For a week I have rattled around the house, feeling somewhat lost; I’m almost afraid to look at the floor, the window sill, pillows on the couch, my quilts... A profound sadness floats around like an invisible specter, void of the joy that once was but is no more. A week ago I had to say goodbye to my beautiful Ryan.
Ryan was more than a cat, more than just a pet. Ryan was a part of my soul. She understood my moods; she shared in every part of my life. She brought me so much pleasure. She made me laugh. And now I cry.
Ryan was born, along with her four litter mates on July 11, 2007. I will never forget the day her mother, Timi, summoned me for help as I sat at my computer. She climbed the window screen next to my desk, her belly bulging. I knew it was time and I was ready. I had read all about cats giving birth. Timi was young, so I was ready to help her if needed.
Timi came to us as a stray. We resisted the urge to feed her and bring her inside, but one day I’d had enough of her peeking into the windows at us, so I decided it was time to bring her in the house. Shortly thereafter, she pushed out the screen and jumped onto the ground through an open window. She came home pregnant. I was elated.
I had already made her a birthing box on the front porch. She was eager to hop into the box and set out to deliver her kittens. When the first kitten was born, Timi knew just what to do. Like a good feline mom, she licked the baby until she was clean and dry. When Timi turned her attention to give birth to the second kitten, I picked up that first baby, who I had already named Ryan after my favorite NASCAR driver, Ryan Newman. I had a second box lined with newspapers and baby afghans from my own kids on the porch as well, but I just couldn’t let go of this perfect little bundle of gray and white fluff. Her eyes were closed; her ears lay flat on her head. She had the cutest little pink nose and tiniest little paws. She was magnificent. I fell completely in love with her.
Five babies were born that day almost 15 years ago. Only two remain along with their mother.
Rusty, the runt of the litter, and probably the prettiest one who resembled her mother’s muted Calico colors, lived only 11 days.
Boo died three years ago. She succumbed to a respiratory infection, which she had often. Boo, a.k.a. Junior was our three-legged cat, born with a deficiency on her entire right side, including her front paw which she could not use. She was very small, and often sickly, but feisty and the toughest one of the bunch.
As the kittens grew, it became clear that Ryan, pictured in the kitty condo in the top left, was my favorite. She and I were together all the time. She joined me at the computer, often times walking on the keys or climbing into a file drawer. She helped me fold laundry, often times jumping into the dryer and trying to make a nest in the clean, warm clothes. I couldn’t make a bed without Ryan hiding under the sheets. When I took a bath, she was intrigued by the bubbles. She walked back and forth on the side of the tub as if pacing. Sometimes she put her paw on my shoulder. It appeared as though she wanted to jump in, though she never did. She was light on her feet and very agile; she only fell in once. What a surprise that was!
Ryan enjoyed my
favorite pastime, quilting. When I hand-quilted, she sat beneath the folds of
fabric on my lap or on top of my work, so as if to say, “stop quilting Mom, time
for me.” When I worked at my machine, I had to take lots of breaks as she
insisted on my paying attention to her. Often times, she curled up in a pile of
fabric in a basket just to be nearby. Our favorite time was when I sat in my
recliner to watch TV. I never had an empty lap. And when I finished a quilt, she always showed
for my handiwork. I think she figured I made quilts just for her.
About four years ago, Ryan got very sick. No one really knew what was wrong with her. She was diagnosed with Bobcat Fever, but I don’t think that was what ailed her. She started losing weight and ran a fever, but she recovered, though never completely. In the next couple years she had good days and bad days until one day she got very sick again. A new vet diagnosed her with possible lymphoma. She continued to lose weight, but on medication, she remained active and seemingly recovered again. This roller coaster went on for some time. She no longer used her litter box. She became a very finicky eater. She was no longer anxious to be cuddled. And, she enjoyed time by herself. Then a couple weeks ago, I knew. Normally a small cat, Ryan weighed only three pounds. I knew her time had to come to an end. She stopped eating and no longer enjoyed her life, so there was no longer a choice. I had to say goodbye to her.
A piece of my heart went with her. I’m grateful to Dr. Sarah Shedenhelm of Baxter County Animal Clinic for her kindness and understanding.
The house and all the places Ryan frequented is empty now, despite her two remaining sisters Kasey and Kenni as well as her mom Timi. As much as I love the others, they are not my Ryan. The bond between us will never be broken as she will live in my heart forever. She will always be my best girl.