Saying Goodbye (Yet Again…)

As you might guess, the topic of this post might not be completely pleasant, but I need to say it anyway regardless. We are far enough away from the event now where I don’t lose my crackers when I think of it, and so now is the time.  

I don’t really write about the cats very much on this blog since they have their own space on the Internet. Our boy, Pixel, is the topic of this post today, and the extraordinary life he lived. It’s not because he was talented, though he did know how to play fetch. No, the thing that made Pixel amazing boiled down to one event in his and my life. But let’s start at the beginning, shall we?

Pixel came to us on a Tuesday evening, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving actually in 2005. Not quite a year had passed since we lost my first cat, Callie. I was still working at the bank and had been there about eighteen months and I had secured the most coveted spot: the drive thru. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia just a year before and because everything was close I could sit for the majority of the time as I needed. 

With about ninety minutes until closing time, a lady drove through the commercial lane, a box of mewing kittens in the back seat of her old sedan. She casually asked if I knew someone who was looking to adopt a kitten, and I asked if she had a male. This in itself was an anomaly for me, as I tend to prefer female animals (don’t ask me why, I have no idea.) So she reached into the box and pulled from it a scrawny, skinny tabby kitten, the only boy in the litter. “This one,” she said and held him up for me to see.

She pulled forward and I opened the door that we weren’t supposed to open, and when she handed me this kitten, it was love at first sight. Without consulting with Hubby, I took him. He was tiny enough to fit into the deal drawer in the commercial lane and for the most part he was happy to curl up on the back of my neck while I finished my shift. 

The ride home that night was quiet despite the fact I had a kitten in a banker’s box. We didn’t live far from work, and the commute was easy. With my purse in one hand and the kitten in the other, I acted confident as I entered the apartment with my living treasure. 

Hubby was NOT happy nor was he amused about springing a kitten on him that night. We fought about it, but in the end the kitten and I won the fight and he got to stay. He earned the name “Pixel” because he loved to watch Hubby play on his laptop computer. 

While I worked during the day, Hubby bonded with my new little buddy. At the time, Tika was still with us and she mothered him like she did every other kitten we brought home. But she was the queen of the household and Pixel had to learn his place. That said, he never stopped trying to be the top cat. He and Sassy, our purebred Ragdoll, never saw eye to eye and hated each other until the day she died in 2017.

When we lost Tika in 2010 to liver cancer, Pixel graduated to the place of honor in the pecking order, otherwise known as my lap. He was five years old when she passed away. In the months that followed her passing, I was extremely grateful for his companionship, for she left a void that remains to this day, and I suspect it always will.

In the time period between 2010 and 2014, we lived in an apartment we now affectionately call “the ghetto.” Though the property was well maintained, the units themselves were repaired on the cheap, and nothing worked as it should have. We had electrical outlets that never worked, the toilets in four apartments shared one line, so when one clogged up, we were all affected. In short, it was a terrible, miserable place to live.

I don’t speak of this often because many people think I am a lunatic when I describe it, but both Hubby and I sensed an evil presence in the apartment. Whether it was just our unit is still a mystery but the evidence of it was clear. Our marriage experienced its worst five year stretch in those walls. We constantly fought, and I don’t mean just bickering. These were knock down, nearly drag-out fights, screaming at each other until we had no voice. Sometimes I am amazed we survived those years. It was only by God’s grace that we did.

At the time, I was taking a newly-approved medication for Fibromyalgia treatment, an anti-depressant that is still widely prescribed as a first treatment: Cymbalta. At first, the drug did its job but as time progressed it was less and less effective and harder and harder to obtain. My insurance didn’t cover the dose I had been prescribed, leaving me to either pay for an extremely expensive brand-name drug on my own or relying on my doctor for samples. We were struggling financially at the time, so my doctor promised me samples to fill in the gaps that my insurance coverage left. 

I can’t put my finger on what day it was, or what the date was, or even what time of year it was when I decided I had suffered enough pain. I felt worthless being unable to work and I was convinced my father would have been so disappointed in me if he could see what I had become. My marriage was flailing, the relationship between Hubby and my mom was strained, I was missing Tika. I was in tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual agony. 

