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17 May 2010

It Was Like A Mafia Don's Funeral

She was a little runt of a stray...but wow, talk about personality, she had wayy more than her share.

She had no front claws (I hated to, but she kept her claws out all the time, I still bear the scars), she was teeny tiny, old and rickety, but still made huge dogs cringe.She has defended her territory against all manner of intruder; from three-year old kid to fully grown realtor.

Even with me, the only human she adored; Nina was cranky and demanding. Every little inch the curmudgeonly; "you kids get off my lawn!" lovable. 

These qualities and many more besides made her memorable. I wish I had a nickel for every time my friends have said: "How's your crazy cat?" "How's Nina doing?" "Do you still have Nina" "How's your cat? She does not like me."

And then late last year, she began to get sick. Really sick. Not "you made me move one too many times so now I'm gonna pull out all my hair' sick. But, 'there's a funny little thing under my tongue. Did I hurt myself when I pulled out all my fur' sick and 'I can't groom myself, even thought it's my favorite thing', sick.

I felt the ticking for months. The clock counting down the minutes to the end of our time together.

When she came home with me, I was twenty and she could fit in the palm of my hand. The kittens at the shelter were sleeping balls of fur. All except for this adorable, svelte black kitten, who curiously tested the air in my direction. When the lady came in to open it's cage, all of the kittens woke up. And suddenly I was eye to eye with a fluffy grey and black striped tabby with huge green eyes and a very pink nose. It was Nina. She started to purr. And I was lost.

She was afraid of wind. And hands...but not feet. At first I was always stepping on her because she'd follow me into a room and curl up behind my heel. She loved french fries. But only if they were hot. She did not like children. She did like men. There was another kitty in the mirror, but Nina would only try to get at it if she thought I wasn't looking.. Being laughed at offended her dignity.  And she preferred to drink her water by dipping a paw and licking it dry.

I tried denial until it became delusional. I tried bargaining.until the deal-breaker. When 'I can't groom myself, even thought it's my favorite thing', sick,  became "I can no longer eat," sick. Sitting in the car on the way to the vet's I was still hoping, hoping, I was wrong. I knew what I was preparing to do and yet could not imagine coming home with an empty carrier.

My grief did not surprise me. My friends did. My former roommate and 'sister from another mother' surprised me with flowers and a card. Another bought an orchid. All called, or wrote, or in some way honored the loss of my crazy feline friend.  And honestly, given her personality...the outpouring of support surprised me a little. It was a little like a Mafia don's funeral. Either that, or the measure of true and dear friendship.