I have been putting off this post for a couple of weeks now. Pet owners, you’ve been warned. You might need some tissue.
When my husband R and I got married in the fall of 2000, I moved to Georgia three days later.
Six weeks later, he went on a six month deplolyment. I look back now and I wonder why didn’t I just stay in California. I was young and eager to start my life with him. He had already been living there almost a year so why wouldn’t I move?
It didn’t take me long to find a part-time job at a private tutoring company as working as a substitute teacher at the time was the same as minimum wage. I got to know the town of Augusta, frequented the bookstores back when you could have Barnes and Noble AND Borders in the same city, and hung out with other military spouses.
I was sometimes lonely but everything about my situation was new. Being married. Living outside of California. Living in the south. Being a Dependent.
I didn’t have time to be lonely.
When R came home, I was overjoyed and over the moon. It’s a feeling I’ve felt many times and there isn’t anything quite like it, which is both a good and a bad thing.
R’s friend had kittens to give away and wanted to know if I would I like one. Pretty sure I said yes even before he finished the question.
We chose the orange tabby who was so small you could probably put her into a tall cup at Starbucks with room to spare. She was feisty and the name Fuego, Spanish for “fire”, but I still wasn’t sure.
A couple of weeks later, we found out the gray litter mate was still available if we wanted her. Uh… yes!
We named them after the angels in the movie Dogma. The orange one was Loki and the gray one was Bartleby. (Bartleby, turns out, is a boy so both cats had to be fixed for obvious reasons.)
So we were a family with our two kittens that wreaked havoc in our apartment, ate my strawberries and watermelon when I wasn’t looking, and have moved with us everywhere.
Our two kittens grew into bigger kittens as our son came along nine months later. (Yeah, go ahead and do the math. I know. We were busy.) Our bigger kittens grew into cats as our family grew to three kids and, to their demise, an older rescue dog in Texas (who blessed our family for two years before he knew it was time) and two puppies here in California.
Two years ago, the cats started running outside and at first I would not allow it. What if they ran away? What if they got run over? I could not deal with losing the babies I had had for twelve years.
One day I followed them outside. I sat in the rocking chair on our porch while I watched the orange one sit on the grass in the shade. I saw the gray one roll around on the hot cement. These babies were not babies. They were adult cats who have been indoor cats for twelve years. With great apprehension I finally admitted to myself that they were going to be fine.
It didn’t take long for the gray cat to realize that the outside world had other cats and he was a lover, not a fighter. He did not want to throw down even if the territory lines did not rule in his favor. The orange one though? She was a different story.
Bottom: On our way from VA to CA when the boy was six years old. Loki was seven. Now the boy is almost fourteen years old!
Loki loved being outside. Soon she became the neighborhood cat who belonged to everyone. I later found out that she took turns staying in our neighbors’ backyards and houses! I didn’t mind. I told them they could let Loki into their home but they couldn’t keep her. She was my cat, after all.
And so it followed that she would live outside. We continued to feed her outside and she returned when she thought it was too cold or on the rare occasion when it rained.
Last week I don’t know why but I asked my husband R if he had seen her lately even though I had seen her earlier that week. We had mourned her “death” when she went missing for a couple of weeks last year but she returned without so much as a hello. This time something felt different. Something was off.
The following day our next door neighbor had a message for me and it was not good news. Loki died earlier that morning at the veterinarian’s office.
Our neighbor and his family rushed her to the vet because she had not moved in a couple of days. They tried to reach us but R was at school and I was at work.
The vet found that Loki had a large tumor growing in her digestive tract and it was preventing her from eating. Tests showed that her kidneys were failing rapidly.
Loki had finally come to the end of her nine lives.
I thanked our neighbor for the tough decision he had to make for us. I would not have been able to do it. I can’t even imagine how I or the kids would have reacted to watching our beloved family pet, our oldest friend, dying before us. And though I’m sad I did not get to say goodbye, I don’t think she wanted me to.
Goodbye, Loki. I’m sure you are still a hard bitch up wherever you are and I love you for it. I wouldn’t have it any other way.