Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Love of My Life


One of the great loves of my life has died. It's not my husband or child or an old boyfriend or similar...it's my beautiful, adored cat, Maggie.

It may sound funny to describe a cat in such grandiose terms but, in many ways, she was.  I loved her unconditionally.  I forgave everything:  her almost daily habit of serial killing small animals; her constant hair shed; her vomiting the remnants of the small animals she'd devour; her staying out all night in summer causing my husband, sons and me no end of worry.  Maggie did not love me best.  Oh no.  She adored my husband and sons. She liked menfolk.  My eldest son was her early favorite.  They had a very companionable relationship til he left for college. She then became enamored of my husband whose exceedingly warm body was well suited to her needs.  She would practically sleep on top of him even though he did not encourage her.  I, on the other hand, wanted her next to me always but I was always her last resort.


Maggie was a dainty, tiny cat.  She looked like a kitten all her life, never weighing over 6 lbs.  She had perfect confirmation and markings.  The boys and my husband brought her home in 1999 after a visit to a local animal shelter where they also brought home a female dog named Zoe.  Maggie was about 18 mos old at the time though she looked like a kitten.  She had tremendous confidence and a sense of herself which attracted the menfolk immediately.

Early on, we decided not to limit her environment to the indoors. Our property abutted a national forest. We had regular visits from red fox, black bear, moose, wild turkey, the occasional bobcat and weasel. It was a calculated risk.   Maggie had energy, curiosity, aggressiveness and exceptional hunting ability.  For ten years, we waited for the other shoe to drop.



She had two close calls that we know of.  Early on, while driving down the driveway to school, my son and I saw Maggie, back arched and ready to fight two red foxes.  They had her cornered at the junction of our driveway & our neighbors' easement driveway.  Zoe, our dog, Maggie's companion from the animal shelter, jumped out the car window and gave chase to the foxes who were loath to leave the tiny morsel.  My son jumped out to scoop her up and Maggie was saved.

The  second close call was Labor Day 2009.  I found her curled up in a ball on the porch, bleeding, with teethmarks, lacerations and damage all over her body.  We rushed her to the vet and waited anxiously overnight  for the results.  $800 later, she was thriving with numerous stitchings and salve.  The doc ordered bed rest.We kept close watch for the next week and she rallied beautifully.  I breathed a sigh of relief and
thanked God for saving my baby.


Then, on December 10th, three weeks after moving out of the family home we shared and the only home she'd known, my son awoke to find her staggering and listless on the floor of his room after she'd fallen off his bed.  He alerted us to her distress and we observed her for a few moments before finding an emergency vet hospital  open.  It was 8AM.  She couldn't walk right.  She wouldn't look at us.  She didn't want to be touched.  She was dying before our eyes.  Again, we rushed her to the vet.  They xrayed her, they hydrated her, they took blood samples.  She had a seizure and they sedated her to quell the tremors.  They told us they'd monitor her progress.  When we walked out the door of the vet hospital, I began to sob.  I almost collapsed in the parking lot and my husband and son helped me to the car. 

We drove around a while.  I couldn't stop crying.  I didn't go to work.  We returned to the house we now share with my MIL.  My son was quiet and scared.  At 12 noon my cell phone rang.  I answered.  It was the doctor.  Maggie hadn't made it.  The vet did not know why.  I speculated poison.  The vet speculated a "toxin" or a brain tumor that might have grown too large and suddenly killed her.  The vets don't screen for toxins so we'll never know.  An autopsy was out of the question.

I took the news calmly.  I had known when I said "good bye" to her at the vets and walked out that door full of more grief than I'd felt in years.  But my husband and son were stunned.  My son bent over double, holding his head, crying as though his heart would break.  My husband just couldn't believe it.  Our Maggie was gone.  We'd watched tv in bed the night before and she'd curled & cooed & purred to us as she accepted our pets, strokes and love.   She'd done her "roly polys" which I called her rolling about on her back.  She was fine.

The worst part of any death is the hole it leaves in your heart; the void that will never be filled.  We move on, we adapt and we finally accept.  But we never forget and we never quite let go.

