I had the heart-wrenching experience of having to put my cat of 18 years “down” today. I can say it was one of the most difficult decisions I have ever made. She had experienced a fine life, a well-to-do life for a cat. What more could a cat hope for? I mean, really? I picked her up off of the streets, brought her in and made her right at home. Well, sort of. . .
. . . Actually, she showed up 18 years ago and just never left. She sat outside my apartment 24/7 like some sort of regal guard cat. I tried to shoo her away, tried to ignore, tried to crowd my porch with “stuff” so that there was no room for her free-loading self to lay claim (literally) to the real estate and stake out her space- all to no avail. She picked me. Somehow, I had fallen into her good graces, met her criteria, passed her “pet owner test”, and was chosen. Apparently, she had squatter’s rights. She was undeterred by the flower pots, grill, chairs, etc., strategically placed to encourage her to find another patio to claim. She simply scooted them out of her way and lay basking in the sun all day, every day, until fall came. When the temperature began to drop, so did her patience level, because, up to that point, she had been, for all purposes, an amazingly long-suffering animal. However, when nights got chilly she took measures into her own paws.
She meowed and knocked on my door at all hours of the day,and, more annoyingly, night. She tripped me on my way out each day and basically made a pest of herself in the most affectionate, cute, demanding, in-your-face kind of way. In an exasperatingly weak moment, I brought her inside, took a photo copy paper box, filled the lid with shredded newspaper and a small bag of cat litter I had stored in my trunk, (I’m from Northern Illinois. We carry it for traction in the snow if we get stuck.) and dared her to relieve herself anywhere but in that box. With that, I turned off the light and went to bed.
In the morning, there she was, sitting in front of the TV, as if this were a normal day and she had been doing this day after day for years. She stretched and yawned a great big, “Good morning! Sleep well?” In retrospect, it was at that precise moment that I was “owned”. I inspected, and to my surprise, found no “deposits” anywhere but in the litter box I had so haphazardly fashioned the night before. Still, I thought it was a fluke and put her back outside. That evening, the same process, and the next and the next, and . . . well, you know the “rest of the story”.
So, I decided that if she were really going to be “mine”, since my neighbors, who were obviously “in” on her scheme, kept referring to her as “your” cat, well, perhaps a vet trip was in order. I loaded her up and off we went. When we checked in, the tech handed me some forms to fill out and asked me her name. I froze. “Umm, well, she doesn’t have a name. She’s not really mine.”
As the words left my lips, the absurdity of what I had just blurted out, to the very confused tech hit me. Seriously?! Who gets healthcare for an animal that doesn’t belong to them??? “Well, I have to write something here. What would you like to call her?”
And, in that instant, she became Shadow, because that’s what she was, my Shadow, Mine. Everywhere I went, she followed.
And it stayed that way, for eighteen very blessed years.