regular habit of sleeping on our bed at night. What she began doing without fail was coming over to me in my usual sitting spot and settling herself squarely on my lap. It did not matter that I was balancing a hot coffee mug in one hand and a book in the other. Kitty curled her little warm body on the soft blanketed crevice made by my stretched out legs. We all have stories about Kitty from over the years, some are tender and touching (like when she comforted my daughter when she got sick, Nurse Kitty), and other stories make us laugh (like when my son’s science project of keeping a daily pictorial log of a growing bean plant was abruptly cut short due to Kitty beheading the skinny tall sprout). So many Kitty tales to tell, I may have to include her again in my blog from time to time.
Our hearts are breaking right now in her absence, but two bright spots that lift our spirits are the puppies Kitty welcomed into our house last June. I worried about the impact of these energetic dogs in the house. Right away Kitty set the rules for Koda and Summer. They never bothered her. Perhaps as Kitty’s illness was growing inside of her body, she may have found comfort knowing that our family would be all right when her time came to leave us. As I have said, this tabby cat gave me so much love and healing when my heart needed it in recent times. I think I can say the same for each member of my family. Kitty always knew who needed her loving attention and was there for that person.
Thank you Kitty. We will all love you and miss you forever!