Wednesday, April 3, 2019

It was a good life

Even now, almost a month after I said my final goodbye to this brave and wonderful cat, it is hard to look at her picture without a tug of emotion pulling at my heart.

I get a little choked up just thinking about her and the life she led. If she was human, we would say she was "special needs." She had much to overcome in her life, not the least of which was her name, Junior. I also called her Bug or Boo, which was much more fitting.

She was one of five kittens born on a hot summer day on the front porch on the 11th of July 2007. As near as I can recall, she wasn't the last born, but was third in succession. The litter turned out to be all female, a fact I didn't know when I named them all after my favorite NASCAR drivers. The runt of the litter, Rusty, lived only 11 days. And then there were four.

I was in love with them all and couldn't conceive of the notion of giving any of them away, though that had been the plan. We also had her mother, Timi, who made me so very proud that day.

I knew Junior was different right after her birth. She had a broken right front paw. I learned that sometimes kittens are born with a birth-related injury which can be overcome with proper care. So, when she was a mere kitten, I wrapped her foot, using a tiny splint to keep it straight. I soon learned that it wasn't just crooked, that her paw was indeed malformed. She had only two toes on that foot. It didn't seem to bother her though. She got around as well as her litter mates. She walked with a strange gait on her three good legs. She could run, jump, and do anything they did. In fact, she was a follower in those early years. Her sisters didn't have much to do with her, but she followed them anyway. She obviously wanted to be just like them. It was actually a beautiful thing to watch.

She was the last to be weaned. She found great comfort in being by her mother, but after the others were weaned, her mother decided she had had enough. Timi was a good mother, despite the fact that she wasn’t much more than a kitten herself. She was like the teenage girl who got pregnant on the first date. Finally, I had to step in to separate Boo from her mother who was growing very impatient with her. That relationship remained strained throughout Boo’s life. Timi was an inside/outside cat who had better things to do than play with her kids. That was my job. And, it was one I relished. I spent the first six months of their lives on my belly, on the floor. I grew to love these girls instantly.

When I took the kittens and their mom to the vet to be spayed, I learned that Boo’s entire right side was malformed. When I picked them all up after the surgery, the vet gave me Boo and told me, "This one has some parts missing."

And so it went with our little Boo. She was smaller than the others. She was often sickly, with respiratory difficulties. She often got a runny nose and gunk in her eyes, and labored breathing, like she had a bad cold. Sometimes, I would wrap her in a towel with a hot water bottle so she could sleep through the night. She developed a slight tremor, almost like a Parkinson’s patient, but she always soldiered on.

Sister Buddies - Ryan and Junior
Her sisters tended to pick on her at first, but not for long. Kenni and Kasey had little to do with her. Both are twice her size. In fact she and Kasey were like oil and water. Junior would often like to cuddle with one of her sisters. Only Ryan, the first born allowed it. The others growled and hissed at her. It didn’t sway her though. She would often walk right up to them sleeping on my bed, which they claimed for their own, and plop right on top of them. Boo was fierce, the toughest of the bunch. It got to the point that if anyone was sitting on my lap, even her mother, Junior would make them leave. She would growl and hiss until she got her way. Finally, whoever it was would leave while she settled in all proud of herself. She was definitely a scrapper. Only Ryan, admittedly my favorite of the bunch, would let Boo cuddle with her. Ryan seemed to sense when Boo needed a friend, and she was mostly always there. Boo pushed even Ryan’s limits sometimes.
Junior loved sitting in a basket

Junior wasn't necessarily a cuddly cat for most of her life. She would perch upon John's lap and he would pet her, but that all changed within the last few years. I'm not sure when, but she began to seek me out. I didn't just pet her like he did; I would pick her up and snuggle her close to me. She seemed to need that. She loved being held close, melting her body next to mine and purring as loud as any cat I've ever heard. She began following me around from room to room. She was always with me. She and Ryan became my two favorites. They were both snugly and cuddly, while the other two were more standoffish.

The last few months, Boo developed some neurological issues, perhaps from a stroke or seizure. One day, she was near her water dish, crying. It was a sound unlike anything I had ever heard her make before. Then she became quiet and lay on the floor. She didn’t move a muscle; she didn’t even move her eyes. I thought she was dead. For several long minutes, she just lay there. Then, she got up like nothing was wrong and was her old self again. Then she began to develop severe respiratory issues. I took her to the vet on a Thursday in February. She got three shots, an anti-biotic, a steroid, and a vitamin shot. She wasn’t eating and she had sores on her tongue. That Saturday, I observed that she hadn’t eaten anything all day. She was weak, was losing weight, which she could ill-afford and just lay on a rug in the kitchen. I tried some canned pumpkin and warm milk, but she wouldn’t eat any of it. Then I gave her some liver sausage. She gobbled it up, like nothing was wrong. The next morning, she was feeling better. When I got up she came to the hallway to greet me. She appeared fine, like her old self. I fed the girls and Boo ate as she always had. She was her old self again. I called her my miracle cat. That lasted for a couple of weeks, but then her health began to deteriorate again. I made the decision to do the humane thing, so I took her to the vet for a last ride. I put her into a wooden picnic basket with a baby blanket that my late Aunt had crocheted for my daughter, about 40 years ago. And, I said my last goodbye.


I will never forget my Boo. It was a joy and my distinct pleasure to know her. There will never be another cat like her.

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