Thursday, January 16, 2014


A long time ago, in a personal history far, far away...

One of my parents once took me to the farm of a family friend. I can't remember if it was my mother or my father. There's a date stamped very faintly on the back of the following photo that fortifies the very strong feeling that it was my father who took me. The date looks like July 1988, which would have been two months after my mother died.

PeeWee sleeping on a pillow.
I remember my dad taking this picture, though. I remember cuddling this little kitten I brought home until he fell asleep, passed right out on his back on this pillow. I remember leaning over to give him this kiss and the smell of his fur as it tickled my nose. I remember snippets of all the days that followed. Cutting holes in the pants of my Cabbage Patch doll's clothes so I could put them on the cat. Standing on the border of the concrete garage floor and gravel driveway yelling, "PeeeeeeeWeeeeeee! Time for diiiiiiiiiiiinn-eeeeeeeeeer!" He always came when I called him. Until he didn't.

The day he didn't is the day we moved out of our house and into a stranger's. My dad had remarried. My brothers made up a lie that Dad told them to tell me about the cat. Years later they told me they had taken PeeWee and Pokey (another kitten we got) to a farm and dumped them there, because I wasn't allowed to take my cats with me. I don't remember what lie they told me then. I'm not sure I really forgive them, either.

My step-mom had cats, but they weren't my cat. They weren't really hers either. They were supposedly her daughter's cats, but I don't remember Lisa ever really taking care of them. What I remember of my step-sister and animals is her acquiring them like jewelry. Wanting to stuff them in a box and forget about them. Maybe take them out to wear when it was convenient. I remember her having a chinchilla, a fish tank in her room with a puffer fish in it, getting macaws when she moved out. Always acquisitions. Never really pets.

I made up for my lack of PeeWee by loving her neglected Halfpint, the most affectionate old lady calico I have ever known. She was sick, though. Always sick. We nicknamed her Sneezer, because she always sneezed these giant globs of snot all over the place. They kept her outside. I remember spending a lot of time sitting on the porch swing with Halfpint curled up in my lap, purring away while I scratched her chin and told her my troubles. I still haven't forgiven my step-mother for not letting me take her with me when I moved out. I should have just taken her. I learned years later that they hadn't seen Halfpint in all that time, and she had allegedly made good with another family down the street.

I have always been a cat person. I have always felt a strong affinity for felines. I feel like one of them. I understand them. I value their independence and self reliance, their resilience. I love how easy they are to care for compared to dogs. Give me children over dogs any day.

Isis in Mike's kitchen - 2000 something.
Christmas of 1998 I decided that the one present I was going to buy for myself was a cat. To hell with my stepmother. To hell with everybody. After the death of my father in May of that year, there was a giant void in my heart that only the soft downy belly of a purring kitten could fill. So my boyfriend and I took a trip to the last remaining pet store in the area. I will never forget the sad, defeated, amber-eyed baby queen, with her face smooshed into the corner of the cage, looking at me with helpless desperation. "I'm tired," her eyes said. "I can't take any more of these kids coming in here jostling me around and pulling my tail."

I crouched down and smiled at her. She blinked slowly as she watched me. I looked up at her so as not to intimidate her, and said, "You want to come home with me don't you." She blinked again. I stuck a finger in the cage and scratched under her chin. She purred. I paid the clerk and took her home with me. I named her Isis.

My poor Isis lived an unstable life. I took her from my tiny, closet bedroom to a two bedroom loft apartment. My boyfriend's only condition was that she must be declawed to prevent damage to the furniture we were renting. My one regret. Seven months there and she was taken away to live with me in my brother's basement for a little bit. Then I moved her across the street to the town house I rented with my good friend Matt. After a year there, we went back to my brother's. There came a time I had to ask Matt to desperately take her with him, because I had no home to offer her. Eventually, when my husband and I got our shit together again, I got her back. She died of renal failure the first time I got pregnant, the miscarriage at seven weeks. She lived from 1998 until 2007.

Tigger in our first home as newlyweds: 2003.
When my husband and I first started dating, I was living in a town house with my brother Keith for all of maybe a month. My brother had adopted a kitten from our other brother's girlfriend. Turns out her kids were allergic. Keith told me to take Tigger with me when I moved in with Jamie, so I did.

We moved this poor guy around quite a bit too. There came a point where we had to leave him with Jamie's mother for a week until we got ourselves a new apartment. From there we moved him from the basement apartment to the upper level, and then to a house we shared with our married couple friends. Poor Tigger died of renal failure too. I'll never forget the day James (our friend) woke me up to tell me he had found him coughing up blood all over the kitchen. I'll never forget laying in the bathroom with him all night long, trying to keep him comfortable and ease his pain, until we finally had to make the decision to put him to rest. Tigger lived from 2002 until 2009.

