Kitty “Sneakers” Culey
April 1983 - October 25, 2003
Kitty “Sneakers” Culey
April 1983 - October 25, 2003
When I was 5 years old, my mom came home from work with a tiny kitten in her arms. She had found the kitten wandering in the parking lot of her work. The kitten was white with black spots and was truly adorable. She stayed in the bathroom with newspaper spread upon the floor that first night. That same night, I was sick with a urinary tract infection (though I didn’t know it at the time) and thus, spent most of the evening in the bathroom, convinced that I had to pee.
During those long hours of the night, I played with the little kitten I simply called Kitty. She climbed all over my legs, clawed her way up my nightshirt, played with my hair and licked my cheeks. She filled my heart in those silent moments of darkness when the house was asleep but for her and me. Sometime early that morning, probably around 4 or 5, I sneaked out of the bathroom with her cradled in my arms. I quietly closed the bathroom door behind me; in case anyone should investigate, they would assume she was still locked inside. I tiptoed into my bedroom and climbed into bed. The kitten sprawled under the covers right next to my belly and together, we watched the sun rise. When I heard my parents’ alarm go off, I sneaked her back into the bathroom, so as not to be caught with her in my bed.
That night, a bond was forged between the kitten and me. Thankfully, no one claimed the kitten as theirs, and she became the newest member of our family. We grew together, Kitty and I. We played Etch-A-Sketch together (she would chase the pencil as I drew) and we read Trixie Belden together (she would flop down upon the book at crucial moments, demanding my attention). She played a starring role in a 5th grade musical project. We were to create a cassette tape of interesting sounds, all spliced together to make a noisy melody (though there was really nothing melodious about it, as we were not allowed to use music). I had two partners in that project: my friend Kim and of course, Kitty. I really don’t remember where we got all the other sounds. I do know we had a train whistle, the sound of a car horn, some TV static and a tea kettle whistling. There were a number of other sounds as well (I think we had to have a minimum of ten), but the most important one, the greatest one, was of Kitty’s meow. I had extracted that meow from her by holding a piece of ham over her nose. I knew from experience that she would stand up on her hind legs, stretch her arms out and meow most stridently, demanding that I give her what she wanted, which of course, I did. We had played this game many times (unbeknownst to my parents, I’m sure, who would definitely not approve of my feeding Kitty lunch meat). We spliced her meow into the tape at key moments, thus making Kitty famous for an entire day at Somerset Elementary School. The kids laughed every time they heard her meow, and more importantly, her meow was the only sound on ANY of the tapes that elicited a laugh from the children. I remember being so proud. Kitty was a star.
Kitty was also a female of kitten-bearing age. She gave us 6 kittens when I was in 3rd grade and 5 when I was in 6th. The kittens were all quite adorable and added life to our home on both occasions. Of course, we were not allowed to keep the kittens, already having two cats (Kitty and Tiger). The first batch of kittens was given away immediately at 6 weeks. The second batch, however, we kept a little longer, which made the parting that much harder. There were two kittens in particular whom I loved and adored and so desperately wanted to keep. The first was a carbon copy of Kitty, with all the black spots in all the right places. The only difference was that this kitten had long fur, while mine was a short-haired cat. The second looked to be a tabby colored kitten, with browns and grays and whites. She was also long-haired and I loved playing with those two. At eight weeks, we finally took the kittens to a pet store and bade them goodbye. I thought that was the hardest moment of my life. I had no idea.
Less than a month later, in December of 1982, Kitty was playing in the garage, jumped off a shelf and got her collar caught on something. She hung there until my dad came home from work early and discovered her body. In retrospect, as an adult, I realize how incredibly fortuitous it was that he came home when he did. For my afternoon ritual was always the same. I would walk home as quickly as possible after school, burst into the house at a run, race to the garage, throw open the door and scoop her up. She was always waiting at the door for me, ready to play. Instead, my dad found her body and met me after school to break the terrible news. I was devastated.