28 comments:

Nancy said...

Ohhh, I'm so sorry for your loss. I know what it is like to lose a beloved pet, and it is exactly like losing a member of our family, which is exactly what they are, of course. She was certainly beautiful and if a life well lived meant she was adored - we we can tell Maggie lived a good one.

We are mourning the loss of our Roxy - December was a difficult month.

Minka said...

She sounds like one awesome cat. Hugs!

Brian Miller said...

my cat is starting to age. i know the day will be coming and i dont look forward to it. great tribute...sorry for your loss.

Susan said...

I'm so sorry for your loss. I was crying as I read your sweet, loving tribute to your little girl. She was so beautiful. ((hugs))

Susan

Noni at The Brick Street Bungalow said...

CG: I am so sorry for your loss. Maggie was well loved. I still find myself expecting Tess (our Scottie who we lost in Dec) to be in her usual places... doing her usual antics... It is hard to let go. They do leave a hole.

California Girl said...

Nancy: I too am sorry for your loss. It is so damn painful. We set such store by our beloved companions. Perhaps it's because they love us unconditionally.

Minka: you always say the right thing. hugs back.

Brian: they can live to be 20 although that's probably a rarity. hold on to him/her while you can.

Susan: yes. I was crying as I wrote it. had to stop several times. thank you for your empathy.

Tanna: I'm sorry to hear about your Scottie. I was so not with it in Dec that I wasn't reading blogs and didn't know of yours or Nancy's losses.

subby said...

Believe me when I tell you I know all about the emotional loss of a loved one, such as Maggie( Mom never got over the loss of her first kitty-cat or doggy, really ). Hope Maggie's havin' fun where ever she may be...

As an aside, there is a cat almost identical, that a neighbour has( but with a bit more grey )...

Baino said...

Aww that's so sad but look at those gorgeous photographs you have to keep her alive. I had a cat for 17 years she was a cross between a Siamese and Burmese, beautiful little thing but she just 'gave up' one night. I haven't replaced her because we have such lovely birds I can't be sure that another cat wouldn't kill them. I miss her though, she was very indoorsy and gentle. These days, I have a labrador sleeping on the end of the bed!

California Girl said...

Subby: thank you for the kind words and sympathy. If there ever was a cat to have fun and find contentment "wherever she may be" it's the Mag-pie.

Baino: I'm grateful to my husband for capturing her many moods so beautifully. He could never capture her racing round the lawn or up and down trees. She'd go into hyper speed when she was super happy and just fly!

Kate Hanley said...

I am so sorry about your cat. She sounds like she was a wonderful pet. I am glad that you have so many great memories of her.

Marguerite said...

So sorry about the loss of your dear Maggie. She was a beautiful cat and I understand about how hard losing a pet can be. I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.

AJ "Rohzi" Ellington said...

Oh my goodness, that was the most heartfelt tribute I've ever read about a pet. I was absolutely moved. I am so sorry for your loss. Your cat was gorgeous.

Oddly enough, reading your blog caused me to experience a twinge of guilt. I don't appreciate my feline nearly as much as you appreciated yours. I don't love him the way you loved her. I hardly pet him or acknowledge his existence despite his constant cries for my attention. As a matter of fact, I've even contemplated giving him up just because he's so annoying to me at times, but the fact that I paid $500 for him discourages me to giving him away. My London is a Maine Coon which is the largest breed of domestic cat. He's a year and a half and weighs over 20 lbs and he's not done growing. I didn't anticipate him being so unmanageable and reckless, and I've had a hard time handling him. But he's the sweetest thing otherwise.

When there are people in this world who adore their pets the way that you do, it makes people like me look selfish and unworthy of having a pet at all.
: - /

Again, so sorry for your loss.

kathrin said...

hi, I m happy to found your blog, I love cats, it so lovely ! Kathrin (Bremen)

California Girl said...

Kate: Thank you. I put off writing about her til I could handle it emotionally. Plus I did not want to be full of angst when I wrote. I miss her terribly tho'.

