We had to take our elderly cat Summer to the vet yesterday. She had been having increasing trouble keeping her legs under control, and couldn’t walk more than a foot or two without collapsing, exhausted. We expected the worst and unfortunately were not disappointed. The vet discovered a mass that had been hidden under her rib cage until it became too large to hide there anymore. He gave us an option, which he didn’t recommend and made no sense to us, either. Summer was twenty years old, weak and frail, and we weren’t going to put her through all that for no real hope. So we said our good-byes and stayed with her through the end.
I still remember our hello, though. I came home from work to discover a calico kitten hiding in our bathroom. Just a tiny thing then, and she never was very large. She took one look at me and hid behind a standing mirror, and that pretty much described our relationship for the next fifteen years. It seemed that Carol had adopted her at a flea market earlier that day. She brought the fleas with her, but we got those taken care of right away. Carol named her Summer. She was Carol’s cat from day one. I used to think she didn’t like me but it was soon clear that she didn’t like anybody but Carol, whom she positively adored. Anytime I or anyone who wasn’t Carol entered the room, all you were likely to see of Summer was her tail as she sped down the hallway to one of her many hidey-holes. Being cat people we also had other cats, which Summer didn’t care for either. No, not even a little bit, but she would sometimes let our older female cat groom her. She especially didn’t like males, of whatever species. She became an outdoor cat for a while, mostly because she just didn’t want to come inside where the others often were.
After a time—about ten years—she warmed up to me a little bit. She stopped running whenever I came into the room and pointedly ignored me instead. I, to her kitty brain, just was not there. Which worked to my advantage, because I was occasionally able to pull off what Carol used to call a “Drive-by Petting.” I’d be walking innocently by and give her a quick scritch behind the ears before she quite realized what had happened, then move on before she had time to panic. From there we advanced to the stage where I was able to pet her openly, provided I was feeding her at the time and she could concentrate on the fact that there was food coming rather than the fact that I was providing it.
Summer’s personality was such that she always should have been an “only” cat, which for a long time wasn’t possible, but eventually time and attrition reduced our cat population until she was the only one left, and she, no other word for it, just blossomed. She became the friendly and sweet cat she had never been before. She’d greet guests and demand scritches or laps. She’d even sit in my lap if Carol’s wasn’t available. So Carol made her a promise that we wouldn’t acquire any more cats for the rest of Summer’s life. We kept that promise, though it was hard at times. We’ll have a cat again, or more likely two or three, eventually, but not right now. Maybe not for a good while.
Seems a bit foolish to be talking about such a small loss, at a time when the nation is dealing with multiple tragedies, but I’ll make no apology for that. Summer was part of our family for twenty years. You don’t lose that without grieving.