I had just learned that I would have to say goodbye to my cat of 13 years and didn’t think that anything would make that easier. He was my first real pet and was the only thing left that connected me with my dad who had died suddenly in a car accident the year before.
My husband and I had already agreed that if and when we got another cat, it had to be a female. After receiving Rachael Hale’s Smitten for Christmas, I had become obsessed with orange cats and knew that eventually, I would like to get one.
Out of boredom and curiosity, I went onto the local shelter websites and my heart skipped a beat. There, on the screen, was a beautiful little female kitten named Zara, the name of my absolute favourite clothing store I discovered at 16 when I lived in Spain. It was destiny. Over the next few days, I begged and cried and pleaded with my husband that this cat was meant for me. I even convinced him to take me to the shelter to meet her, where she nuzzled my neck and stole my heart. I fell in love, only to be told that they didn’t know if she was available for adoption or not. After waiting an agonizing 24 hours I learned she was on hold for someone else. I balled my eyes out. I actually cried like a baby, in public, at a craft show where I had a table set up. I cried for the cat I had lost and for the cat that couldn't be mine.
About 5 days later I was at work and looking at the same shelter website again. Her picture was still there. It said she was still at the shelter. It said she still needed a family. I grabbed the phone and made the call. They told me that there had been not one, but two families, two separate times, that had put her on hold and had never shown up to get her. Fate had intervened. I called my husband and told him to go and pick her up. There she was. This amazing little bundle of orange fur. Waiting for me when I got home.
Over the next few weeks she accomplished a number of feats, each one more amazing than the last. She sat in the sink. She purred so loud it seemed to shake the room. She climbed the curtains. She picked up my debit card off of the kitchen table and carried it away. She curled up in the crook of my arm as I slept. She pounced on our feet as we slept. She hid in the most brilliant places and opened my heart.
As our family grew and kids arrived, she lit up all of our faces. My son would stand at the top of the stairs at the gate and rub his fingers together while clacking his tongue, trying to get her to come and see him. My daughter would chase her around the house and light up like a firework when she saw her, hoping that she would be able to touch our tame tigress, our feline goddess. She became a companion to both of our children, our older cat and our crazy dog.
Her purr, so loud and so strong it rose and fell with each breath of her body. Her coat, stripes of orange with cream on her nose and soft downy belly. Her greenish yellow eyes, jewels of affection and acceptance.
At only five years old, not once did I think that this weekend would be my last with her. After finding her limp, cold, dehydrated and barely breathing Friday evening, I rushed her to our vet’s where they gave her some fluids. We decided to transfer her ASAP to the 24-hour emergency vet so they could put her on constant IV fluids and do some bloodwork. This was at about 8:30 pm. Six sleepless hours later I received the results. Her kidneys were failing.
The vet recommended IV antibiotics, an ultrasound, constant IV fluids and a culture. We decided to do everything but the ultrasound and, as soon as I was done work Saturday morning (which amazingly I made it through without breaking down), I stopped into visit her and hold her and pet her and love her while the vet told me that the best option would most likely be to put her down. Her temperature was dropping. Even with a heating pad and blankets, her beautiful little body was shutting down. She tried to purr, but could only manage a meek rasp. I held her close and stroked her face. I rubbed her favourite spot at the top of her tummy. I rocked her back and forth and cried like a baby. I told the vet that I wanted to be able to bring the rest of the family to say goodbye. She asked me if I wanted them to perform CPR if she went into arrest. I knew she wouldn’t be coming home from the hospital.
After dinner, we packed up the kids, drove the 30 minutes to the hospital where we showered her with goobery toddler kisses and mommy tears. My husband took the kids and I held her close. She slept and rested her head on my shoulder, comforting me as much as I was comforting her. My life will never be the same without her and now I cry. I cry because it was unexpected. I cry because I should have noticed she was sick. I cry because my other cat wanders the house crying out and looking for her. I cry because my son asks when she is coming home from the hospital. I cry because my heart longs for her, this perfect creature who would drink water from my glass, lay on my fabric as I sewed and saunter across my palette when I painted, often leaving kitty paint prints on the floor. I cry because fate brought us together and tore us apart. I cry because she gave herself fully to me. I cry because I am thankful she was mine.
Zara, my heart hurts, I ache, and I miss you deeply.
Spring 2007 – January 26, 2013