Tuesday, November 11, 2014

I have to reminisce about Chloe a little more . . .

The other day I noticed mention of NaBloWriMo on someone else's blog. I'm familiar with NaNoWriMo and figured -- based on that -- that this was National Blog Writing Month. I had the fleeting notion that I should accept the challenge to write a blog a day for November. NaNoWriMo involves the challenge to write a novel in the month of November and I briefly considered that two or three years ago until I realized that I wasn't really keen to write a novel any more. I tried to do a blog a day for the next March (a month with fewer competing obligations than November) and that was just marginally more successful than my original notion that Traveling Sardine Class would be a daily blog.

Now I have missed November 1st and 2nd, onto the 5th and 6th, and onward. I discover that NaBloWriMo took place in October. What a relief! No regrets.

My Facebook Friends all heard a few days ago that my Chloe kitty had come to the end of the line. She'd been with me for 15½ years. She was "Daddy's" kitty (Daddy being Husband, the 2nd), the calico he'd been wanting. He himself only lived a few months past the time we got her, but still I've thought of her as Daddy's kitty.

It had surprised me that he wanted a regular cat. Turned out he was a purebred cat man. He was the one who picked me up after work one day, not long after we'd been married, with a tiny Siamese kitten cuddled up against his hip on the car seat. He'd been a Siamese cat fancier from before he knew me, and introduced me to hot-house indoor cats. My previous families -- the one with Mama and Papa and Sister and the one with First Husband and Daughter and Son -- had both had beloved regular cats, who went outside at night, or into the garage in inclement weather, prowled the neighborhood, sat on our laps, snoozed a lot, ate smelly Puss 'N Boots cat food and had kittens on my daughter's bed.

This little seal point kitten with its creamy coat and chocolate brown points was high energy, curious, talkative, and Husband named him Buckwheat. Buckwheat was restricted to being in the house except when he was on a leash, which we allowed him when we were trailer camping, and then living part time in the trailer for two years before our retirement. He took every opportunity to escape and lead us on merry midnight romps with flashlights, peering under our neighbors' trailers and calling his name.

In the year before we retired, I chose Barney from a litter of seal point Siamese kittens. We got him for Buckwheat so Buckwheat wouldn't be lonely while we were at work. Buckwheat didn't appreciate this consideration at first, but they eventually became pals. Quite a caravan took off from San Diego to the Yosemite foothills on retirement day: me pulling the boat with my Jeep Cherokee, and him towing the trailer with the truck and a couple of cats.

Bucky died unexpectedly at age nine. We don't know what happened. It was the first, and possibly only, time I ever saw Husband cry. Barney became our only cat. He traveled with us extensively by truck camper and trailer, including across the US and Canada, and to Alaska.

One day about a year later, Husband took off in his truck and was gone an inordinately long time, leading me to imagine all manner of dreadful options. When he finally showed up at home, he plunked a cat carrier down in the living room, opened the door, and a tiny blue point Persian Himalayan fluff ball, full of cocky personality, marched out of the cat carrier and introduced himself to Barney.Yikes! What is this? His name was Teazle. We thought the seller had called him Diesel, which seemed an odd name for a cat, but "teazle" has a meaning that seemed appropriate, so we kept it.

Six years later, Husband disappeared for the day and returned, not with another kitten, but with the statement that he'd been to the humane society, looking for a calico. They didn't have one, but he put himself on a list to notify him if one came up. That astounded me, first, because he was so into the purebred cats, and second, because his health was declining and I wouldn't have expected him to take on another kitten.

Some time passed and I forgot about his message to the humane society. I was the one that got the call. We were in the throes of bundling his Harley and my Honda Helix into our big cargo trailer (acquired just for this purpose) for a trip to the annual motorcycle shindig in Sturgis, North Dakota.
The humane society had a private placement for a calico kitten. I tried to beg off, citing travel plans and too many cats, but only Husband would be able to decline and/or remove his name from the list.

Upshot, in 1999 we took a ride to the Little City Down the Hill and on out into the countryside beyond to pick up a little calico kitten. She'd been living in the back yard with her non-calico siblings, but her owner (do we ever own cats?) had caught her and put her in a carrier so she wouldn't have a chance to run off before we arrived. We had to pry a splayed out screaming little bundle of needles out of that carrier and fight her into ours, then take her on the long ride home. Methinks that was a rough start for a little thing that may not have ever been handled by humans, as her resistance to being picked up lasted her whole life. She hissed at Barney and Teazle and they returned the favor. We put her in a separate room, like the books say to do, so she and they could get accustomed to the scents of each other by switching accommodations. She clawed up the Berber carpet along the bottom of the door.

The picture at the upper left shows our new arrival with a mouse on a spring. She loved beating up that mouse and eventually "skinned" it, leaving a little plastic piece, which she still batted around on its spring. It took awhile, but she cuddled up with Barney and Teazle, like best buddies for life. But she lost "daddy" when Husband died in January of 2000.

