Saturday, June 4, 2011

Goodbye, Sweet Girl

Note: This was originally a note I posted on Facebook in November, 2009. I was reminded of it tonight, and decided it warranted a re-publish. I still miss my Abby.
She was the afterthought. When I went to the shelter to pick out “a” kitty as my birthday present from my then-boyfriend, the lady who ran the place raved on and on about “Little Mary Louise,” the mischievous little stinker who was the runt of her litter. I was sold. But not so fast – the shelters always encourage you to adopt two at a time – you know, so they aren’t “lonely.” “Mary Louise” had three brothers and a sister. The boys were all cute, but the sister was an almost-twin to “Mary Louise,” only slightly bigger, and with tabby-striped spots that were more black than brown. She seemed sweet, and they made a good matched set. So “Little Mary Louise” and her sister came home.

They needed better names, though. For some reason, the two of them brought to mind two little old spinster sisters – like the Baldwins on the Walton’s. Or maybe the two silly geese sisters in “The Aristocats.” I decided they needed little old lady names: Gertrude and Abigail it was.

Gertie and I developed an instant bond. She was the snuggler, who wanted to be held constantly. Abby was more elusive. There were times when she wanted – insisted on – your attention. But often, she was content to find a quiet corner in which to curl up. Gertie was also neurotic – she cried a lot, wanted to be right next to me, if not perched on top of me, and considered the usage of the litter box optional. She was my problem child. And so, though it was probably unfair, she got the bulk of my attention.

Abby? She was content to live mostly in the shadows. She did have her moments, though. Like the time she took off in the parking lot of an abandoned Shell station in BF Illinois while I was transporting them back to Chicago in the dead of winter. They’d both gotten violently ill (from the WRONG end) while in their carrier, and I’d had no choice but to stop and try to clean them and the carrier up. Once the door was open, little paws covered in you-don’t-want-to-know-what skittered about my car and then out into the parking lot, as I tried to clean up awful glop with those pathetic fake paper towel things they have next to gas pumps to wipe off your windows. The icy wind whipped through the lot as I alternately cried and retched. Gertie stayed near, but Abby decided to explore. I wasn’t entirely certain I’d ever catch her, but she eventually let me. Yowling, loudly, the whole time, I might add.

Then there was the time, the following summer, when I was studying for the Bar Exam, largely by leaving my various outlines strewn about my room, perhaps in the hope that some of the knowledge contained therein might magically leap off the pages and into my brain while I slept. I was annoyed by the sounds of Abby pouncing and shuffling through the papers in the middle of the night. It wasn’t until I got up the next morning that I discovered just exactly WHY she’d been making such a commotion – seems Ms. Abby had found herself a mouse. Whose entrails she’d lovingly plastered across several of my outlines. (My Mom was fortunate enough to find the remainder of the carcass in the family room.)

But for the most part, Abby was my low profile, low maintenance, easy-going cat. When Gertie ran away several years ago, Abby suddenly seemed to come into her own. She was more talkative, and more assertive in insisting that you pet. her. head. right. now. It was a bit like she’d stepped out of her sister’s shadow, which I found amusing, given that she’d always been the bigger of the two.

Thinking back, though, there were things that were distinctly Abby. Like the wide-set eyes that made her look either regal or supremely annoyed. The absolutely insane love she had for Lion’s Choice. And the spooky, yet ever-so-helpful barf alarm. (Abby was a frequent barfer. But as unpleasant as that was, she had this horrendous mmmrooooowwwrrrlllll sound she’d bust out about 30 seconds prior to hurling, thereby allowing me to sprint to her location, scoop her up, and ensure that she was on floor, not carpet, by the time she let loose. Several times, she was even thoughtful enough to aim INTO the litter box, and I praised her highly for her good manners when she did.)

Once we moved into this house, she soon discovered the delights of perching atop my kitchen cabinets, often staring down at us, like a vulture, biding its time. She LOVED kitty treats. And knew right where I kept them. So, no matter if I was reaching for a package of noodles, a certain spice, or some vitamins, she’d be right there reminding me loudly that she was entitled to a treat while I was in there. More recently, she’d taken to curling up on the back of the chair in the family room while I sat there in the evening, watching TV and/or typing away on the laptop. She’d rest a paw on my shoulder, her nose close to my ear. And every so often, I’d hear a half snore/purr escape from her.

She went downhill fast. I’ll never know for sure if her being trapped in the hall closet all day a week-and-a-half ago is what really set things in motion. Or if taking her to the vet that Saturday, when I first noticed she seemed wobbly, instead of waiting to see if she’d perk back up, would have made a difference. Maybe not. Maybe it really was just her time. I knew by last night we needed to call the vet today. And I had a feeling what the verdict would ultimately be.

So, last night, I scooped up her seemingly weightless little body and curled her up on the pillow next to me. Strange that she used to be my “big” cat, but now seemed so frail and tiny. Riley brought in a stuffed kitty (a Webkinz, also named “Abby,” and white, with black spots, just like the real one), and placed them on the pillow around her. And she stayed there, through the night. Quiet, other than a few uncomfortable stretches and shifts of position. I reached out a couple times and patted her little paw, and she kept it there, instead of pulling it away.

We took her late this afternoon. Riley knew what the outcome would likely be, but wanted to be there nonetheless. At first, it seemed like maybe there was some hope. The vet was going to run some tests and see. But when he came back, his face was grim. Her kidneys were pretty well shot. We’d have to opt for really aggressive treatments, and even then, there was no guarantee they’d do much for her. He left us to discuss it. Riley cried. We both did. But she’s the one who talked me through it – that she didn’t want to say goodbye, but Abby had lived a long life, and we didn’t want to have to try all sorts of pills or other treatments if it wasn’t likely to make her better; that we didn’t want her to suffer; that it was time to let her go. I know these were all things that I and others had discussed with her previously. But nothing will tug at your heart harder than watching a 7 year old try so very hard to be a grown up.

We stayed with her while they gave her the shot. Riley had brought the stuffed Abby along, and cuddled her up next to the real one. Riley kept rubbing her nose and looking into her eyes, while I scratched behind her ears. She went quickly and quietly, and we both cried, and kissed her and hugged her goodbye. She’ll be cremated, and we’ll find a pretty little box or container of some sort for her ashes. Riley wants to write her some notes and draw some pictures and put them in with her.

Abby was with me for a very long time -- really, through my entire adult life. From an apartment in Chicago, to my parents’ house, to St. Peters, back to my parents’ house, to an apartment in Chesterfield, to our house in Ballwin. Through all the ups and downs, twists and turns, my life has taken, she’s been there…quietly isn’t exactly the right word. Because she most certainly had a voice. But in such an understated fashion, that it was easy to take her companionship for granted. But for a kitty who really was quite small, and possessed of such a low profile, she’s certainly left a great void. 


1 comment:

  1. Aww, what an adorable kitty, and very lucky to have such a loving family -- both of them. Pets are so hard to lose, but they bring so much more to out lives. Also, animal-lovers rock!