I agreed to adopt Lucy and her litter sister Ethel in May 2002, a month after they had been left with their other litter mates in front of my vet hospital. I couldn’t bring them home until July because of my travel for work, so for two months they had the run of the back rooms of the hospital, running around the room where animal patients were recovering from or awaiting procedures. Both black in color, Lucy had short hair while Ethel was a fluff ball of long hair, and they were a hit with the staff.
My sister-in-law said at the time: “you’re going to be one of those cat ladies,” referring both to the fact that I would then have three cats, and that I was single at the time. I adopted them anyway, and met my future husband a few months later. A cat lover himself, David withstood inspection (trial, really) from my male cat Moses, who really was not at all happy this fellow was hanging around. Moses brought mice home several times during that period to show me he could provide for me… And then one day he got over it, and the two of them were inseparable. The kittens took to him too: my three cats became our three cats.
Lucy has always been the more extroverted of the two cats, loving to be with people and happy to hang out, while Ethel is shy and secretly ferocious. Lucy took over the role of alpha cat when Moses died, and began emulating his behavior: she’d sleep in ‘his’ chair in David’s office, began petitioning for lap time while David worked at the computer – providing Cat5 support – which was something Moses had always done, and took her place in the narrow space between us as we slept that we call ‘the valley of love.’ Sometimes, when she’d be on David’s lap on the couch, she’d lean her head back and look at him with such adoration. I’m certain she loved us both, but she and David have had a special bond.
She has been willful and entitled, arguing back with a sheep-like bleat when told not to do something, clearly understanding both the tone and intent of our words. She has ruined several lovely pieces of upholstered furniture with her scratching even though she has had plenty of cardboard scratching posts available. She has been jealous of Ethel, and chased her off the bed. And yet she has mostly been loving and sweet to us and to strangers, and always been a chow meow: looking for more food or another treat, especially Gouda cheese. She has deeply appreciated many pleasures: human attention, sitting in the sun on the deck, naps, pats and scratches, food – lots of food — and a good lap.
We met our former neighbor and now dear friend Russell (and occasional house sitter/cat care provider) because she wandered over from our back yard to his (several yards down) and befriended him. One day, he approached me on the street saying “you’re Lucy’s mom!” Last Friday we shared our fondness for “the paw”: as Lucy’s appetite burgeoned over the last six months and she wanted an early morning feeding, she would gingerly walk up to your sleeping face and reach out with her paw to ‘ever so gently’ touch it. Once awake, she’d jump off the bed and assume you were following her down to the kitchen to feed her. If you closed your eyes again, she’d repeat “the paw”, and show you, again, the way down to the kitchen.
Over the past year, Lucy has lost her sway belly and extra weight, developed severe arthritis in her hip and back legs, and is now a skinny, tiny slip of a cat with a bony back. The vet diagnosed kidney disease earlier this year, but couldn’t explain her dramatic weight loss (12lbs to a mere 7+lbs). When we returned from our most recent Canadian adventure, she looked tired and pained. I have always thought of her as a young cat, even at over 14 years old, but now she seems old.
She walked onto my chest in the middle of the night late last week, and sat down for a bit. I’m pretty sure she asked me if she could go; I know she told me she loved me, and that she was tired, so very tired. We have second-guessed ourselves any number of times about what to do, especially as her arthritis and pain meds have masked her discomfort. But she has spent most parts of most days under the bed, which cats do when they are hurt or in pain. Either way, I am sad, so very sad.
We humans know – if we are lucky with our own mortality – that our lives will be much longer than those of any pets we invite into our lives. Yet we still do it, knowing we’ll have to say goodbye and grieve the loss. We do it because these creatures are so special in their animal ways, and they bring so much joy, love and companionship into our lives. They bridge us to our own animal parts and wildness while inviting us to be more humane. They remind us that being human means creating bonds, and deepening them even if we know they won’t last in this physical world.
We say goodbye to sweet Lucy today, wishing her peace, and with luck, a loving, fun reunion with Moses. I’m grateful that we found each other and that she has shared our lives these past 14 years.
She has been a very good cat.
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