My dad tried so hard to comfort me, as did my mom. He took care of burying my cat and even made a cross to place on the grave, a cross that I turned away from in anger and a grave I refused to visit for all the long months we lived in that house. My mom came home from work crying, not so much for Kitty as for me, and my dad told me that I could have Tiger to sleep with, but I refused. I told him it wasn’t the same. Tiger wasn’t mine and he wouldn’t stay with me the way Kitty did. He wouldn’t sleep under the covers and purr against my belly. He wouldn’t read Trixie Belden books, play Etch-A-Sketch or star in my audio productions. I was inconsolable. Kitty was the one who always comforted me when I was sad, who licked away my tears and cheered me up. Without Kitty, who was going to comfort me as I mourned her death? That’s when I got the brilliant idea that another cat would comfort me, not just any cat like Tiger, but a cat that was all mine. And so I promptly requested a cat for Christmas. My parents just as promptly refused.
I did not give up on my quest to get another cat though, and five months later, I began my Kitten Campaign. In response to all questions about my upcoming birthday, I answered: “The only thing I want is a kitten.” I refused to name anything else that I wanted, even turned down the offer of a party, stubbornly insisting that the ONLY thing I wanted was a kitten. The entire week before my birthday, my dad began teasing me. He would come home with a giant box of lumber and would pretend the box was meowing. I knew it was him meowing, of course, but would feel compelled to check anyway, just in case, which would always make him laugh. I didn’t mind though. I knew with everything in me, that my dad would never tease me in that fashion if they weren’t going to get me a kitten for my birthday. My Kitten Campaign had met with success.
On June 2nd, 1983, the day before my birthday, my dad and brother brought me downstairs and into a small storage room, where waiting upon the floor was the cutest, tiniest little kitten I had ever seen. He was a riot of colors, browns and grays, blacks and whites. He had tiny white paws, a white belly and black tail. The rest of him was this beautiful combination of browns and grays and whites. He had the most amazing green and yellow eyes and the tiniest of meows. My brother Michael told me he chose that kitten from the litter (the mom’s name was Pickles) because he reminded him of the kitten from Kitty’s litter that I loved so much. My dad begged me to call this kitten Socks or Boots because of his white paws, but nothing would do for me except to name him after my first beloved cat, Kitty. And so, Kitty II came into my life. I had no idea at the time that he would become so important in my life that he would ultimately become Kitty in his own right, with no attachment to the first kitty and no second following his name. He was just Kitty, my companion and best friend.
Kitty I had been my playmate. This Kitty became so much more. He comforted my during all my years of adolescent angst. He waited patiently for my return from Portugal, sleeping on top of the Christmas packages I sent home. He survived two surgeries (to help with urinary tract and bladder issues) before I graduated from high school and became more loving as every year passed.
He accepted the slow transition from female to male with great patience and stoicism. (My dad had made the mistake of expressing doubt when he said that he thought this kitten was a boy when he gave him to me. I promptly informed my father that he was wrong, that Kitty was a girl - he had to be, you see, since the first Kitty was a girl - and immediately began calling him “her”. By the time, my father’s assumption was confirmed by a vet, the entire family was in the habit of referring to Kitty as “she.” It took many years for Kitty to eventually gain his rightful status as a male and for years was referred to as “She, uh, he,” and “hers, uh, his.” Kitty took it all in stride. Male, female, it didn’t matter, so long as he was loved.)
He slept on my head during those early years, plopping his head and front paws right on top of my head and face, curling his body down toward my neck, with his tail draped across it, and burying his nose in my ear so that his purr would lull me to sleep. We did homework together, read pre-teen romance novels together and wrote terribly boring and very bad short stories. We even wrote one terrible novel together. He listened to all my writings, the good, the bad and the terrible and he loved them all.
He listened to my teenage rantings and licked away my angry tears of misunderstanding and hurt. He followed me around the house and waited by the front door for my return. He demanded that I share my tuna fish sandwiches and barbecue potato chips and purred his acceptance and love in return. He wrote with me and he read with me and he watched Remington Steele with me.
He watched with great curiosity as Michael’s cat Shadow chased mice all over the house. He turned his nose up at most human beings, but loved to rub all over Catherine, who was deathly allergic to cats but always greeted him with great affection, when she came to visit. He loved the way she crooned, “There he is, the king of all he surveys,” when he entered a room.
He comforted me when the world was against me, when nobody understood me, when my parents were unreasonable, and when Michael was getting away with everything! He comforted me in the dark aftermath of my parents’ divorce, as I tried to fit back into my strange new family after a year away in Portugal.
