A Life Remembered

It is a mystery, known only to the Gods

why some lives are so easy,

and others so hard

We have lost our poor sweet Michaela, whose life was never easy, despite all we tried to do.

It was 15 years ago, when, desperate to fill a void in our household created by the loss of another much loved calico cat, we found ourselves in the Pet Food Megastore- directed there by the Petfinder website by the promise of an available calico.

Under the harsh glare of florescent lights, and against the din of heavy metal rock playing loudly on the store’s sound system, we found her, cowering under a cat bed, the only shelter in the sterile container, clearly traumatized by her hostile environment. Heather took one quick look at the situation and swung into action- buttonholing a gum-chewing, purple-haired sales clerk by her nose ring.

That cat is leaving with us- NOW” and within minutes she was ours, purring in her cat carrier as we sped towards the tranquillity of home.

We are convinced that Kayla had PTSD, as she lived her entire life within a prison of her own making. Bravely, she would reach out, socialize and accept affection, but then abruptly, the mood would be shattered and she would withdraw, turning inward for long periods- obviously wrestling with her own demons. Sometimes she would lie abed for days, staring at the wall. We obliged by creating a fortress for her in a warm corner of Heather’s den, with a pyramid bed she could snuggle into next to the heat vent – a “no-go” sanctuary that was her’s alone.

From what little information we could glean, she had been adopted as a kitten by a large and boisterous family whose children took delight in terrorizing their new pet- poking, prodding and tossing her about. Whether Kayla escaped, or was discarded when no longer fun to torment we also will never know, but thankfully she made her way to a shelter, and eventually to us.

Once we got her safely home we realized that she had no tail- a birth defect perhaps, or, as I have always suspected, a traumatic amputation- the result of her tail being being yanked until it no longer functioned, or slammed in a door. We will never know for sure, but you touched her nether regions at your peril.

She had likely suffered harsh treatment from a man, since, in the early years, I had to but enter the room and she would shriek “Eek, eek, man in the room, man in the room, everybody run – hide” and she would quickly scuttle away. Over time I either won her over, or wore her down, as eventually she would content herself with simply giving me a baleful stare, as it to say “Oh, are you still here?”

In Kayla’s ideal world she would have lived alone in a bubble with Heather, her rescuer, who she adored, but alas it was not to be. Kayla’s new home came with two other resident cats, and a dreaded man, and she always appeared slightly miffed that we hadn’t received the memo as to her preferences.

She was the only cat we have ever had that had absolutely no interest in venturing outdoors. A promenade around the sundeck on a warm summer’s day was the furthest she ever ventured. She knew the wide world beyond was a scary place, and she wanted no part of it. Instead, she had a personal sunbeam that warmed her perch on the dining room window where she could bask for hours, pretending she was an ‘only’ cat.

It takes a generous measure of courage to daily face and daily subdue the dragons of the mind, and more still to stand one’s ground in the society of other cats, so Kayla was a very brave little cat. In all the time we had her she yielded not one inch to Big Ben, our dominant alpha cat, who fancied himself as ‘head of household”. Ben learned that he was master of all he surveyed – except Kayla.

As the years rolled by she did begin to heal- at least, she seemed quieter in her mind and generally content,adding “Auntie Janet”, our long-time house sitter, and Vivien, her favourite vet tech, to her miniscule circle of trusted humans.

It was a pity that the rest of her body wouldn’t co-operate. Michaela’s later years were plagued by bouts of pancreatitis and renal failure, and her life became a medical roller-coaster. Unable to eat, she would receive injections for nausea, and pills to stimulate her appetite. Daily we laid a smorgasbord to try to tempt her to eat- different cat foods, canned salmon, tuna, chicken, steak, you name it, we tried it. Towards the end our own menu orbited around what Kayla would eat from our plate. ( Frankly, I’ll be happy not to have fish for dinner again for awhile).

Administering a pill to an un-co-operative cat is surely one of life’s more difficult tasks, but one which Heather undertook daily. My task, handling the sub-cutaneous injections of medications, was a cake- walk by comparison. The heavy lifting fell to faithful Vivien, making bi-weekly house calls to wield the gigantic syringe that pumped Kayla up with sub-cutaneous fluids and assuredly extended her life by many months

Despite our efforts Michaela gradually wasted away, weighing a scant 6 pounds at her death. The adage is that cat’s have nine lives – I’m not sure about that, but I do know of four trips to the vet with euthanasia in mind. She came home from three of them, thanks only to the careful and compassionate care she received from Dr Melissa and the wonderful staff of Westwood Veterinary, and Kayla’s own incredible spunk.

She is at rest now, and free of pain, but not yet quite gone from our household -her spirit seems to linger, as we still catch, out of a corner of an eye, the occasional flash of movement echoing her distinctive gait, and still feel her eyes following as we pass by any of her favourite haunts. She is welcome to linger, as she was much loved, and is sorely missed.

Categories: death and dying, In memoriam, pets, Reflections | 1 Comment

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One thought on “A Life Remembered

  1. Tracey Carslake

    Absolutely beautifully written, Chris!

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