Chloe has a grip on Barney here in 2002. He was in danger of being licked to death.

Teazle, hot-house flower that he was, had bladder problems throughout his life, growing spiky stones in it that surely had to hurt. He spent a month in the hospital in 2004 while I was in France and I truly didn't expect him to survive until my return. But he did, and we all went in our trailer to San Diego and to the desert. I found him near death in the trailer one rainy evening when I returned to the trailer after visiting a friend, but holding and warming him brought him back. He even perked up enough to go outside on his leash when we got to the desert and tried to run off a Morris the Cat who was twice as big as he was and had strayed into our campsite.

Here are all the "kids" on that trip, doing a joint investigation of the trailer bathroom.

Teazle died before the year was out, and Chloe and Barney just had each other.

In 2006, Barney died at age 18. He'd had a good long life, and Chloe became an only cat.

She was partial to crawling into linen closets. Nothing like a nice furry towel when you go to dry your face.

She still didn't let me pick her up, although she would jump up on my lap and curl up there for hours, purring.

Sister and Brother-in-Law had losses in their cat family during this period, too, and began to look for Burmese kittens to replace the ones they'd lost, Burmese are very people-friendly cats. That's a really long tale of its own, but it ended with my flying to Kansas City, Missouri to pick up two litter-mates to one she'd acquired there.

Here is Chloe in the window sill and Henley and Ferguson, two sable Burmese, who came to live with us in 2007. Here they are in 2008.

They were exuberant and loving kitties and we were happy until Ferguson died in a horrible accident at two years old. He was such a sweetie and I still haven't gotten over that. Chloe had gotten along well enough with both boys. But I started feeling bad that Henley didn't have a contemporary to roughhouse with and began to look for another Burmese for companionship that would last further into the future than Chloe was likely to.

In a big improvement on the travel budget, I found Jean-Luc, a blue Burmese, in California in 2010. I'd asked the breeder for an assertive kitten, so he or she wouldn't be overwhelmed by two adult cats. He turned out to be a little too assertive, and Chloe hated him from the get-go, while the little cuddle-bug charmed his people.

"Do you see that, Mom? He's hovering right above me."

To tell the truth, Chloe's hostility egged Jean-Luc on and it became his life's mission to aggravate her. I thought we'd made a breakthrough when we all stayed together in one room for several weeks during my house addition, but no. Hissing and protests resumed.

Early in 2011  ^ ^ ^    Later in 2011  ѵ ѵ ѵ 

"See what I have to put up with???"

Chloe, who'd been a pretty good sized cat, began losing weight about three years ago and it was discovered she had a thyroid condition. She needed medication twice a day. Since she didn't let anyone pick her up, administering a pill was problematic, but we were able to get the medication into her by crushing the pill and mixing it in with canned food.

Earlier this year, her appetite began to fall off and she was very erratic in finishing even the smallest amount of medicated food. I finally stopped bothering her with medication and just left the food for her to eat at her leisure. (I couldn't leave medicated food around for the other cats to eat.) Her weight fell, but as long as she was eating and drinking, I put off the inevitable. One evening several days ago she actually asked me to pick her up so she could lie in my lap. She purred and purred and head-butted me, a gesture of affection in kitties. After about 2½ hours she reached up with a paw and stroked my cheek several times, then wanted down. I laid her on her towel on the floor.

She was still there on the towel in the morning, trying to get up and falling back. I put the water and food beside her and she sniffed each of them without partaking. I had to be away from the house all morning and early afternoon. I had Sister follow me home from the meeting we'd had to attend. Chloe lifted her head to greet us, but hadn't eaten or drunk in our absence.

We sat crying for awhile. It wasn't a question of what we had to do but when.

"Now," I finally said. I had Sister call the vet office to let her know we were coming in.


Chloe was at peace. I slept well that night. I was at peace.

Good memories. Lots of good memories.

*     *     *     *

Have you made it this far? I won't be surprised if you didn't. I've put this down for myself as much as anyone. I'm aging too and lose track of when things happen. I wanted to record the history of my cats. Not all of them, just the ones that came into our lives when I married a man who actually bought cats instead of getting them from a box out in front the the grocery store or from a neighbor's kid. Even I had to kerfluffle through papers and pictures to remind myself of the timeline of kitties in my life. It's of no importance to anyone besides me. There is frustration in forgetting good memories. (Guess that's kind of an oxymoron.) 



  1. Beautiful story. Read every word. There's a lot there about your life too -- stuff I didn't know.
    Very sorry about Chloe.
    (Might you write more recollections? Beautiful memories are important, even if they belong to someone else.)

    1. Thank you for your kind words, Nina. I guess I do reminisce sometimes, but maybe that's happening more in my mind than on paper! Every once in awhile I look at things I've done in my life and think, wow! I did that?