When I said that job at Hardee’s sucks, he agreed with me and promptly threw up on my Hardee’s hat.
He watched me get ready for my first date, all with a bad attitude, and agreed that dating was just a silly pretense that the world would be better off without.
He helped me learn how to type on a computer and complete homework and prepare lessons to teach French to 2nd and 3rd graders my senior year. He studied for the SATs and AP exams with me and poured over college applications with me (even though he wanted me to study close to home, he agreed that American University had the right program for me).
He watched me pack for college and slept in my suitcases as his way of reminding me that I should remember to take him with me. He watched as I left and promised with his purrs to be waiting when I came home.
He comforted me on Christmas vacation my freshman year as I panicked in the aftermath of my mother’s announcement that she would be moving to California and not taking my cat with her. But I can’t have a cat in the dorms, I cried to a silent audience. He encouraged me as I begged everyone I knew to take care of him for just seven months and he graciously accepted the temporary home found for him by my father. He silently went to that pit of a home, to an aunt I did not know very well, no longer an aunt by virtue of divorce, and he suffered in silence. And he waited, trusting that I would be home to take him away from the mean brats who tormented him and the dirty floors and rotting ceiling and the red-faced lady who worked too hard and yelled too loud and had no time for him. Seven months later, I arrived and carried him away from that horrible place.
He traveled 1100 miles with my dad and I to Washington, D.C., where he settled into life as a District cat. He put up with my roommate’s kitten, Bronte, who loved to chase and chew on his tail. He wrote endless research papers with me and examined countless books for new and interesting tidbits of information. He wrote stories and essays and poems with me for those endless creative writing classes (he also laughed at my stories of all those pretentious literature majors who talked like they were trapped at a critics’ convention). He learned shocking things about our government and realized that we were living in a country we didn’t even know. He raged with me when my study abroad plans fell through, even though it meant he would get to stay with me longer than expected. He lived with my mom and slept on her head for six months without complaint when I moved back into the dorms for lack of anywhere else to live. He traveled in the cargo hold of various planes as he traveled with me back and forth from D.C. to Kansas City when it was time to visit family.
He comforted me when I was sick and kept me company when I thought I would die from the isolation of being the only one in my circle of friends not studying abroad one semester. He obsessed over final exams with me, cursed every C and delighted in every A, and agreed when I called one professor an ignorant, self-important, pompous asshole.
And still he wrote with me and he read with me and he watched Star Trek with me.
He said a thousand meows in chorus with my hallelujahs when the endless onslaught of papers and exams was finally over and he stared in pride at the giant diploma that arrived by mail one month after graduation. He shared my angst and concern about the future and my confusion over my life’s path. He followed me from room to room as I packed and greeted Michael with wary affection when he came through the door to help us move home. He accompanied us on the long journey by truck (undoubtedly thankful I hadn’t sent him to the bellies of another plane) and warily circled Michael’s cat Amadeus when we arrived at our new home.
He settled into life in Kansas City, with Michael and Amadeus as our new roommates with little fuss. He comforted me on my job search, agreed that working at a bookstore was better than nothing, and nodded when I said it was ridiculous that a college degree could mean so little. He sniffed and turned his back the first time Jed called him “Shitty Kitty” and took delight in leaving cat hairs all over Jed’s jacket anytime he was foolish enough to leave it just lying about.
He comforted me during those dark and aimless years at H&F, when I was surrounded by friends, but had no purpose. He battled pancreatic cancer at age 13 with courage and the sheer will to live. Dr. Barbara Stuart of Ridgeview Animal Hospital in Olathe nursed him back to health one step at a time and he returned home against all odds. He battled frequent urinary infections and accepted his new diet to control crystals in the urine with little complaint. He still demanded that I share my tunafish sandwiches and my barbecue potato chips though, and he still rewarded me with purrs of love and acceptance.
He rejoiced at Michael and Susan’s wedding and took great pleasure in their happiness. He also comforted me as we moved to our own apartment, without Michael and Amadeus to share it with. He helped me acclimate to life after my brother’s marriage, as I adjusted to the subtle changes in all our lives and relationships. He nodded his head when I ranted about Stanley, the obsessive attorney, who wanted ridiculous things and was never satisfied.
