Tuesday, March 8, 2011

In like a lion....

....out like a lamb.

I had to say goodbye to an old friend today.
Katie almost made it to her 18th birthday.
Truthfully, we don't know when she was born... "sometime in mid-March" we were told...so we picked March 17th as her birthday to make her a St. Paddy's Day kitty.
She was born on a farm in upstate New York and came to us in April of 1993, from a relative of my brother-in-law's who heard we were looking to adopt a kitten.
She was tiny, and much younger than the kittens you're allowed to adopt from agencies.
Which may explain why she was a little wild.

At the time I was living in Farmingdale, Long Island, renting a house with my sister and her husband. When Katie arrived in our home that day back in 1993 she trotted out of the cat carrier and went straight up the back of the couch.
"Mine," she said.
She was never a shy kitty. She was prone to making 5 foot leaps and attaching herself to the screen door.  She would hide under the kitchen table and wait for one of us to walk by, and then dash out, wrap her little paws around our ankles and bite down as hard as she could.
These weren't love bites.
These were, "take me back to the farm so I can play with my brothers and sisters" bites.
Katie had a brother who we met the first day she came to us. He was being adopted elsewhere.
He was all white, and big. Twice the size of Katie. In fact, Katie was the runt of the litter.
I imagine she had to learn how to defend herself against 'rough play' fairly early.
So our ankles were paying the price.

As she got older she mellowed a bit, but was still prone to whipping around and biting the hand that fed her, especially if you approached her the wrong way or were petting her a nanosecond longer than she preferred.
We made her an indoor cat, but that didn't stop her from trying to get out when she had the chance.
One winter's day I was holding the front screen door open to talk to someone outside and Katie came bounding down the stairwell that led to the second floor, and darted out the door, down the front steps and down the front walk, before she realized it was covered in ice and snow.
She tried to stop and did one of those cartoon style skids with claws and fur flying everywhere.
Right before she hit the street she was able to gain traction....she then did a 180 degree turn and ran at full speed back up the walkway, up the front steps, in the door, and up the stairwell back up to the second floor.
This all happened in the span of about 15 seconds. Hysterical.
She wasn't as eager to get outside after that experience.

Once I moved her up to CT she did get out one day in the summer when workmen in the house left the doors propped open. I came home from work four hours later expecting to be searching far and wide for her, only to find her sitting calmly in a patch of sun around the side of the house.
That's as far as she got.
I'm sure she inspected every blade of grass along the way.

She was reticent outside, but inside she was her usual crabby self.
My partner Stephanie took to calling her "the psycho bitch cat from Long Island" when we first started dating. Because of her Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality, and because whenever Steph stayed at my house and left her books on the floor Katie would throw up on them.
"Mine," she said.
Meaning me.
Katie did not like the fact that she was no longer the center of my universe.

But she adapted, as she did when I left her behind with my sister for a year when I moved to CT to an apartment that didn't allow pets. She put up with the grabby hands and running feet of my sister's little ones for a year until I moved her up to CT, and then a month later she got knocked off the top of the heap again when we adopted a kitten.
Kittens like to play.
And by this time Katie was old, fat and slow....the farm years and ankle biting of her youth long behind her. When the kitten jumped on her, Katie's strategy was to flop on her side, put her ears back and growl and hiss.
We named the kitten "Stalker" because she took to hiding out in the hallway or in shadowed rooms, just waiting for Katie to walk by.
Katie was like the LST ships my dad served on in WWII - a Large Slow Target.

But her last years were happy ones. She had a hyperthyroid, lost a lot of weight, and had to take medication twice a day, and she had never quite healed from a leg/back injury she suffered a few years ago, which caused her to walk crooked. She had arthritis and was unable to get herself in and out of the litterbox for #2 so she used the rubber mat we put down for our snow boots. We adapted. We think she had lost most of her hearing, and her eyesight was getting worse, but she was otherwise alert and purred up a storm whenever I came home from school for the weekend.

Three days ago she started to have trouble walking and was unable to make it more than a few steps without falling over. She had trouble getting to the litterbox and had more than a few accidents.  Last night I found her in the kitchen with a bloody nose. Did she fall and injure herself? Or was something else going on inside of her that was much more serious.
We could have spent a lot of money and put her through the misery of a bunch of tests to find out if she had something treatable.
We've done it before. We're still paying off the multi-thousand dollar bill from her back injury ordeal.
But no more.
Even the vet agreed that it was time to let her go. 

She went peacefully. Purring right up until the end as I stroked her head and spoke to her, telling her how much I loved her.
Surprisingly I did not cry until after she was gone.
I was smiling as she slowly drifted off to sleep, the life disappearing from her eyes.
I was happy for her. Happy that she was finally free and out of pain.

After the doctor left us to be alone with her one last time I had this horrific split second realization that I was responsible for this. I had taken her life.
This is a decision that no one ever wants to make.
And I think it's part of being human to feel guilt after it is done.
But I know in my heart that it was the right thing to do.

I imagine that she's in kitty heaven right now, running and playing and doing all the things she hadn't been able to do for so long.
She's up there with all the other kitties that I've lost over the years, but she's special... because she trusted me to be there with her when she passed.
I'm sure she trotted right in through the pearly gates, and launched herself onto the first comfy chair that she saw.
"Mine," she said.
And yes indeed, Katie, it's yours to enjoy for eternity. 

Rest in peace my sweet kitty.


Anonymous said...

Yup, her brother was named Casper and went to live out east with my friend Debbie. But as we talked from time to time later on, Katie and Casper were EXACTLY alike even though they'd been separated.

You forgot to mention putting her on a leash and walking her around in the back yard -- I think that gave her her taste for freedom and I remember the snowy day incident!!!

And she gave me and Robert a good scare when he was 1. Came charging at us growling -- had to scoop him up, use the stroller as a shield and kick her out the door into the foyer and slam it shut!

But I really missed her when you took her up to CT. (but now we have the two that no longer look like the picture in your header and they are a little more mellow)

RIP Katie we'll miss you.


Maureen said...

Casper! Now I remember. :) Thanks Suzy, I was going to call you after I got back from the vet this morning but I've been crying all day and I didn't think I'd be coherent on the phone! Sorry you had to find out through facebook.

I remember when you had to chase Katie into the foyer. She had me cornered a few times, too, once when the coat rack fell over. She was easily spooked. Remember when she got that mylar balloon stuck to her tail? She tore around the house trying to get away from it not realizing that it was attached to her. LOL!

I'm glad you have Shadow and Creme to keep you company now. Stalker is going to be lonely and is already missing Katie. I know I am.

Love you,
Mo xo

Just one more thought... said...

Dearest Mo,

What a beautiful story. My heart is there with you. Katie's character burst out of your story. My ankles felt the prickles of kitten teeth and tiny claws. And the laughter I experienced why you described her first getaway! What a beautiful girl with a lion sized personality. Thank you for writing this tribute and sharing it with us.

Love, Holly