I do know it was late, maybe one or two in the morning. I remember distinctly looking on my computer to find a lethal dose of oxycodone. I figured out how many of my pills it would take and took that many out of my new prescription bottle and held them in my hand. I remember looking around the room, and I felt a little guilty that hubby would be the one to find me in the morning. I didn’t write a note, I didn’t leave any indication that I was contemplating it. My sudden death would have been a shock to my mother, but even that wasn’t enough to stop me. 

The pills in my hand, I paused a moment. Then Pixel, the cat I rescued years before, set out to rescue me. He did something he had never done before, and he never did it after that night: He got in my face, nice and close, and purred. He rubbed against and licked my face. He poured out every bit of love he could muster and he reminded me that no matter how despondent I was, no matter how sad and worthless I felt that he still loved and needed me. I looked at him, looked at the pills in my hand.  I twisted the top off the medication bottle and put every last pill back into the bottle. Then I held my cat in my arms and cried into his fur until he had a soaking wet patch on his side. 

It was years before I told anyone about that night. We were out of the apartment from Hell, and I remember telling Hubby about it. The look on his face, when he realized he would have been the one that found me, the love of his life, dead from an overdose, broke my heart. We held each other and cried. All the regrets he had that I brought Pixel home disappeared that day. From that day on, Pix had a special place in both our hearts. 

Late last year, we noticed that Pixel was failing to maintain his weight. And though we knew he needed medical attention, we could not afford to bring him. So we did the best for him that we could and fed him. A lot. At first, dry food with its extra calories and protein was helping. He began to gain some muscle mass around his shoulders and backbone again and he looked good. And then after the new year, he got worse again. 

I won’t say I’ve written “at length” about the COVID-19 pandemic but it brought its own set of curses and blessings. One such blessing we never counted on was the stimulus package with payments to each person. I never expected it since we weren’t financially impacted by the virus, but yet we were included, quite by surprise. This was right around the time Pixel was eating close to six cans of Fancy Feast a day, about every 4 hours including during the overnight hours. 

We waited for months for Pixel to tell us that his end was near. We waited for his decreased appetite, the telltale signs of a sick cat, one on his final days. But those signs never manifested. In fact, the longer he went, the hungrier he got. But his behavior was changing in the most subtle ways until it was evident. The final straw for Pixel was when he got aggressive with me in the kitchen over food. We couldn’t risk him biting either one of us, nor could we risk him harming Mercy, either. Hubby and I decided that keeping him in that state was selfish and cruel, and no matter how badly I wanted him to get better I knew he wouldn’t. 

The Friday before Mother’s Day I called the vet to make his last appointment. I told them I wanted one last weekend with him, the chance to spoil him rotten, and for me to make peace with his looming demise. The jury is still out on whether this was a good idea, knowing his last day was coming was excruciatingly difficult. But I did everything I wanted to with him. I got pictures as though I didn’t have a million of them already. I took video of him. I held him in my arms and loved him, despite his protests. 

When we brought him, the vet agreed with us one hundred percent that we made the right choice for him. He guessed, by listening to Pixel’s symptoms and behavior, that he was suffering probable intestinal cancer, starving because his body could no longer absorb nourishment from food. I held him in my arms after two injections of sedative, because in true Pixel style, he was not going down without a fight. And when he breathed his last breath on this Earth and crossed to the Rainbow Bridge, my heart broke into thousands of pieces. 

Pixel was an incredible soul. He will always have a spot in my heart, in my memory. I would not be alive today if he hadn’t been there for me, if he hadn’t come through. He saved not only my life but he saved my family the anguish I would have caused with my selfishness.

Well done, my sweet boy. Well done. 

Checking In (Yet Again)

Hello friends. It has been a long time since I have checked in with you, and much has happened in our lives, so I thought I would bring you up to date now that we are officially more than halfway through this year.

First things first. We are still self-isolating and trying our level best to stay COVID-19 free. I have discovered the wonder of grocery delivery from Aldi, and even after the virus fades away, if it ever does, I will probably still use this service. The amount of energy this saves me is immense, and these days, my energy is at a premium. 