He greeted Leia, the new cat who was a fraction of his size, with grudging acceptance and even allowed her onto our bed (after scaring her half to death of course). He congratulated me on becoming an aunt and selflessly shared me with the newest member of our family. He did not begrudge those hours I spent away from him, playing with Ariana and getting to know Susan better. He simply waited for my return and rejoiced in it.
He worried the rare nights I didn’t make it home to sleep with him and glowered whenever he lost his place in my bed. He always recovered though and asserted his rights to the bed at key moments.
And still he wrote with me and he read with me and he watched The X-Files with me.
He watched as I packed for a quick trip to Connecticut and worried when I arrived home and went through a flurry of panicked packing. He watched as all our things were carted away and placed in storage in Monica’s basement and he trusted that wherever I was going, he would be going too. He stayed at my mom’s during our final days in Kansas City and endured the tiny room in silent isolation.
When I arrived to take him with me, he greeted me with joy, but when presented with our car, piled high with all our belongings, he promptly peed on me. After cleaning up, he stoically accompanied me to the car, where he crawled to the top of the mountain of clothing in the back and settled in for the long cross-country ride with Lynnette and me.
He agreed that the ticket Lynnette received from the Pennsylvania cops was total bullshit (even though she was speeding, who wouldn’t when driving 26 hours straight???) and expressed that opinion in the litter box right as the cop was handing her the citation.
He settled into our tiny room in Connecticut with no complaints. He still sat at the window each day, watching for my return, and greeted me with happiness and joy every night. He now settled for curling around (rather than on top of) my head at night with his nose buried in my ear and still purred me to sleep each evening.
He obsessed over the kids we were supposed to place for PAX and listened to my brainstorming ideas about how to convince families they wanted to host. He comforted me when all my hard work was betrayed and he hunted through the newspaper with me, flopping down on top of important job ads, undoubtedly to draw my attention to particular ones. He comforted me during those dark hours as I wrestled with my decision to stay or to go. And finally, he agreed with my decision to return home and begin anew.
And still he wrote with me and he read with me and he watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer with me.
He traveled the long hours home with me, once more climbing aboard the mountain of clothing and settling down to nap the hours away. He explored Heather’s place in Columbus, Ohio, greeting her gargoyles and Frankenstein with great suspicion (it was Halloween after all) and waited patiently with me in the hospital parking lot 100 miles from Kansas City to have that damn Connecticut tick extracted from my stomach.
He rejoiced at Tobi’s birth and congratulated me on becoming an aunt once more. He endured the tiny room at my mom’s for 2 Â½ years without complaint. His measuring yard for happiness was his proximity to me and as long as I was there, he was content. He still curled around my head and purred in my ear at night, lulling me to sleep. He was moving slower by now, after all he was 16 years old and feeling a little arthritic.
He accepted with grace the new name my niece Ariana gave him. (She was almost 3 and couldn’t understand why when she asked what his name was, I told her “Kitty.” “I know he’s a kitty,” she kept saying, “but what’s his name?” I finally asked her if she wanted to give him a name. She said yes, so I pulled upon my memory of my father having a similar conversation with me. “He has white feet,” I said. “We could name him Socks or Sneakers.” “Sneakers,” she said most emphatically. And so that is how, at 16 Â½ years of age, Kitty was given a new name. He was now Kitty Sneakers Culey.)
Kitty (Sneakers) supported my decision to go back to school to become a teacher, and helped me make the adjustment to writing papers again. He listened to my ideas for teaching French to preschoolers and helped me plan my route through Kansas to recruit students for St. Mary College (he flopped his body down at key points on the map, undoubtedly to demonstrate where I should travel).
He comforted me in the dark hours, weeks and months following my friend Brad’s suicide.
He encouraged me through the long haul of student teaching, helping me formulate lesson plans and write my research papers. He rejoiced in the aftermath of student teaching, when I received my diploma and began to job search again. He helped me prepare for the teaching interviews at West Junior High and All Saints Elementary School and later rejoiced when I was offered both jobs, allowing me to choose the one that fit my needs at the moment.
He comforted in the aftermath of my father’s heart attack, and gave me hope as my father survived that surgery and another a couple years later.
