The hardest thing about letting animals into your life is knowing that eventually, someday, you will have to let them go.
I was surprised one day when Chris called me from the pet store when we needed some cat litter and food for Lucius, and told me he had found a kitten who chose him and needed a home. I think I packed up Lu-lu in the carrier and dashed out to see the kitten with Chris at petsmart (or was it petco, I can’t remember).
Anyways, I saw her and my heart melted. Lucius grumbled in the carrier but I figured we’d sweat out the sibling rivalry and separate the two kitties for a few days.
A couple of hours later we brought home our little girl and she immediately became Queen of the house. Lucius opened the door to the room where Ophie was and they had a pleasant conversation without growling.
My father commented that she was too little for the name Ophelia. He always called her ‘Ophie’ or ‘Ophie Sue’ after a coworker of his that I also worked with in the early to mid nineties. I always thought it was funny that a dedicated cat hater like my dad would come up with a nickname for a cat he claimed to dislike.
I thought Lu-lu would harass Ophelia, but it always seemed the opposite. Ophelia had a major Napoleon complex and would trick Lucius into doing things like jump up to the top of the kitchen cabinets (7 feet above) and then Lucius would get stuck and start bellowing for help. Then I’d see a sly smirk on Ophie’s face and she’d leave the kitchen… her job done.
The two katkids were friendly, but didn’t share a sleeping space unless we were gone for a day or two. Then they’d get up and scoot away from each other (nope, you didn’t see that! We HATE each other).
I remember both of the cats loved having Chris or I at home. Ophelia would sleep on my grad school books and study me as I typed papers about things like ‘the digital divide’ or ‘genre denial’. Sometimes she’d move in closer when I typed up notes for our books.
When I wrote about the goddess Brigid in our series, I came across legends and stories about Brigid and her association with cats. Brigid took on Ophelia’s golden and green eyes and charmed mortal, Deargh Du, and even other deities.
A few years ago, Ophelia had a cancer scare and it was the first time we had to deal with the idea that the cats were not immortal. It was scary and I’m not sure why I avoided that thought for so long. She would gain and then lose weight and each year she seemed to be less happy and healthy. We tried different foods, medicines, supplements, etc. The vet told us to prepare for hard decisions, but I just decided to take it one day at a time.
She would still demand crunchy things to eat though and she loved sleeping on our new bed and my pillow. She wasn’t as friendly as she used to be, but she still purred when Chris and I held her and she would nuzzle my hair. Which is why when somebody proclaimed her to be mean or a bitch, I’d get pissed off and just say nothing, while fuming. Honestly, what right did they have to make such a judgment? She was our mean bitch and they didn’t even know her. Generally they didn’t know her when she was young, spry, full of energy, and liked everybody. I don’t know why this meant so much to me, because I don’t care if people like me or don’t. I am happy with who I am, but I also believe in if you don’t have anything nice to say, why bother hurting people? Don’t knock my katkids. They aren’t perfect, but I love them and they give me and Chris unconditional love.
I’m not perfect at this rule of staying silent instead of hurting someone, but I do try to keep my thoughts to myself most of the time. I guess this way of thinking is just not done today. I remember so many hurtful things shouted at me at my last job.
Anyways, back to lil’ missy.
Ophie and the other cats still played and wrassled with each other, but now she was slower and wanted to rest more. I figured that was her due. She still cuddled with us and loved the ‘spot’ on the top of my la-z-boy recliner for her to settle in.
Sometimes her paws would droop and I’d play with them… ‘these feets are mine!’ Silly I know…
A few weekends ago, I bought some toys at Space City Con.
On friday my allergies went into hyperdrive and I took an allergy pill around 8. At about 9, I gave up and went to bed. Lucius joined me I think.
Around midnight, Chris woke me up in a panic and told me that Ophelia had fallen from the counter after he tried to get her to take her supplements. Ophelia looked dazed and her right hip seemed to be dislocated.
We panicked and drove her to the emergency room. The doctor wanted nearly $800 to get some fluids into her and take some x-rays. That wouldn’t even include the surgery. The vet said she was underweight and I felt as if I were judged a neglectful catparent. We spent years trying to get Ophelia back up to nine pounds. Chris and I looked at each other and looked at Ophelia. For a cat that hated traveling and seeing the v-e-t, she seemed very quiet and peaceful.
We decided to take her home and bring her to her vet on saturday morning. Ophelia got out of her carrier at home, drank some water, ate some food, and then went to sleep. Clyde and Lucius went to check on her, during the night I watched Clyde groom her. Something normally that Ophelia didn’t care for, but she remained quiet and seemed grateful for the bath.
We fed her the next morning and I watched her eat and knew that I had to face it that she probably would never get over this. The vet said he could fix her hip and the surgery was a reasonable price, but he also said… she would probably be back next month and that we would probably have to put her down because she only weighed five pounds now and we had done all we could for her.
Our once healthy kitten was just skin and bones and I felt again like a horrible selfish person who couldn’t let anyone go for my own selfish needs.
We cried, we held her. She grumbled about being stuck at the vet’s when there were windows to sit in at home. Then after all the decisions were made, we let them take her. At first I wanted to hold her as she left us, then I thought what a horrible thing for her to see, Chris and I sobbing in a panic for her as she passed on, into unconsciousness and then peace where there would be no more pain, where she could frolic and have fun and trick other cats again.
We let her go and burst into tears. We gathered her carrier and left the vet’s and went home to the boys, cried more, ate breakfast, then went and took a nap. The boys joined us.
The next few days moved by…I’m still upset and crying, but I guess I needed to type this. Lucius sat down in Ophie’s spot in the hallway and took her place next to the shelves in the living room sometimes. Both of the boys would sit on my lap and then meander over to Chris. Chris said one of the fans turned off… who knows maybe Ophie got chilly.
We held hands a lot over the weekend and cried. We picked up some pictures that we got framed a few weeks ago. We even had one that sort of resembled Ophelia… it was a print by Dirk Strangely called ‘Cats Hate the Dead’
We contemplated going to the movies, but opted instead for watching Wreck-It Ralph and other stuff that would lighten the mood.
Sunday, I felt something touch my hair and my head. I got up, fully expecting my cranky catboss to inform me that she wanted her breakfast, damnit (nowmeowmeowmeowmeow)! I then remembered she was gone and felt a little better for a moment or two.
I didn’t want to go to work this morning, but I did… I’m not sure how I’ll spend the rest of the day, but that’s okay.
Ophelia, we miss you and love you, but I won’t miss chasing you while you were racing through the house, chewing on plastic! I won’t miss that part at all.