Hubby had some blood work done to determine his next best course of action against the monster known to us as Multiple Sclerosis. The good news is that he is JC-VIRUS negative, which makes him an excellent candidate to receive Tysabri infusions for the foreseeable future. This will hopefully buy us some time without disease progression. 

The frustration since March has been trying to get the VA to cover Acthar for him. He was in an MS flare when we saw the doctor in March for the first time, so he was prescribed this medication to stop the inflammation. It is now July and the medication is just now on the way. Most of the symptoms he had that sparked this treatment have now subsided. The VA has to be the most difficult wad of red tape to navigate. I’m tired of doing everyone else’s job. Rant over!

I was tested for myasthenia gravis in late winter, but I never heard back from the neurologist about the results. I am guessing no news is good news? I truly have no idea. He did tell me, however, that my double vision is caused by something called fourth nerve palsy. My left eye doesn’t track with the right eye, and it causes double vision. The treatment is prism lenses in my glasses. And that’s where it stops. Prisms are expensive, y’all. 

Our big news involves our cat family. My fourteen-year-old boy, Pixel, had been sick for months and truthfully I probably clung to him far longer than I should have. But in May, he began to get aggressive with food. He was constantly hungry but he gained no weight despite a huge calorie intake every day. And when he snapped at me, we realized we couldn’t risk him hurting Mercy or either of us. 

Pixel crossed the Rainbow Bridge on May 11, 2020, after a long illness. I got one last Mother’s Day with him. Someday, I will write a post about his life and the extraordinary event that allows me to write this tribute to him right now. 

Mercy, our surviving cat, has missed him greatly. We knew she would, and adjusting to life as a solo cat has not been easy for her. We waited over a month before we began looking for a kitten to love. 

Almost two weeks ago, I heard about a litter of kittens from the same rescue where we adopted Mercy. One of them, a female, was black and white and looked to be a mirror image of our cat, Abby. So we made an appointment to see her, full of hope and very excited. 

When we arrived, we were told there was a mixup, and our female cat was actually a male. When I asked if she had any female kittens, she pointed to a dilute tortoiseshell kitten they had gotten just a day prior. And when I saw her, I knew she was mine. 

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Miss Bella

Bella came home on July 2, 2020. She is rambunctious, sweet, gentle, loves to play but even more, she loves to snuggle. Bella has a voice and she isn’t afraid to say what’s on her mind. She came to us sick with a parasitic infection and conjunctivitis but she has greatly improved taking her medicine every day. She is technically in quarantine until Friday but she is ready to meet Mercy and take ownership of this apartment. She is bonded with me, and it looks like I will have a cat in my lap every night once again. 

So, that is the news on this front. I hope this post finds you all happy and healthy. God bless!

Writer’s Block, One-Eyed Cats, and Tardar Sauce

I have been wrapped up in another writing project lately, which is why you have not seen much of me here. This week is shot with Hubby’s steroid infusion, fortunately for us at home, so I have much time to sit and plan what, how, why I’m going to write. For those who are interested, this is my other project, and it’s coming along nicely, even if I am close to the only reader I have. Hey, someone has to like it, right?

So tonight, I’m sitting here typing away, fighting double vision from who knows what, and my three-year-old “kitten” jumps into my lap. I say kitten because she is the baby in the family, but in truth, she’s an adult. She’s fourteen pounds of sheer love wrapped in a silky fur coat and only one eye. She lost her right eye when she was a wee kitten of about 8 weeks old. Something had scratched it, apparently, and it became infected. Eye removal surgery was the most cost-effective and healthiest route to take for the rescue that found her, and so that’s what they did.

Mercy was bestowed upon us in late June 2016, a tiny meowing, barely purring, skinny but well-socialized kitten. Hubby fell in love with her immediately and spent the next three days helping me prepare a place to separate her from the two resident ones we had at the time. If he was willing to put in some work, and he did work tirelessly by my side to prep that room, he wanted her. So on June 25, 2016, Mercy Grace joined our family. 

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Mercy “helps” with the laundry. Isn’t she a good girl?