Rohzi: I appreciate you sharing your feelings with me. Maine Coon cats are lovely and large. They do need attention but, that being said, most cats are content with some attention, regular feeds and a bit of playtime each day. Try to establish a routine first thing in the AM & in the evening after you get home. The older a cat gets, the more they settle down. Young cats are full of energy just like young children. I hope you find a way to keep him because you will be rewarded. Also, as long as there's a clean cat box, plenty of water and dry food, you may leave a cat overnight w/o a lot of worry. Dogs...no way.

kathrin: Thank you for you note and welcome. please visit again.

VE said...

Sorry to hear about Maggie. My mom lost her cat last year; she was almost 21 years old. It's tough to lose a pet...

Candie Bracci said...

Amazing beautiful pictures of her,I'm sorry to hear about her death!I have lost a dog and a cat too,I know how you might feel.

California Girl said...

VE: Thank you. Wow, 21! I hoped Maggie would live longer yet I'm grateful for my time with her.

Candie: Thank you. It is nice to receive the empathy of others.

Joanna Jenkins said...

How sad. She looks like a wonderful cat. I hope your photos speak to you and remind you of all the love she poured your way.
xo

mouse (aka kimy) said...

I'm so sorry....what a wonderful tribute to maggie in words and such incredible photos.... take comfort in knowing she will live forever in your heart and memories.

our animals are part of the family and for most of us their deaths are profound and terrible things.... but I can never imagine not having animals in my life and home.

best to you...

otin said...

I hate to hear that about your cat :(

Pets can be such an important part of our lives. I love my cat! I would be deeply saddened if she passed away. I am sorry for your loss.

California Girl said...

Joanna: that's a sweet way of putting it. Iwas even re-writing it to say "purred" my way. Thank you.

Kimy: I know. They are. My husband's photos are a great comfort to me as they capture her so well. We have many more and I'm going to ask him to create a Maggie file in his photo archives so I may visit her and remember her many moods. Thank you.

Otin: Thank you so much. I love hearing from other pet owners. I've nevr understood people who don't like cats. I can only believe they've never had one.

Mrsupole said...

I am so sorry for you loss, but it was a wonderful story that your wrote about her.

I too lost my cat Thumper, I loved that cat so much and I know he loved me too. It has been over four years since his passing and I still cry when I think about him. And if I talk about him I just burst into a real crying fit. I think that Thumper was the one living thing that I have been the closest to in my life. I have never felt this way about anyone. Even in my sleep if I dream about him I wake up with tears rolling down my face. I am glad to hear that I am not the only person who could feel this way about a cat. My heart truly goes out to you.

May God watch over Maggie and keep her safe while she is waiting for when you meet again.

God bless.

California Girl said...

Mrsupole: Thank you for your shared experience. I guess we just can't help it. They fill a void in our lives and hearts and take us by surprize. Thumper and Mags may find one another in kitty heaven, which, my father promised me when I was little, exists.

whalechaser said...

I am sorry that you have to go through this heartbreak. I will send you some silent prayers to help ease your pain. It is the price of loving I suppose; it always seems so very high.
Whale

herhimnbryn said...

There is a poem by Kipling that is about dog ownership, but I feel it applies to all the animals that choose to live with us and that we love. One of the lines is,
'giving your heart to a dog to tear...' Your lovely Cat may have 'torn' your heart, but she was fortunate to have lived her life with you. You loved her and cared for her.

ArtSparker said...

I think you were right to let your cat go outside - the indoor cats I know are chronically depressed. I lost a cat I loved to pieces as well, the most awful experience I've ever been through. You have my sympathy.

Minka said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. It does not sound funny to describe a cat in "such grandiose" terms, not to anyone who has ever had a pet and loved it.

California Girl said...

herhimnbryn: I'm sorry it took so long to respond to your lovely comment. Thank you very very much particularly for the Kipling poem which I will look up.

Art: My apologies to you as well for waiting so long to respond. Yes, she would have been miserable inside the house. I do not regret it.

Minka: Thank you. I'm still grieving. I think I see her tail waving or hear her purring or making a "meep" sound. it happens alot. Sometimes I can feel her jumping up on he bed. I reach out a hand to stroke her fur. I miss her so much.