|16 summers ago, my then girlfriend and I made the decision to stay together over the summer rather than I go home from school, given that my parents were going to move so any summer job I might have wouldn't last long enough for anyone to bother to hire me. We took out a room in a standard 4-room off-campus housing (Hunters Ridge, by the then HoJos that still was - it's now exclusively campus housing, the second hotel JMU has purchased and converted to a dorm).|
The roomates were two brothers who were friends of hers from her high school, and a friend of theirs who worked with them in the hotel next door. My girlfriend decided (with their help) that we needed a kitten. The father of the two brothers was the equivilent of a "mad cat woman", with some 40+ cats all over the place, so they had plenty to spare. While I was working, she went with one of them to their place.
They open the door and a thousand cats scatter to hide.
Except one small mixed-color calico kitten. It plops itself right on her foot. The friend smirks as he says "oh, wow, 'cause that's the one you're supposed to take." It just knew. It had already been named "Max" by the father, before sex was determined. So now it's off to the vet we go.
It wasn't doing so well - ear mites had attacked and a disease was trying to get her eyes, so drops all around. Oh, and it was a she. Drops for 4 weeks and all is well, though she would have a discoloured right eye for the rest of her life. But being a she, "Max" by itself wasn't going to do it. Hating Maxine, we settled on "Maxandra". It fit.
This cat was an instinctive combat genius. Whilst playing penny-ante poker, a fly was buzzing around the cheap chandelier above. The brother reached down, picked up this tiny kitten in one hand, WHAP. One shot; no more fly. Later, she would lose her mammalian innocence as while living in a farm house outside of town, Max took out a barn mouse (making the owner very happy but not exactly amusing my girlfriend, who had 2 mice and 2 rats as additional caged pets).
She never got very large, only weighing between 6 and 7 pounds at any point in her life. She was still a very keen huntress, and I never had a cricket problem in my house while she was around. I'd sometimes pick her up and hold her up to the wall, which she would literally walk across snapping spiders and flies down and munching the little buggers. She was also both graceful and insanely clutzy, sometimes showing extreme prowess in jumping from the ground to a half-inch thick wall 4 feet up, then sometimes being totaly unable to jump a mere two feet up without knocking over a dozen items and then promptly falling back to the floor.
Two of the icons here were taken from "incidents" where she'd been sleeping on top of a tv or monitor and then fell back behind it while trying to roll over.
She never really noticed the music except for one time when King Crimson's "Cat Food" was playing - she stopped and stared at the speaker for the duration of the song, and never did that again. Later, i would discover she loved sleeping on the speakers when Irish Uiliean pipes were playing.
Over the 3 years, two other cats joined our little family, Furball (this giant bright yellow thing, nothing like the tiny toons cat he was named for) and Shelly (this initially blue-eyed ball of fluff). And then, upon my graduation, it happens: we broke up. Summer of 1993, she moves in with her new boyfriend and I go home to my parents.
A couple of years later after I'd finally gotten my own (pet-friendly) apartment in Annandale, she emails me to tell me that Max had gotten really sick from a flea attack after having gotten outside. She'd lost most of her back fur and was still itching like crazy. My ex- says that they can't afford the vet bills anymore on their limited incomes and could I take care of her. No problem, so down I go.
A long trip back from the 'burg and Max is introduced to her new home, one she'd have for the next 4 years.
And Max QUICKLY learned how to train me. :)
As I said, she wasn't supposed to be mine, so I became hers anyways.
I briefly had Furball as well, while they lived in a non-pet place (they'd already given Shelly away as while my ex- was pregnant she couldn't deal with a cat who was very "tummy-hop friendly".
After having returned Furball, I realized just how lonely Maxandra got during the day waiting for me to return from work and all the stuff I used to do (I had dance events 4 out of 5 nights of the week), so I acquired a small black kitten named Vivian. Maxandra was both annoyed and excited at finally having something else to boss around, and she did that VERY well, long after Vivian outweighed Max by a factor of 3. But at night, the two knew their place, and slept around my legs or up by my chest almost every night.
A move to a new apartment didn't change their working relationship, nor bring Vivian out of her "closet" as far as visitors were concerned, until October of 1999. I bring home this young woman I really liked, and after an hour's talking, out they came, both of them, and approval was granted. 3 years later, we were married.
In the new house, tensions started to arise as Vivian had more room to assert herself and we made the intentional decision to lock them out of certain rooms, including the bedroom, for the sake of allergies. Maxandra was NOT amused and said so often. Relations were occasionally strained between her and her new mommy, but she ultimately relented.
Still, family is family and she (well, we) adapted. Stability emerged and we were "happy" for years. 'til a few months ago. I saw her lip slightly swolen and occasionally her tongue sticking out, right after I'd put her on food that was meant to help her kidneys (she was having a small infection there). Her tooth had broken on the hard food so it had to go, but while there, they ran some tests. And then it came: melanoma in the lower jawbone. 6 months, tops, if not treated. The second opinion said that treatment wasn't really possible or wouldn't really extend her days.
She lasted for a few months, but the last month was the hardest. Her jaw hurt enough that eating was impossible, and it was deteriorated enough that she couldn't close it and keep her tongue in, so THAT was going bad too. She'd lost her ability to eat "normal" foods, then the soft foods, and finally even drinking was something she could only do in limited amounts, never enough to make a difference beyond a brief comfort.
That didn't stop her from SAYING she was hungry, extremely loudly, every two hours overnight. Now I have an idea of what having a kid will be like...
In spite of efforts of the vet to re-hydrate and a friend to force-feed, she was seriously deteriorated when we came home from faire on sunday, her muscles already starting to give out or already gone. It was time, though I wasn't the one to say it first. I called the vet on monday, set the date for today, as I needed one last (sleepless) night to say goodbye.
She spent last night on my chest while we watched Serenity on HBO, then time in my lap today while I worked from home.
This evening, we wrapped Maxandra up in a towel, drove to the vet with Vivian in tow, and with a few tears, let her rest.
Tonight, I may (finally) sleep, but I'll sleep without my bug-killer, my clutz, my graceful baby that trained me to feed her well...
A quick request for those that'll see me @ faire this weekend: please keep things short and sweet. Quick hugs for "no reason" are prefered. Seriously, between the hellos for everybody who's first weekend @ mdrf is this last one, the goodbyes for those I won't see again 'til August (give or take the Southern Maryland Celtic Festival), and the amount of work I still have to do during the day, particularly with the Danse Macabre parade on Sunday, I won't have much time for long conversations on much of anything. You think I bounce off the (festival) walls now?