He helped me plan lessons for teaching French and Spanish to junior high kids, listened to the crazy stories I had to tell each night and gave me the strength each day to face the commute to Lawrence. And he still greeted me at the door with comfort and love each evening. He moved with me from the tiny room at my mom’s to a slightly larger room in Michael and Susan’s basement. He selflessly shared my time at home with them and Ariana and Tobi.
And still he wrote with me and he read with me and he watched Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel with me.
He comforted me as I wrestled with my decision to leave teaching to return to school on a fellowship grant KU had offered me. And he rejoiced as we made plans to move once more, this time to our very own place in Lawrence, where we would finally be able to reclaim our furniture, books and so much more from Monica’s basement. He moved into the Lawrence apartment and settled in quite happily. He enjoyed long lazy hours in the sun on our screened-in porch. He slept on my pillow next to my head with his nose buried in my ear, his purrs lulling me to sleep. Though moving a lot slower, he was still able to climb onto the couches and spent many hours sleeping on the furniture, moving carefully from the red couch to the green one to the big red chair. When he was feeling a little less mobile, he would sleep on my bed, which by that time was simply a mattress on the floor.
He wrote endless research papers with me, papers that were so much better than the ones we had written ten years before. He studied and read complex journal articles with me, shaking his head over the pretentious, scholarly language that made the information inaccessible to the masses. He agreed with me that it was such a waste and helped me to organize everything in an acceptable fashion. He listened attentively as I read my research papers and re-wrote with them with me, painstakingly taking care with all the details. He filled out applications for research grants with me, even though he knew it would mean losing me for a time. He rejoiced in every A I received and agreed with me when I called one professor a scatter-brained genius and another a pretentious snob. He also agreed that this was the best program we had ever been in and that my program director and advisor was absolutely wonderful.
He helped me wrestle with my decision to return to teaching full-time rather than accept a teaching assistantship at KU. He helped me prepare for another interview at All Saints School and rejoiced as I accepted that job and began plans to move us back to KC.
He helped me prepare for Brazil with fear in his heart, but a purr in his belly. He watched me pack in a flurry and move all our things to a new apartment in KCK. He congratulated me on the birth of my nephew and celebrated with me the expansion of our family once again. He then made the journey with me to Celeste’s house. He purred for me as I left him there, even though he was undoubtedly frightened, trusting that I would be back to take him home soon.
He battled demons at Celeste’s that no one could see, until his illness became so great that he stopped eating. She took him to the vet’s office and they began the slow process of coaxing him back from the edge of death. He was 6 pounds when he arrived there, down from 8 a month before and down from 11 a year before that. He fought to live with courage and an unbelievable will to survive.
I received the news in Brazil with great fear and horror. As I attended classes and conducted my research, my thoughts were constantly focused on Kitty. I worked hard on the research not in spite of his illness but because of it. I pursued it frantically not so much for me, as for him. He was suffering because I had left him - of this I was certain. I would not make this time away from him be in vain. I gathered my research, I pursued my Portuguese classes and I prayed. I sent him happy thoughts and I recorded my voice on a cassette tape, encouraging him to fight and to hang on. I sent the tape via Brazilian SEDEX and for the following 3 weeks, the vets played the tape for him frequently. They tell me that he purred while it was playing, and I took comfort in knowing this.
Dr. Shuey at the vet’s office sent me periodic updates on how Kitty was doing, and assured me that Dr. Stuart and she were doing their absolute best to save him. My mom told me that Dr. Stuart had agreed to continue trying, rather than simply put him to sleep, because she knew when I said I was willing to pay for his care, I meant it, and because she knew that I would do everything I had to, to take care of him upon my return. She also said that if he got to the point where they felt he was suffering too much, they would have to send him home with my mom or I would have to let him go. I lived in fear that I would have to make that decision from Brazil, that I would not be given the chance to say goodbye. And yet, against all odds, against Dr. Stuart’s personal belief that he would never make it, he survived. I arrived home on August 11th and was waiting at the door to the clinic when it opened on the morning of the 12th. I visited with Kitty that morning and afternoon, and on the afternoon of the 13th, I brought him to our new home in KCK.
For the following 10 Â½ weeks, I nursed him along, giving him a saline injection twice a day, which involved inserting a needle under his skin and administering 100 ccs of saline. The saline solution then dispersed itself to the rest of his body over the following 10 hours. He also had two medications to take, one in liquid form and one a pill, and was on a very strict diet. Though there was a lot of care required for his maintenance, as long as he was comfortable and mobile and enjoying a somewhat fulfilling life, I was willing to pay for his care.