China, before Lilah was born in 2010.
During the Christmas season of 2002, my fiancé and I strolled through, I think, the Canton Center Mall. This was right before it started falling into disrepair. There were few if any shops open, but we happened to come across an island stall that was run by the local Humane Society. From a distance of thirty feet, I could feel pure hatred radiating from an illuminated, small, white, fluffy source. I watched as this single young cat glared and hissed at every child that wandered by. I knew as I closed in on her position that I absolutely had to have her.

This glistening white beauty with two-toned devil's eyes came prenamed: China. Though the ladies assured us that we could change her name to whatever we wanted, we could think of nothing better. Though in retrospect, Evil Bitch may have been appropriate.

China's story continues to this day. We brought her home to our single bedroom apartment and watched in horror as she took up residence under our tiny Christmas tree for three whole days. She would not come out to eat. Daring to try to grab her out from under the tree landed us scars to remember her by. I do not regret making the cruel decision to declaw her, though, because if I hadn't she probably would have killed somebody by now.

Our mean cat has been with us since the beginning. Hard to believe that she's eleven years old already, that we have had her with us for this long. She has lived with us in every apartment and town home we have ever rented, and came with us to the house we now own. She has seen me bring home two babies, and protected the second one fiercely for reasons unknown. Though she started out absolutely detesting any and all children who came into her vicinity, she is the most tolerant and loving of cats to my girls. Everybody else can go frak themselves, as far as she's concerned.

The furbaby I miss the most is my Gremlin. We acquired her from the previously mentioned married couple friends. James called me up one day to tell me they had got a kitten, and of course I had to rush right over to meet it! He told me this story about how he had found the poor little thing hiding in the storage shed at work (he worked at a lumber yard). After some coaxing and cooing, he rescued the little kitten and brought her home with him. When we were first introduced, they had just given her a bath, and my first impression was, "Awwww! It looks just like a little gremlin!" You know. From the movies.

Well. The name stuck, and about a month later they were calling me up again to say that they weren't the cat people they thought they were, and would we like to have her. I COULD NOT SAY NO. I had fallen in love with that little monster the moment I laid eyes on her! She liked to attack my arms when I visited. We'd wrestle. I cuddled her to bits and pieces. Of course I would take her! And she was my best friend. The loudest purrer. The snuggliest, most loving cat I had ever known. So it broke my heart to smithereens the day she died, pretty much as soon as I found out I was pregnant with my firstborn. Gremlin lived a mere two years from 2008 until 2010. She was still just a baby.

Not so much a baby as our dearly departed Penelope, though. We only knew that tiny little calico angel for a single week. Lilah still talks about her, and it chokes me up every single time. We brought her home from the Summit County Animal Shelter with another kitten who is still with us. According to the veterinarian, the shelter likely misjudged Penny's age before spaying her and putting her up for adoption. We tried everything in our power to help her thrive, but at 2:00 in the morning, a week after we brought her home, she passed away in my arms. She's the first animal we've ever been able to return to the earth, because now we have a house of our very own. All of our other furbabies have been cremated.

Before Amelia was born, there was also Zoey. I have the worst luck with cats and pregnancies. It seems that every time I get pregnant, one of my furbabies dies. Part of me feels that maybe they live on in my girls. Maybe my sweet Gremlin lives inside of Lilah now, and our darling Zoey is a part of Amelia. If the whole reincarnation thing were true, the timing would be right.

We rescued Zoey some time after Tigger died. Tigger had been my husband's cat, and Tigger's death is the only time I had seen him cry. I made him take Zoey home, because when we saw her at PetSmart I could see how much he was smitten with her. We have no idea what took her. For a couple of days I had found her having seizures. One day she'd seem lethargic. The next she'd be perfectly fine. But then I found her, paws cold and choking. I held her as she took her last breaths too. Zoey lived from 2009 until 2012.

Which brings us to today.

We still have China. I think she's going to live to be 27, just to spite me. She's filled with so much hate that I don't think she's capable of dying. As I said above, when we adopted dear Penelope, we brought her home with another kitten too. He's still here. He's about nine months old now and as big as our crotchety old lady cat. His name is Virgil, and unlike China, who moved with us from apartment to apartment, this will likely be the only home he'll ever know.

China will steadfastly deny this ever happened.
I'm telling you all of this now, in one fell swoop, because it's likely our furbabies will be mentioned in other stories I may feel compelled to share. I also feel that pets are important to have around children. I think it teaches them better compassion, among other things. So if you are going to continue reading this blog, you must . . . love . . . cats. Well okay. You have to at least like them a little.

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