Anyway, as I was saying before I got off my point. She jumped up into my lap and settled down like she does every evening after Hubby finishes his medication. She does the kitty version of tucking in, and I have to admit, it’s terribly cute. And tonight, like many other nights, she spent a good amount of time bathing. But when she stopped, she stared at me, into my eyes. What was she thinking? Only she and God know the truth.

It made me wonder if she misses what she has almost never known: two eyes. I mean, she’s well-adjusted to life as a popeye cat (or as my doctor calls her, “Cindy, with one eye.” I laughed way too hard at that, by the way.) She truly seems no worse for the wear, and I’m so used to her that I believe she might look odd with both peepers. It was the way she looked at me that gave me pause. What is she truly thinking? Oh, how I’d love to get inside her little head for half an hour. I want to know.

Is she happy? I would say yes, she is. My indications of her happiness include the fact that she willingly jumps up in my lap, night after night. She sleeps curled up with me every night without fail. She wakes me and Hubby up every morning with her adorable meows. She has windows to her world, and she sits in them endlessly during the day. Those windows provide her with more than enough stimulation. She’s even come out of the window on rare occasions with a lizard in her jaws, a living plaything that I usually rescue one pawing too late. She has an older “brother,” who she adores and grooms constantly. Is she happy? All indications point to “yes.”

But wouldn’t it be awesome to know? Cats are so enigmatic. Dogs wear their emotions on their faces, in their waggly tails. You never miss cues from a dog. But a cat… a cat can look at you, and it can mean almost anything, from “I love you. I’m hungry. Feed me,” to “I might kill you tonight while you sleep.” You just never know. I’m convinced the only cat who ever lived that wore her emotions was Tardar Sauce, known to the whole world as “Grumpy Cat.” 

Stuff like this is what happens when I hit writer’s block. And you, my friends, get to peek inside my head. Now that should scare you.

Have a good week, my friends. Be blessed.

A Beautiful Surprise

I don’t normally talk much about the cats here on this blog since they have their own special piece of the blogosphere here on WordPress, but this event is so fantastic, and I need to give a public shout out where it will have somewhat of an audience.

We have two beautiful (I may be biased a little bit!) tabby cats, one male, and one female. Our boy, Pixel, turned 12 years old late last year, and Mercy will be 3 in a couple of weeks. They are our furry children, and I’m not apologetic about how I feel about them. I also wrote how we lost my hubby’s Ragdoll cat about a year and a half ago. She is still very much a part of our family, as are Pixel and Mercy. Sassy and the two that went before her live in our memories and too many photos to count.

So, about 3 years ago, I began ordering our cat food and litter from Chewy, mostly because they offered the brands that I wanted much cheaper than I could buy them in local stores. We kept ordering from them every month because their customer service is simply second to none. If something is wrong with the order, they solve the problem almost immediately. If an item needs to be replaced because it was damaged in shipment, another item is usually in the mail within hours of it being reported. We get Christmas cards every year from the co-founders, and personalized emails requesting photos of the cats when we correspond. Over the years, they have worked hard to build trust in their brand, and as a result, they have my loyalty. I’m a Chewy family member.

This month, my FedEx notification showed two packages coming from Chewy’s warehouse and an extra from a different location. I never ordered anything from somewhere else, and Hubby’s medication usually comes by a different carrier. So I was perplexed when this third package wasn’t listed on the shipment. I heard the FedEx delivery guy drop our two extremely heavy boxes of cat litter and food outside our door, and when I opened the door, the third item in the shipment was apparent. It was a shiny, blue bubble envelope that was sealed very well, and obviously from Chewy. After lugging the boxes inside, I opened the other package and was absolutely floored. First was this card, addressed to me:

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Inside the envelope were three small, square-shaped items wrapped in blue tissue paper. Carefully, I unwrapped each of them:

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Sassy, Pixel, and Mercy

Three gorgeous little paintings of my precious babies. The artist even captured Sassy’s beautiful eyes and Mercy’s little eye. Needless to say, I love them, and they couldn’t have come at a better time. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one gifted with little portraits of pets. Judging by Chewy’s Facebook page, quite a few happy pet parents were also blessed with similar paintings.