During those weeks, my life revolved around Kitty. Every hour I was away was an hour I felt I would never get back. I spent as much time at home as possible, rushing home after school and completing as much grading and lesson planning at home as I could. I also spent the majority of my weekends at home, keeping my time with family members and friends to a minimum.
During those hours at home, we read together and wrote together and watched Angel and Smallville together.
He helped me plow my way through our readings for class each week. He helped me plan lessons for 1st grade and get materials together for the kids. He helped me figure out those darned Scholastic book order forms, plopping his body down on top of them as I painstakingly transferred the kids’ orders from their forms to my master form (undoubtedly, trying to help me fill it out correctly).
He comforted me during the long days my grandmother was in a coma, and he licked away my tears in the aftermath of her death.
He now slept under the covers next to my belly, much the way the first Kitty used to. He huddled close to me for body warmth and the weight of his tiny, frail body and the gentle purring vibrations lulled me to sleep each night. He greeted me at the door to our bedroom each evening with love and acceptance, purring in my ear as I gently lifted him and hugged his body to me. He filled my home with his presence and he filled my heart with love. He fought every day for eight weeks to have some more time with me, and every day for the following ten to extend that time with me. Each day he stood up and walked around the room and ate his food and curled up beside me to watch TV or read a book or check our email, was a good day. Each day he ventured into the kitchen to demand that I give him more food was a great day. And we lived and we laughed and we cried together. And he made my house a home and my life a joy to live.
Nine Â½ weeks after I brought him home, he started to take a turn for the worse. Diarrhea was causing him to lose all the nutrients from his food and the liquids from the saline. He was becoming dangerously dehydrated. I called the vet on Tuesday, October 21, and spoke with Dr. Shuey. She gave me some home remedy options, which I tried, and which eventually worked, but not quickly enough. Though his diarrhea was gone, so too was his appetite and he was no longer hydrating even with the saline injections. He was also extremely lethargic and was hardly moving at all.
I had made a promise to myself that I would not take him back to the vet’s office. I had taken him once since returning home and the experience was stressful and traumatic for him and the rewards not nearly great enough to warrant the trauma. Despite this, I considered taking him in, as he was suffering and it was so hard to watch. I called the vet again on Thursday, this time speaking with Dr. Stuart, who advised that it sounded like it was time to let him go. She did say that I could bring him in and they could try to rehydrate him with an IV, but I didn’t want to put him through that experience again. I felt that he had reached a point where I needed to be willing to let him go, rather than force him to keep fighting.
Despite this, I was not willing to take Kitty to a place he had always associated with pain and fear and make him die there, surrounded by unfamiliar things and people. I explained that I desperately needed to give him the luxury of dying at home, where he was surrounded by his things and comforted by his scent and mine. We had scheduling issues, as she was leaving town early Saturday morning. Therefore, no decisions were made at that time, but I told Dr. Stuart I would call her or Dr. Shuey in a day or two.
I went to work on Friday, and rushed home immediately after school, almost expecting to arrive home and find him gone. Instead he was sleeping peacefully. Kitty and I spent all Friday evening and night together. He slept in my arms and on my lap. We read and talked and watched a little TV. Eventually we went to bed. He woke me in the wee hours of the morning whimpering in his sleep, which about broke my heart. I knew it was time to say goodbye. I told him it was okay if he was ready to go, that he could, but he still clung so stubbornly to life, with a will larger than any I have ever seen. He hung on for me, of that I am certain, for even as I was telling him he could go, I was crying brokenheartedly, unable to be strong for him.
I called the vet’s office as soon as they opened Saturday morning and spoke with Dr. Shuey this time. She had a surgery with a kitten scheduled for that afternoon, but said she would call me when that was finished, and that she was willing to come to my house to help him go. That day was one of the longest of my life, and one of the shortest as well. Every minute I lived in dread of that call and every minute I treasured for it was one more minute with Kitty.
