Remembering Connecticut, Part II: The Back Story
One day, oh so many years ago in Portland, I woke up from a nap to find a little grey and white kitty with huge ears on my bed. She came from a typical domestic kitty mold—thin, long-legged, steel grey fur on top, snow-white fur on the belly and chest, alternating toes, a faint white spot on her upper lip. My then-husband had been out with his sister and found her in a pet store. She was a beautiful surprise gift. We were planning to move to Connecticut (the state) for my then-husband to go to graduate school. So she became Connecticat, or later, just Connecticut. She bravely survived the drive across the country from Oregon with all of our worldly possessions in tow; tent camping in magnificent lightning storms, getting fleas in the occasional seedy pink hotel. Seeing the Grand Canyon with us for the first time, patiently waiting as we visited random tourist sites across the country—Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, The Museum of Appalachia, The Memphis Zoo (don’t ask me why I remember all of these Tennessee sites), even waiting in the tent for us as we visited D.C. for the day (I can’t believe we left her like that). She was a sensitive soul and the trip was not without ramifications. In addition to acquiring the fleas, she got her head partway out of her collar one time and panicked as it got stuck on her teeth (we were there to extricate her, thank goodness). She also developed some urinary issues which surfaced now and then the rest of her life, as well as becoming skittish, for instance, developing a doorbell phobia which would send her straight under the bed with every visitor. We thought we were having a grand adventure with our cat. I’m not sure she agreed. But clearly we loved each other and life was good.
Connecticut later survived acquiring a sister, Queequeg, and another cross-country move, this time to California. She survived the adoption of not one, but two stray cats, but made it clear that she wasn’t interested in my pet philanthropy. Queequeg met her untimely death there at the paws of one of the semi-strays in 2001, and my then-husband decided to leave a month later. It was just Connecticut and I for a little while, and she loved it. I was in turmoil over the loss of Queg and my marriage, and decided to adopt a kitten from the local shelter. Tundra had to be one of the sweetest cats I have ever known and she was a beautiful Siamese Lynx Point mix. Connecticut hated her. It was at that point that I realized and accepted that Connecticut just didn’t like other animals very much. She’d never been super snuggly with Queg, and I had always thought that it was Queg, who was always a little conflicted over displays of affection. Of course, then I adopted Pip in order to give Tundra somebody to love and play with (this was only semi-successful, but they did become great pals eventually, until Tundra met her untimely death at just over a year old from a strange illness).
One more long car trip was in Connecticut’s future—this time from California to Oregon. Connecticut, Tundra, Pip, and I crammed into the front of my jam-packed Subaru and moved to Bend. Unfortunately, Connecticut and Tundra had both developed car sickness by this point. After we arrived, though, Connecticut seemed to mellow out. We added another companion cat, Nevermore. We moved to a new house. We lost Tundra. We lost Tamias (a little kitten, to F.I.P.). We added a human (my now hubby). We had lots of friends with their crazy dogs over. We added rescued shelter cats (Gordy & Tommy) and went through two batches of foster kittens, one of which we kept (Isis). We took in a cat on death row from the vet clinic (Big Kitty). We got a few crazy dogs of our own. Suddenly, small step-kids were everywhere, frequently. Miraculously, Connecticut quit hiding under the bed and became a sage Queen Bee. In the midst of our new chaos, she was calm. She never especially made friends with any of the other animals; she warmed up to my older step-daughter, but mostly kept her distance from the twins. Nothing fazed her anymore, and she seemed happy.
A few years after we arrived in Bend, I noticed that Connecticut started looking a little rumply. She had always been a beautiful plush and shiny grey-blue. Her fur wasn’t as glossy as before, it started to look a little clumpy. She got a little skinny. We couldn’t find anything wrong at the vet, but I began to worry about her. This went on for years, but she was herself, just a little straggly. In late fall 2009, though, she began throwing up hairballs more often than usual, and became noticeably too thin. Blood work found some pancreatic issues, but nothing definitive. All we could do was try to get her to eat. And then she decided not to, most days. I watched her waste away to a skeleton after coaxing her to eat, sometimes force feeding her by syringe, for months. I was terrified to lose her—I thought she would be one of those cats who lived well past her 20th birthday. I was in denial. And I failed her. I failed her by not recognizing when she was ready to go, by hoping that a good day, a day in which she ate a little, might be a sign of improvement. I had never had to make a decision to euthanize one of my animal friends. I had lost many through tragedy, and the decisions had all been made for me. I regret that I may have let her suffer longer than she needed to. I also regret that I buried her rather than having her cremated like most of my other animal friends that have died. I’m not sure why this bothers me so much, but I was sure to cremate Deimos when he died last November and there is something comforting in having his ashes.
Since losing Connecticut, I’ve had to choose (with my husband) for two companions to be euthanized (our foster cat, Big Kitty, and our greyhound, Deimos). I now know that I can make a different choice than I did with Connecticut, and that choice can also be the right choice. I’m going to feel guilty either way (did I do everything I can, did I wait long enough, did I wait too long, if I had more money would I have made different choices?) and that is my issue, not the animal’s.
It took me a long time to get past Connecticut’s death last year; Her death bowled me over. I still miss her, I still think of her every time I go to bed, every time I look at a heat vent (she loved being warm and could often be found hanging out on or near heat vents), every time I take a bath (she would always come up and hang out with me at the side of the tub), every time I interact with or feed the other animals, every time I cry. But I also have come to terms with her death and the decisions I made for her (and for myself). There is no doubt that she knew I loved her fiercely and that I made the best decision for her that I could at the time. She was not stuck in a cold metal cage with a feeding tube in a strange place among sick and dying strangers. She was home, with those she loved and who loved her. That is all I had to give.