It seems so seldom that a random act of kindness is expressed in this crazy world. But when you are chosen as a recipient of such an act, it leaves an indelible print on your soul. Long after Pixel and Mercy are gone, these will remain as gentle reminders that I was loved.

Thank you, my Chewy family. Your gift was amazing, appreciated and much loved.

Sassy

Sassy Lynn

Sassy (4/8/2000 – 10/30/2017)

A year ago today, Hubby and I lost one of our cats, Sassy, to suspected feline cancer. She was the ripe old cat age of seventeen years. We continue to grieve for her, as we have done for the two that have gone before her, at this time of year. Sassy was definitely Hubby’s baby, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t have a connection with her.

Sassy was bestowed upon us in the Summer of 2000 as a tiny, scruffy kitten. I found her outside the home of a friend, with whom we had been visiting. It was a Friday night, and we had all gathered for our weekly game of cards, dice or whatever we felt like at the time. I had just returned home from my Dad’s 80th birthday party in Florida, and I was ready for some time with friends. On my way to the powder room, I noticed that tiny kitten sitting in the mulch outside the front door. “Ooh, Ellie!” I exclaimed at our friend, “Look at this cute kitten in the bushes!” The kitten was creamy beige in color, with dark, underdeveloped points of color on her face, feet and tail, and the most beautiful crystal blue eyes I have ever seen on a cat. I was told that the kitten belonged to a neighbor, but that they weren’t supposed to have pets in their rental home. At that moment, I said words that I never considered could change our lives: “Well, if they don’t want her, I’ll take her.”

I never consulted with Hubby about bringing her home, because I never really expected what happened next. I no sooner had the words escape my lips when Ellie was out the door, kitten in hand, walking to the neighbor’s house. Fifteen minutes later, she returned, kitten in hand, with food, bowls and toys they had bought for her. So we were the proud (?) owners of another cat. We named her Sassy for two reasons: first, because Homeward Bound was a popular movie and we had seen it just days before, and this kitten looked a lot like Sassy from the movie, and second, because she had a bit of an attitude. Her name definitely fit her!

So, we headed home from our friend’s house that night, kitten and supplies in tow. We stopped at the grocery store on the way to get a few cans of kitten food to hold us over until morning, and some extra litter. It was in these few minutes, while I was inside the store, that Hubby formed a lasting bond with our newest charge.  Upon our arrival home, our Persian, Tika, fell in love instantly with this new kitten, even though she had never seen her. Because we didn’t know her history and background, Sassy spent the evening in our bathroom, comfortably appointed with a brand new, clean box, all the food and water she could consume, and a cushy warm blanket for a bed.  We did this until we could get Sassy checked out by a veterinarian, because we did have two other resident cats. Regardless, Tika spent all night parked outside the door, meowing to her softly and trying to comfort her. It was easily the sweetest thing I had seen to date. But Tika was just getting started.

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Sassy and her adoptive mama, Tika.

When we adopted Tika some 2 years prior, she had recently given birth to a litter of kittens.  She was surrendered to the shelter, but the previous owners kept her kittens, I can only assume to sell them. Their loss, our gain, right?  Anyway, Tika was obviously missing her kittens, and didn’t really seem complete, even though she had adjusted well into her new home.  But bringing Sassy home completely changed her. It was as if she had a renewed purpose, that missing part of her made whole, and she made it her life’s mission from that point forward to care for and love Sassy. They became inseparable. When they weren’t napping together or tormenting their older “sister,” Callie, Tika was lovingly grooming her.

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Sassy and her other best friend, Taz the betta.

When Sassy was still little, we acquired a betta fish named Taz.  We kept him in a small, 5 gallon aquarium that was easy to maintain, and he loved having the room to swim.  We didn’t know, however, that Sassy and Taz would develop a kinship of sorts.  She was fascinated by the little critter swimming in his tank, so she would see him and bat at him on one side of the tank.  He would swim away, and unbelievably would then swim back to taunt her! She, of course, took the “bait,” and swatted at him again.  This different game of “cat and mouse” became a favorite of Sassy’s to play, and Taz seemed to enjoy the company.  We were all heartbroken when Taz passed away, but Sassy missed him the most.

