Last Friday, I said good-bye to an old friend. My husband and I shared a home with our calico, Karina, for almost eighteen years. Like most felines, she defined the boundaries of our relationship. We didn’t have much say in the matter. Every so often, she would emerge from our bedroom to use the facilities, check out her kibble, (she couldn’t stand it when she could see the bottom of her bowl) then perch on her favorite purple pillow and demand to be petted. Once her needs were met, she would stare past us as if we didn’t exist and wander off to find a pair of shoes to claw.
As the years passed, she slowed down and became a little more demanding. But after our yellow tabby (her brother) passed last fall, she officially became high-maintenance. The upside was that she became more social. The downside was her failing health. For the past six months, I’ve cooked and carefully chopped chicken breast on a daily basis, adding vitamins and digestive enzymes with the hope that it would keep her around a little longer. She could put away an amazing amount of food, but she grew increasingly frail. She often woke me up in the middle of the night because she wanted to eat and I rarely denied her. I couldn’t have if I’d wanted to. Barely four pounds, with pale blue-green eyes and the sweetest face you could imagine, this tiny creature could yowl like an alley-cat. I can’t say that she ever showed any appreciation for my efforts, but such is the nature of a cat.
I didn’t mind. I had my rewards; a feeling of contentment as she curled up against me, the sight of her sprawled happily in a patch of sunlight, or the prickle of her tongue against my skin on those rare occasions she deigned to show me some affection. I think it takes a cat person to understand the joy feline affection can bring.
In spite of my best efforts, her health continued to fail and on Friday I knew I couldn’t wait any longer. My husband was out of town, but for some reason I thought I would be okay handling it by myself. Why I thought that, I’ll never know. By the time I reached the clinic, tears were streaming down my face. Throughout the whole ordeal, she remained oddly serene. I think that serenity was her final gift to me.