We spent the morning and afternoon together. If I had to move from one room to the next, I carried him with me. He slept the majority of the time. Every four or five hours, he would slowly move to get some food, of which he would eat one or two bites and then stop. Whenever he did this, I had this terrible moment of joy and hope, when I thought that maybe I was wrong, that maybe he was going to rally one more time. But he never really did. He just hung on for me.
At 5:15, I finally called the vet, as she hadn’t called yet and I was getting anxious. The delay was such a blessing, but it was also torturous in that he was suffering and suffering for me, I felt. They were just finishing up their surgery when I called and promised to leave within 20 minutes. I gave them directions to my house with fear in my heart. For the following 40 minutes, I paced the floor with Kitty in my arms, whispering how much I loved him and promising that everything was going to be okay.
Dr. Shuey arrived with her assistant Heather at 5:45. I remember thinking when my doorbell rang that it was too soon, they should have taken longer, and hoping as I walked down the stairs that maybe it was Dorothy, the landlady, ringing the bell to ask one of her many questions. It wasn’t Dorothy.
They followed me up the stairs, where they complimented me on my apartment. We spoke about ridiculous things for about 10 seconds and then I asked where they wanted to work and Dr. Shuey said wherever Kitty would be most comfortable. I chose the bed (i.e., mattress) and led them to the bedroom. I then asked how long it would take. Dr. Shuey said 15 seconds and Heather said it would be quick and painless. 15 seconds to end a 20-year life. It was too short and not short enough.
We settled on the bed and I hugged him and told him it would be okay and cried a little. Heather asked if I wanted to hold him. I said yes, so she set me up holding his body on my lap and his chin in my hand. Dr. Shuey took a paw and warned me it might be hard to find a vein, because he was so dehydrated. She was unsuccessful on the first paw, and began checking the other paws for a vein. As she did so, she told me that he was looking yellow (I assume she meant his veins) and that was probably a sign his liver was going as well. She finally settled on a fourth paw and began to try again. Right before she began the injection, he turned his face into the palm of my hand and I kissed his head and whispered I loved him. Then she injected him and he went. It was quick, but not quick enough. And in that moment, when he died, it was like the world went still.
Dr. Shuey and Heather hung around a bit to make sure his heart had completely stopped and to make sure I was okay. Then they left and I was alone, for even though I still had his body, Kitty was no longer there. My dad had made me a box earlier that day and brought it by. I carefully settled Kitty onto a blanket he’s always loved sleeping on (and the same blanket we slept under the night before) and placed him in the box. I then covered him with the rest of the blanket, placed the cassette tape I had made for him in Brazil and some pictures of the two of us in the box with him.
I then took the box to my mom’s where I sealed it and buried him under a young tree she had planted in the back yard. My mom is planning to plant flowers on his grave to mark the spot. I drove around for about an hour after leaving my mom’s last night. I was supposed to be attending a party at a friend’s house, but despite the fact that I had been to his house several times before, I was unable to find the house and just spent an hour wandering his neighborhood, halfheartedly searching. Eventually, I ended up at Lynnette’s aunt’s house and hung out with Lynnette and Dave for a couple hours. Finally, I went home. What else was there to do, but return to the home I had shared with Kitty, and begin acclimating myself to its new emptiness?
And so that’s it. My life’s story to date, which (at least in terms of the truly important events) can be measured through the minutes and hours spent in Kitty’s presence. Now that he is gone, I have to wonder: who will carry my life’s story now? Who will comfort me in my darkest hours? Who will greet me at my door every day with only joy in his heart? Who will share my happiness, absorb my pain, and lick away my tears? Who will turn my house into a welcoming home? Who will love me without conditions or demands? Who will live every minute unsparingly for me; who will fill the world with his will to give me just one more day, one more hour, one more minute? Who will always be waiting, no matter where I go, and who will greet me with a loving purr upon my tardy return?
And so now I live alone. The evidence of Kitty’s presence still fills my home, but it is now a void and it offers no comfort. I had thought to get another cat to make the house seem less empty, but somehow it seems right that it be empty, at least for a while, to acknowledge that he is gone and that his leaving has left a void. So, this is for Kitty, that he may know how very much he has enriched my life and how very much he will be missed. If I could share the beauty of his soul with the world, I would. Instead, I can only share my words, of how much he meant to me and to my life. May his journey be safely traveled, and his dreams sweetly met.
October 26, 2003
October 26, 2003