Thursday, August 19, 2010

Emily Marie, a cat, 1992-2010

When I moved to Minnesota, following a guy I'd been dating for about five months, my dad helped me load up my little white pick-up and drive my stuff out here. It was a three day trip, he didn't let me drive, and I loved spending so much time with my dad. I also bawled like a baby before we'd even left California, but nevermind that. We arrived on Nov. 1, 1992, and the next morning at breakfast he said, "Well, I think today we should get you a cat." (We also had to get ourselves some gloves, scarves, and hats, because we drove in with the first snowstorm.)

We found the nearest Humane Society location, finally figured out how to get there, and faced the daunting task of choosing among the dozens and dozens of cats there. There were cats who couldn't be around other cats, and cats in the "colony rooms" who were more sociable and well-behaved. I decided to start there. In the first room, none of the cats looked up when I entered, and none seemed too excited about the possibility of being adopted by a CA transplant trying to pass off a flannel shirt as a jacket.

So I went to the next colony room. When I walked in, only one cat turned her head to look at me. When I walked over to her, she jumped up onto my shoulder and began to purr. We took her into one of the "get acquainted" rooms and she continued to basically attach herself to me. Dad said, "I think you've got a cat." The vet at the Humane Society believed she was about nine months old. She'd been surrendered by a family that was moving and didn't want to pay a pet deposit (that's how it was phrased to me - perhaps they couldn't). Her name was Tasha.

We brought her home and I renamed her Emily Marie (for Emily Dickinson and Marie Curie). That first afternoon she took a nap curled up on my dad. She liked to sleep during the day in the bathroom sink. At night she would pull her favorite toy - a length of string - up into the bed and meow. She played fetch for a couple years. Our apartment was on the sixth floor of a building overlooking a freeway - she would sit in the window and watch the freeway, batting at the glass when am emergency vehicle or police cruiser went by with lights flashing. She once ran over and licked the speakers the first time she heard Brahms. When we moved to a duplex, she found new favorite spots and games. When we decided to get a second cat to keep her company...well, she put up with him. Mostly.

For the last few months she's been on a long slide downwards. In the last two months she began to let Cora pet her. She stopped coming upstairs at night. She begged for milk and cream constantly, but lost weight until she was only about 3 pounds. On Monday we took her to a very kind vet who had been seeing her, who gave us the space to make our own decision. She walked out of her carrier onto the soft blue blanket they had spread on the table. She lay down and waited while we signed paperwork and petted her. She waited patiently for the vet to find one of her tiny tiny veins with his tiny tiny needle, and then she just lay her head down and stopped. We had time alone with her, petting her, talking to her, until we felt like that soft furry body wasn't really her anymore.

During this time, Cora was with friends, who had lost one of their cats earlier in the year; people, I told her, who would know how she felt. I had talked with her starting a few weeks before about how Emily was getting closer to her time to die. We talked about other people we know who have lost pets in the past year. We read some books. She frequently expressed a wish that Emily wouldn't die. She wanted us to take a picture of her petting Emily. She would often pet Em's head very tenderly and say, very seriously, "Is it your time, Emily? Are you going to die?" Monday night she told me she would miss Emily's soft and beautiful fur. Tuesday night she cried because she wanted to kiss Emily one more time.

I understand that. I still think I see her out of the corner of my eye, standing on the table, wandering into the kitchen. I think I feel her jumping onto the bed. I wonder if our other cat, Arvo, has become so much more vocal in the past five months as a way of anticipating and mourning her death. I think about how she came into my life when I moved to Minnesota, and how she has left it just as I am preparing to leave the state.


TeTop said...

What a beautiful and sad post. The loss of a pet, I think, is a unique kind of grief. On one hand, there's dignity and love in putting a pet to sleep, and animals face death without the fear of what's to come or suffering for what's left behind. But the loss can be so hard on the pet's family. Like your Emily Marie, our pets are with us at our most fearful, nervous, excited, and happy times, and often they witness us at our most human -- frailties and all -- and sit on our laps and purr (or sit at our feet and drool) just the same. They contribute so much to their family, and the loss is profound. I admire how you prepared Cora for saying goodbye to Emily Marie.

Granny Jan said...

Beautiful, Merie. She was a well-loved kitty, and part of a family. You gave her a happy life. It is very sad to lose a pet, and life feels a little odd for a while. I wish I could kiss her one more time, too!