Saturday, August 11, 2012


It's funny how things just fall into place sometimes. My ex and I had been living with two litter-mates who'd just turned six. Tar and Monzo had been with us for five years and seemed to be spending more time lounging than moving. The apartment felt large and so we decided to adopt a cat to keep them company -- to provide someone new with a much-needed home and to maybe to liven up the household a little. My friend Tanya piped up one day that her dear friends Andre and Stacey were fostering a momma cat and her two surviving kittens for one of the local SPCA shelters. We agreed to go meet them. We watched a zany grey and white ball of fluff bouncing off everything around her, darting to and from the more stoic (and somewhat more oval) ball of white and black fluff we were told was her brother. She was weepy-eyed and it was suggested to us at some point that she wouldn't be considered adoptable if returned to the already-overcrowded shelter.

On our walk home, we weren't even a block away before we decided that there was no way we would end up not bringing both home. They spent the next dozen years known as "The Kittens". Zeus decided to shadow Tar and Sophie fell in love with Monzo. Since Tar usually shadowed me, Zeus followed suit; since Monzo pretty much adored my ex, Sophie ended up spending a bit more time with him more so than she did with me. Her first few years, most of our interaction involved my sending wads of paper down the long entrance hallway, watching her gallop full throttle and leap up and off of the walls in chase.

It's hard to write about Sophie without writing about Zeus. Their antics were the stuff of giggles and horror. I still remember the day I'd been in the kitchen preparing dinner and heard a loud crash in the living room. I ran out to find them tiny and immobile in the middle of it, having knocked over the tall and heavy decorative glass bottle I'd assessed as unbreakable. I quietly begged them - as if they understood my words -- to not budge as I gingerly stepped in to scoop them both up out of what seemed to be thousands of tiny shards of glass, ignoring the upstairs neighbour's frantic knock at the door in response to the loud smash. There was no way those little pink toes were going to end up bleeding on my watch.

Sophie's weepy eyes led to her soon developing a much closer relationship with her veterinarian than I would have liked. Surgery for fused tear ducts and then a diagnosis of eosinophilic granuloma complex led us to restrict her diet and to make lifestyle changes to eliminate scented products or any allergens we could possibly think of that might need to be considered. Periodic steroid injections led to the customary and necessary warnings of the side-effects of long-term steroid use. Still, Sophie and I perfected our game of catch, by which I'd lob wads of paper up at her as she perched on a kitty condo, eventually learning to catch them in flight between her paws and training me to throw more accurately in the process! When she wasn't catching wads of paper, she was burrowing beneath the blankets on the bed. We eventually nicknamed her "the lump" since sitting anywhere on the bed that wasn't an obviously completely flat surface invariably risked eliciting a startled "meowch!" from that spot.

When Sophie's favourite human moved on, she and I found ourselves reevaluating our previous relationship as she so obviously mourned an absence. When Monzo -- "her" cat -- died less than a year later, I was left with a sad girl who found herself burrowing beneath the covers more often than not. In no time, though, she seemed to decide that the "pay attention to me" way of proceeding worked for her. Visitors soon became familiar with the "pat-pat-pat" of her paw on their arms, laps, hands, shoulders -- whatever was within reach. If you said 'hello' to Sophie, you were inadvertently acquiescing to providing an evening's worth of scritches, plain and simple. Failure to fulfill your obligations would lead to a stream of chirps and grunts in protest and that gentle "pat-pat-pat" reminder, Sophie sitting beside you (im)patiently.

As the eosinophilic granuloma cleared up with treatment and management over the years, another immune system and allergy-related issue arose. Sophie developed asthma, requiring further medical intervention. I still remember going to the neighbourhood pharmacy to pick up her first inhalers and to set up her account, the pharmacist promptly informing me while shaking his head in disbelief that she was his first feline customer. He and his assistants came to know me by name as I went in every month or two to refill prescriptions.

Sophie eventually rekindled the kinship she and Zeus shared and they would frequently cuddle up to one another. Eventually, she even came to allow Sammy, who'd tried to befriend her from his first day in our home, to sidle up to her without hissing at him. But the asthma took its toll and after years of her steroid use's having left her a more portly kitty than most, her weight began to decrease -- and to continue decreasing. The complication of a severe and sudden bout of rhinitis and her worsening asthma left her losing more weight and sneezing what seemed constantly. A friend who visited in June ended up on the receiving end of a few streams of mucus, something I'd come to accept as being ordinary when interacting with Sophie, and deemed it gross. At that point, I'd been spending months cleaning "Sophie snot" off of things, including myself. It came with the territory and I loved her with all of my heart regardless.

After an unfortunate mishap as a kitten while held -- and dropped -- by a friend, she was always a little wary of being picked up and held by strangers. Her compromise with those she trusted involved crawling up close against our throats, claws dug firmly into our shoulders. It was pressed into my throat with her claws firmly outstretched that she let me hold her and rock her for hours our last afternoon together. The rhinitis had returned and her asthma has been worsening over the months, regardless of the inhalers and steroids. Her weight had dropped more significantly and rapidly and the vet suspected that blood tests would show the onset of renal failure. So after a long series of bad days where eating seemed optional to her and wheezing was constant, on a day that somehow turned out to be a better one than we'd had in months, I cleaned Sophie's face with a cool damp cloth, combed her carefully-- which she'd always loved -- and held her closely, nestled against my neck and purring, rocking her and talking to her until the time came to take her to the vet's to follow through with the heartbreaking decision I'd been making all week. It's one I still regret now, because how can someone not regret making that decision, even if others assure you that it's the right one?

Two weeks ago my heart broke. I miss my girl, I do.


Unknown said...

This is an important thing to (be able to) write. You've done well; keep working through.

Nadine said...

Sorry for your loss. I'm crying right now. I know it's hard to write about this, but I am glad you have and wish you the best while you get through this emotional time.
Take care

Anonymous said...

So sorry Mylene... You're in our thoughts..

sheree boyd said...

so sorry Mylene...but I'm so glad she was so loved and taken care of in her life on this Earth.

M said...

Thank you all for your comments. Sophie's ashes are still in a container in a bag hanging off a coat hook in my apartment. It's hard to look at pictures of her when each and every day I come home from work and still half-expect her to greet me at the door as she always did. I miss her so much.