If you're the kind of person
who can't stand reading sappy, sentimental stuff
about other people's pets,
skip this section.
On 2017 July 13 my cat Maria left my life as she entered my life fifteen years earlier, a perky, purring puss filled with love, light, and lots of joy. While my other cats Evelyn, Tabatha, Jack, and Brandon left on their own, I chose Maria's time.
When Jack passed away on 2002 March 9, my other cat Brandon was a lonely old puss. When my buddy Dan and I were eating at Contigo Peru, a Peruvian restaurant in Dunwoody, Atlanta, Georgia, we found a sad kitten in the parking lot whom Dan named Maria. "I've always wanted to have a cat," he said, he took her home, and he faced many challenges. Deworming a cat involves bad stuff coming out of both ends, removing lice and ear mites and mange isn't fun either. He even had her spayed. A couple of weeks later, Dan decided he wasn't really ready to have a pet, I wrote him a cheque for every penny he spent, I was happy not to have to do all that myself, and I took Maria to her new home with Brandon.
From the start, Maria was a messenger of joy. I expect most people who aren't cat people figure they're really all the same and all those cute personality traits are our imagination. Kittens are kittens, cute and fun as they scamper and play, but they really grow up to have their own identities as adults. Evelyn was pleasantly cuddly, Brandon was a faithful friend of mine, Tabatha enjoyed purring on my lap, Jack was effusively gregarious, Penny hates me and hides when I come into the room, Max is aggressively affectionate, and Maria was joy incarnate. She would break into shoulder rolls when I came into the room. Almost every day when I walked home from work, I was met at the foot of the driveway by my two cats Brandon and Maria. As I strolled from the street to the door, elder Brandon would walk by my side while Maria would cavort and play as she made her way with the two of us. She was a true "sweetie."
My cats have been outdoor cats every placed I've lived until I moved to Scottsdale where we have coyotes, javalenas, and owls, all of which can make a meal of a cat. I decided I would have indoor cats here. Maria was a sleek, svelte, slender, athletic feline when she was outside every day catching her own lunch. Indoors she had a weight-management problem which was ultimately solved by a machine that doled out diet cat food twice a day.
She answered to her name "Maria." Our conversations were decidedly unidirectional, I would talk to her and she would open and close her mouth silently. I would speak some more and she would repeat the response. These conversations would go back and forth several times. I recall an e.e.cummings poem where he used the word "darkle" to mean something dark and sparkly, never mind the more-negative definition in the online directionary. I can't find that poem online (maybe my memory is faulty and it never existed) but that's what I remember, Maria was my "Darkle Puss" and she answered to that as well as her name.
Maria had a serious medical history. My veterinarian Dr. Krista Gibson and I became a lot closer over the past five years. In 2012 February Maria had bone cancer involving an amputation of her right front paw and she survived five years after that. In 2013 she was out of sorts, slow and tired and generally underwhelming, so I took her to Dr. Gibson who tested her various ways and, after some consultation, eventually concluded Maria had Cushings disease. Six months of adjustments and tests got the dosage right for medicine that Maria took orally every day and the good news is she liked the stuff, so it wasn't a problem. (Giving a cat a pill is terrible and giving her liquid she doesn't like isn't much easier.)
Maria was a five year cancer survivor with no symptoms. Fifteen years isn't any kind of record for a cat, but getting her this far took a lot of medical effort from all the initial work Dan did when we rescued her through her cancer surgery and through her Cushings treatment. 2017 July 11, Tuesday, Maria developed a red spot on one side. A Red Spot may look good on the planet Jupiter, but it sure didn't look good on my fifteen-year-old cat. Maria and I scurried to the vet. Maybe she licked herself too hard, it sure didn't look good.
Two days at Dr. Gibson's office showed no signs of licking but a great deal more skin damage, now on both sides. Dr. Gibson did some research and found that this sort of skin damage is associated with Cushings and that similar feline-Cushings cases did not end well. The skin failure spreads until euthanasia is the best choice.
I looked at my Darkle Puss, my Maria, my purring and perky puss who loved me and trusted me. One of the hallmarks of being civilized is choosing the time and circumstances of our deaths, or maybe having someone who loves us make the best choice. Dr. Gibson said I might want to see how the weekend goes, but the most-likely consequence of waiting was that Maria, starting in a couple of hours, would be in serious agony from her wounds for the short remainder of her life, maybe a couple of days, maybe a week. It would have been treating her with ointments she didn't want and and putting some kind of shirt on her she wouldn't like. Spending her last days and hours wriggling out of a shirt to lick off a nasty ointment was not how I wanted Maria's life to end. I believe I made the civilized choice. She and I had fifteen years together.
Max has been out of sorts in Maria's absence, so I figured maybe it's a good time to bring another kitten into my house. It's not a "replacement" for Maria any more than Maria replaced Jack, any more than Jack replaced Tabatha or Evelyn. All of my cats brings back their own memories of their own relationships with me. New cats bring new character and new personalities into my home.
Devin and Jane are two Russian Blue kittens, frisky and fun as kittens are with no real personalities yet. That will come as they grow up. The decision to have kittens for fifteen weeks is the decision to have grown-up cats for fifteen years, a decision I'm happy to live with. As much as he missed Maria, Max wasn't happy to see two new cats, but he's coming around. He is still affectionate with me, lots of nose pressing and face rubbing, every morning when I awake and every night when I retire. There are worse ways for a cat to be.
So I'll thank Maria my Darkle Puss for fifteen wonderful years full of light, love, and joy. I have to believe any creature so effusively sharing joy with others must, herself, have been full of joy in her own life.
17:17:17 Mountain Standard Time (MST).
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