Take My Love With You (Everywhere You Go)
I’ve tried to express, or begin to express, what my pets mean to me. I don’t think I could ever do justice to the feelings I have for them. They aren’t feelings really- my animals aren’t just my babies, they are my sun and my air, they are inside every cell of my body. Anyone who doesn’t know me, might think my previous statement- that I’d rather go through chemotherapy again than give up Vera and Greta- was just a dramatic overstatement. Let me assure you, that this is not the case. This loss will devastate me more than anything else that I’ve gone through in the past two years- more than surgery, cancer, chemotherapy, more surgery, radiation, getting dumped during radiation, and the subsequent frantic rebuilding of my life that followed. Anyone in my knitting group would vouch for this- they have seen me through all of these things without seeing me shed a tear, until I told them what I felt I had to do. I asked for their advice. I just wanted someone to tell me what I should do. What was the right thing? The best thing? But nobody could answer that. My knitting friends did what they have always done- supported whatever I needed to do. And what I needed to do then and now is grieve. Just as I can’t control the way that I give myself over to animals, I can’t control the way that I shut down entirely when I lose them. I could keep myself together at the doctor’s office 3 hours after getting a cancer diagnosis. I could not keep myself together in the vet’s office today while I made sure that Vera and Greta were given a clean bill of health before going to their new home. I haven’t really been able to keep it together for most of the day, as much as I know that they will be going to an excellent home full of love. In a horrible situation, this is the best possible solution that I could have. But I am beside myself with grief and anger. This is just another thing that that pathetic human being I called a husband has done to my life.
My husband and I brought Vera home after she showed up under my brother’s porch with a litter of kittens. Vera and her kittens came into my home the day after I had to put my cat Jaques to sleep. Jaques had been a sickly cat for most of his short life, but I was heartbroken. Vera’s sweet nature and constant state of purry bliss was a salve on my wounds. While Vera’s kittens were semi-feral, she herself loved everyone. I had to keep her and her kittens in the office until they were all vetted, and every time I opened that door, she would purr as loud as can be and immediately start kneading the floor with her happy paws. All one had to do was scratch Vera under the chin and her eyes would almost roll up into her head in ecstasy. Many cats have a reputation of being standoffish or difficult- she was none of these things. She was this tiny little creature, full of mats, already having a hard life at less than a year old but she didn’t hold that neglect against anyone. She loved everyone equally from the minute I brought her into my home.
I kept her and her kittens, doing my best to socialize the babies, but it was hard work. Luckily, I was able to work with a rescue group who helped me to get all of the cats vetted. I talked with the woman who coordinated their care about possibly adopting one of the cats (my husband, the one who bailed on all of these animals, wanted to keep Vera and one of her kittens at this time.) She strongly suggested that I kept Vera, as adult cats are always harder to place into homes. This wasn’t a tough decision- I couldn’t help but love Vera. We called her Vera Vera Swishytail because of well, all her tail swishing. She does this the way some cats do just before they are about to scratch the hell out of you- she just leaves out the unpleasant part. We also called her a little piggy cat because she has a distinctive grunt that she makes in place of a “meow.”
What I will really miss about Vera the most? Her company in the bathroom. Vera is my bathroom cat. She’s fascinated with water and will run through the door as you are walking into the bathroom. She will sit and stare at the tub drain and bat at any stray drops of water. Once, while I was taking a shower, a phantom paw frantically whapped at the water running down the shower walls. I will miss her company while I shower and while I putter about the bathroom in my morning and evening routines- her constant presence on the floor, tail swishing.
Greta is another story. I love Vera, very much, but I raised Greta by hand. My friend Matt found Greta orphaned outside of his apartment one October. He brought her to me so that I could foster her, not realizing at the time that the kitten he was bringing me was 2 weeks old. She was covered in her own shit, full of parasites, starving, and screeching like there was no tomorrow. She was a scrappy little thing and I loved her the second I laid eyes on her. I called the same woman who helped me with Vera and her kittens because I realized that I was out of my range of expertise. The cat lady offered to bring Greta to be fostered elsewhere- she was going to require a lot of work. I couldn’t let her go. I became Greta’s mother- feeding her with a bottle, burping her, bathing her, and even helping her go to the bathroom (mother cats stimulate their babies by licking them- I opted to use a finger.) I had to mix up formula for her and feed her every 2 hours until she went to sleep. As she got bigger, I had to make her little food concoctions to transition her to solid food. I remember calling the cat lady one night, so proud, because my baby had done her first big poop in the litter box. It was a little late and she was concerned that something was wrong. When I explained why I was calling, she laughed. “I understand completely.”
When the cat lady came to meet her and check on her progress, Greta realized it was time to eat and immediately started demanding her food with the screeches I had come to know and love. The woman covered her mouth and smiled, “Oh my god,” she said, “She’s such a bitch! I love her.” This summed up Greta from day one. She weighed in probably under a pound and she strutted around the house like she owned it. She bossed around Vera and Mergatroid (the old man cat of the house) and even Mona the big bully didn’t bother her. Greta did what she wanted. It was impossible not to love her with all of my heart.
If her larger than life personality wasn’t enough, Greta has always greeted me at the door when I come home. She leaves no lap unwarmed in my home- particularly mine. She doesn’t care about being pet so much, she just wants to sit on top of you at all times. We started calling her “the Snuggler” while she was still a baby, and she will call back to me if I call her this in the right tone. She still demands food, particularly the “Greenies” I give the cats in the morning. From the sound of her, you’d think that she would absolutely die without them. My mornings, my afternoons, and my lap will feel empty with her gone. I suspect that Harriet- her dog sister will miss her too. They came to me within a couple of weeks of eachother- both small and unwanted. They don’t cuddle like they used to, but they still play together like siblings.
I know that my girls are not leaving me really. I will still visit them, still have updates and new pictures of them with the children who will love them. But it won’t be the same. My house won’t be the same. This family of mine will not be the same.
And neither will I.