Hubby and I relocated to Florida in 2004, bringing our three girls with us.  They did remarkably well through the trip on the plane, having all three of them in the cabin with us at the time.  Callie and Tika slept through the trip almost all the way, but Sassy had more than enough being cooped up just as we began our descent into Tampa and decided to attempt an escape. Luckily, we noticed her little nose peeking out from inside the zippered carrier.  Sassy was always the first one to acclimate to a new environment, encouraging the others to come and explore, and our new home in Florida was no exception.

When Tika passed away in 2010, I was so enveloped in my grief for my own loss that I never considered how much Sassy would miss her as well. I think now, looking back, that Sassy’s loss was as, if not more significant than mine.  I lost my baby, but she lost her mama, the one that she could count on for a quick grooming session when she needed it, a snuggle buddy in the mid afternoon, and ultimately her best friend. It was in the days and weeks that followed Tika’s death that Hubby’s and Sassy’s bond strengthened significantly. She glued herself to him, following him around our apartment like a puppy. She “helped” him make the bed, she supervised his evening pill-taking ritual, and rocked out to AC/DC with him.  As she grew older, she spent much more time in his lap and by his side. They became inseparable.

Mercy, our now two year old baby, joined our family in 2016 as a tiny, scrawny kitten. Pixel, bless his heart, was terrified of a kitten 1/8th his size. Sassy, on the other hand, was not afraid to assert her dominance and let Mercy know in no uncertain terms that she was the head of the household. Once that pecking order was established, Sassy and Mercy became friends, though unwittingly on Sassy’s part. She had no real problem with her rambunctious younger sibling, but she also had no problem letting Mercy know when she’d had enough of her kitten antics. It was during those 14 months that Mercy developed her personality and she is now an awful lot like Sassy.

Last year, in Sassy’s 18th year, Hurricane Irma threatened our area. Not knowing whether or not we would head to a shelter, I knew we needed to vaccinate all three of our cats against rabies to be allowed into a public shelter. So we made an appointment for Sassy, Pixel and Mercy for chipping and shots. The vet was astonished at how healthy Sassy was for being 17 years old, and gave her a clean bill of health. Irma came and left us no worse for the wear, and life returned to normal.  But over the next few weeks, Sassy began to show signs of her age.  She slept in different places.  She didn’t eat her favorite foods. She just didn’t act like herself.  This went on for a couple of weeks before we realized that she was in crisis.  A trip to the vet revealed that her condition was dire, but rather than give up, she was given a course of antibiotics and prednisone, along with an appetite stimulant. She ate half a can of prescription food at the vet’s office, and we had hope that she would rally and pull through.

It was not to be, however. A week and a half later, we were returning to the vet, knowing that we would be coming home without her. Goodbyes are always difficult, but this one was especially rough. Sassy had been part of our family for the majority of our married life, and felt like a child to us.  Imagine losing a 17 year old child. While a true comparison can’t be made between a human child and a pet, Sassy was never just a pet to us. She, and indeed all of them are the children we never had, so her loss was devastating.  Hubby and I were there when Sassy took her last breath. She passed peacefully, with the only two people she had ever known and loved.

This year, as we observe the one year anniversary of her passing, there are other heartaches that we did not anticipate that make this event more emotional. Nonetheless, I wanted to make sure that Sassy is remembered this year as she deserves, as a cherished member of the family. Today, we honor her memory. Today, we look back and think of everything about Sassy that makes us smile and laugh. We remember how Hubby taught her how to play “high fives.”  We remember how she would come running when she heard AC/DC’s Thunderstruck, or For Those About To Rock (We Salute You), and then just lay on the bed and listen. We chuckle when we remember her escaping from the window in our bathroom and getting outside just in time to see her climbing the house. And we cherish every single memory we have of her.  We certainly have plenty of them.

We miss you, Sassy.

A Joyful Remembrance

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A freshly brushed Tika enjoying the bed.

Six years ago today was easily one of the worst days of my adult life, after the passing of my dad.  Because six years ago today was the last time I held my Persian cat, Tika, before she slipped away from us.  I’ve written of her many times in other places and on other media, but only once on this blog.  She has so shaped my being that I think that this year, her remembrance belongs right here.

Tika was no ordinary cat.  She was one of those creatures that when you met her, you just knew there was something special about her.  When we rescued her from the shelter during our first year of marriage, we knew she belonged with us.  Tika was the first birthday gift I’d gotten from my husband after our wedding.  She kinda picked us, the way you hear of dogs choosing their new owner.  We weren’t really interested in adopting, but we found ourselves at the shelter that rainy Saturday April afternoon.  It wasn’t unusual for us to stop in at the Humane Society just to look around, when we weren’t doing anything special on our way home and it was on the way.  We meandered into the cat room, where the staff was tending to a new bunch of cats that were recently surrendered after their owner passed away.  Since we already had a 3 year old calico, and because I have a soft spot for calicos and tortoiseshell cats, I was drawn to a pretty calico that was in the group.  She was reserved and shy in the back of her cage, not really understanding why she was there… and then I felt it.

Two light golden eyes were staring at me from a cage behind me.  It was Tika, but her name at the time was “Luna.”  And she was unlike the other cats.  She was active and friendly, purring and licking our fingers through her bars.  So hubby and I decided to spend some time with her in the visit room, and that is where we fell in love with this cat.  She was sweet, and loved belly rubs.  She purred the whole time we were with her, laying on the charm.  Her meows were soft and pleasant, almost begging us to take her home.  It was very difficult to leave her that afternoon, but we had placed a hold on her so we could “think about it.”  There was no thinking, but there was plenty of agonizing, tears and insomnia.  We finally decided to bring her home, and whatever the problems the two cats would have would surely work out over time.

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Tika and Callie in their favorite spot. Can you guess who the boss was?

In truth, it was over six months before Tika and Callie could tolerate each other and be in the same room.  But she was in my lap most times, and Callie just adored my hubby from the moment she met him.  So we each had a cat for our laps and our hearts.  Tika became my “certified professional” lap warmer, and my nurse when I was hurt in a car accident the following year and in the years that followed, right up until she passed away. She always knew when I needed her, and she was always right in my lap, grooming and loving me. She never knew a stranger.  Tika was the greeter that welcomed every guest into our home with a meow and a polite demand for a belly rub.  Everyone who met her adored her, even the veterinarians who treated her for the last six months of her life.

Every day since the day she passed, I have thought of her.  I have pictures of her on my desktop computer.  There is a photo of her and Sassy, our now 16 year old Ragdoll, that peers at me from a frame on the wall.  And every day has been excruciatingly painful.  For a long time, I couldn’t say her name without tears of grief, and I certainly couldn’t speak about her without choking sobs.  When she died, a piece of my heart died with her.

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Sassy and Tika.  The depth of their relationship was very apparent in this photo.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post called, “If Tika Came Back From Heaven.”  It was unbearably difficult to write, and I couldn’t post it for a year.  Even now, it’s hard to read, but sometimes I do go back and read my thoughts about what she would say if she could.  But the one thing I know for sure Tika would have wanted was for me to be able to love again, and she would have given her blessing on our newest family member, Mercy. In so many ways, Mercy has been able to heal some of the hurt of loss, and replace it with joy and hope.  Her name was chosen because of her physical disability, but her presence in our home has brought mercy and grace, exactly the things that Tika would have desired for me.  So it is more than fitting that Mercy Grace has come to be with us.  I can never replace Tika, but Mercy has been good for my soul.

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Mercy Grace, our one-eyed kitten, six months old and lookin’ good!

Tika Marie, I still miss you with all of my heart.  Every day I wish you were here again.  And I am so thankful that you chose me to be your Mama.  I have learned so much from you, Munchkin; how to love without condition, to give without expectation, and to find joy in the small things.  You are gone from here, but always in my heart.  Rest well, until I see you again. Much love, baby girl, now and forever.

And Kitten Makes Five!

I am, admittedly, a HUGE cat freak.  Well, I’m huge anyway (1/4 Italian) but that’s besides the point.  What I mean is, I love my cats.  My husband and I weren’t fortunate enough to have human children, and cats are probably the neediest, closest comparison to real children that I could handle.  I told a friend the other day that we wanted human kids, but cats were all we could handle.  I think I got that down just right.  Truth bomb, coming up.

I usually save all of my cat-related stuff and stories for my cat blog, Life With Cats, but this blog has been neglected as of late.  Not because I’ve been terribly busy (I have been) but because I don’t think about it as much as I did when the blog was new.  And, for my (two?) readers to get a better sense of who I am and what makes me tick, there’s no better way then to introduce the part of my life that makes me a better caregiver: cat guardianship.

I’ve been “cat mom” to seven wonderful creatures over the past 22 years, two of which we still have today.  Sassy is our now sixteen year old Ragdoll cat.  In kitty years, that puts her at approximately 78-80 years old.  She’s slowing down and starting to show her age, but she looks overall like a much younger cat.  We’ve had her since she was approximately 10 weeks old, so she’s a “lifer.”  Pixel, our boy and resident tabby, is just about 10 1/2 years old.  He’s still playful and lazy at the same time.  If you knew Pixel, you could see how he could pull off this veritable oxymoron with great ease.  Pixel has recently accomplished a significant weight loss, from a hefty 23 pounds down to an almost finished goal of 18 pounds.  He has much more energy than he used to have, but is still one of the laziest cats I’ve ever had.  Needless to say, we love them both immensely.

Last week, while shopping at PetSmart for some new toys for my boy, I stopped at the PetSmart Charities adoption center to do my usual kitten/cat ogling.  I had lost interest in adopting another cat since the devastating loss of my Persian tortoiseshell, Tika, back in 2010.  But I do enjoy stopping at the shelter or places like PetSmart to “ooh and aah” and talk to the kitties.  But that day, something was different, and it was something I hadn’t felt since the day we found Tika at the shelter in 1998.  That was the day we first met Mercy (then named “Stitch,”) a one-eyed grey tabby kitten.  It wasn’t so much the fact that she was a kitten, but that she was profoundly disabled that we were drawn to her.  Disabled or special needs kittens and cats are much less likely to be adopted than normally-abled cats, and that cute little face just drew us in like flies to butter (is that a Southern saying?  Where did that come from?!)

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Take me home with you please!!

From that instant, we knew we were meant to be Mercy’s guardians.  We were told that she was rescued from a large TNR (trap, neuter, release) feral colony in the next town over, and that she had an infection in her eye that necessitated its removal.  She was approximately 11 weeks old, but looked so tiny that I thought the age estimate was probably wrong.  Of the three kittens that were rescued, she was the last to become ready for adoption, and not a moment too soon.

So, last Saturday, June 25th, Mercy became an official member of the family. She has been adapting rather well and has shed the cage from where she saw the world, or at least the inside of PetSmart. It has been a long time since we’ve had charge of a 12 week old kitten, and I’m not as young as I used to be.  I’ve forgotten how much work goes into maintaining two different schedules for two sets of cats.  I would imagine that this is but a microcosm of what bringing a baby home would be like.  Except I don’t have to get up at all  hours of the night to feed and change a kitten.  Could you imagine?  No thanks. Not at the tender age of 47 (that would be MY age, in real human years.)

Welcome to your new forever home, little Mercy monster. I’m so blessed to be called your “mama.”

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Let’s play, Mom!!

If Tika Came Back From Heaven…..

This is my “Cat Blog” but the post is heartfelt and applicable to me as a person. This is one of my “Purposeful” posts. I hope you enjoy!

Life With Cats

This year marks five years since I lost my tortoiseshell cat, Tika. In some aspects, it seems like just yesterday and on the other hand, I think it feels like forever. Those who know me know how important Tika was to me, in so many ways. She was so much more than “just a cat”… she was my nurse, my friend, my “child.” She got me through the death of my dad, a move across country, the death of my first cat, Callie. She was the first gift my husband gave me for my birthday as my husband. I never understood the concept of a pet “choosing you” until I met Tika. She never knew a stranger; everyone who walked into our home was greeted with a meow and a demand for a belly rub. She was just simply one of a kind. To say she was a special cat…

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