I didn't want a cat. "Cats were stupid" was my thinking. I remember the dog I had when I was about 24 years old and still living at home. Her name was Shawnee. I claimed her in 1975 or so. Someone in my family (Marylou, I think) found her in the neighborhood and brought her inside. My mom didn't want another dog. My sister Marylou had Pepper and that was enough for our poor backyard lawn. But this tiny brown puppy was just so cute. She was a shepherd-mix and about 6 or 8 weeks old. I don't know what such a small pup was doing alone in the neighborhood and there was no one around able to answer the question. I remember distinctly lying on the couch in the dining room napping when she was presented to all. I said "I'll take her," no doubt to mom's dismay. I still cringe when I think about giving her away when I headed for college in September 1978. Mom wouldn't keep her so I gave her to my aunt and her family. A short while later she got loose from her chain in their back yard and was never seen again. I still cringe when I think about giving her up. So I was always a dog person, not cat.
Fast forward to the Fall of 1991. My wife was clamoring for a cat. In fact, in all of our then 10 years of marriage she had threatened to get a cat. She knew its name; it would be Sasha. It was going to be female (probably). It was going to be white. Now it was time to cringe again. I thought cats were pretty lame as pets and not something a guy would want to put up with. You can't take 'em for walks in the woods, like Shawnee and I had enjoyed. Try leading one around on a leash, for heaven's sake! And try to get one to do anything on command. "Come!" "Stay!" "Sit!" No way! They don't even have a personality, they just lay around dozing and dreaming, doing just whatever they darn well please, and if they want to pay attention to you, well, fine. If not, you just didn't exist. Until supper time. You can tell I never before owned a cat. The only one I had any experience was a mangy cat two doors down from where I grew up. Patsy was her name, and she was psycho! Had little mats of fur hanging off her at various angles and lengths, and mainly hid under cars or in bushes. And she was mean; she'd just as soon bite your hand off as take her next breath. And she was all white.
So the deal was that Melissa was going into the hospital for surgery and she wanted to get a kitten to keep her company at home during the weeks of recovery. And of course forever after that. What could I do? She held the sympathetic upper hand. She kept her eye out for opportunities to acquire the new pet and even had the prophetic dream about it. She tells me the story of her dream about seeing a black and white cat sitting in the hallway of our home in front of the bathroom. Her name was Sasha. And then a few weeks later, on an early September Friday evening, an advertisement appeared in the Ann Arbor News mentioning a few available kittens remaining from a litter and Melissa jumped to dial the phone. Answering was a surprised cat owner. Melissa mentioned the ad and heard, "What ad, there's not supposed to be an ad in the paper today!" Well, there was, and was there a kitten available or not? Yes, there were some still left but we had decided not to give them up and cancelled the ad for Friday. Well, could we could come over to check them out? They agreed, so we drove to the next town to the west to investigate.
All the while I'm thinking to myself that I hope they aren't what Melissa is hoping for and she doesn't want any of them. Like what are the chances of that? She probably had an inkling of my feelings though I tried not to dampen her excitement. I just didn't do anything to encourage them either. I would have preferred a dog but we just weren't in the position to own a pet. There were too many people in all the neighborhoods we've ever lived that had dogs and paid scant attention to them. So mainly the dogs would bark a lot and it was very annoying, and still the owners ignored them, as well, apparently, did all the neighbors. That, to me, is a ridiculous way to own a dog. You just need to have the room for them to run around and you have to spend time with them--just like children. I didn't think we could devote the appropriate time to any pet so that the animal would maintain a healthy mental state. Plus there was the allergy issue. I always had hay fever and other allergies. If I was going to be allergic to a cat--how would I deal with that? But here we were, finally making concrete steps to acquire one. Woo--hoo!
We found the farm on the outskirts of the sleepy little southeastern Michigan town of Dexter and pulled behind the house near the barn and got out of the car. The woman walked out of her back door greeting us and showed us where the available young animals were, just inside the door watching TV with the lady's children. Melissa told her what "we" were looking for and she brought out of the back room the female. Melissa looked it over carefully but I knew we were done for. It was just the tiniest ball of duck-feather fur, white all over except for a few tiny black disks, one on the back of three knees, with a two-piece black cap sitting jauntily on her head coloring her ears, and a black tail that looked like it might have been stitched onto a stuffed animal. It was adorable, of course. Her little brother was inside on the sofa along with a menagerie of other critters. He was another possible choice as was a second brother, but the baby girl was thought the cutest. It didn't take too long before I asked Melissa if she wanted the creature. The answer was affirmative. So a small box was furnished and our business finished. We drove back to Ann Arbor with a tiny, quietly meowing kitten in a box.
We had to stop at Meijers to purchase the necessary accouterments for cat ownership: litter, litter box, chow, toys, and a cat book. The book was for us, the rest for the kitten. By this time it was getting dark and I offered to stay in the car while Melissa did the shopping. Sitting alone in the parking lot with the box on my lap I left the radio on softly playing some soothing classical music and held in my lap the box containing the kitten. She wasn't too skittish and wasn't whining. She did talk a little bit and I studied her a little more carefully. There's no getting around it, she was the sweetest looking little thing. But just about all babies are, right? Still she relaxed a bit more as I petted her and she didn't seem too traumatized by being suddenly torn from her familiar surroundings.
That first night in the house was a quiet one. Once we brought her inside and set her free on the floor she did some exploring and found the stairs to the second floor and enjoyed the elevation that it brought. We--mainly I--thought it best that she not be allowed to roam and explore every nook and cranny of this 63 year old home so when we went to bed we put her in the basement where food and water and the litter box was stowed. Melissa didn't sleep a wink that night (I did) waiting to hear some plaintive mews--but all remained silent. In the morning Melissa descended the basement steps to search for Sasha and finally found her behind a wall of boxes we never unpacked after buying the house a few months previous. She was curled up comfortably asleep.
A baby so small has an easy time gaining entrance to the heart of any warm blooded human. Sasha proved no exception. She was playful as kittens normally are, using the backs of chairs as Jungle-Jim's, delighting in almost anything that moved, enjoying the exploration of corners inside deep, dark grocery bags. She adapted well to her new surroundings and caretakers. She was such a good little child, not making messes, skilled at using her litter box, eating what was placed before her. It was impossible not to love her. And she responded in kind. If I was laying on the floor watching TV she would climb on my back and stake the claim of the conqueror, king of the mountain. The weeks passed and turned into years but she never seemed to lose that babyness--she still seems to be a kitten in her heart.
I wouldn't have believed it before but I soon found out that cats definitely do have a personality. They develop habits and mannerisms unique unto themselves. I suppose it shouldn't have come as such a shock; I guess it's the negative image I had of them. Sasha definitely did have her own ways. I couldn't begin to tell you all of them, you couldn't stand it if I did, if you even have bothered to read thus far. No baby is as cute or adorable as the one in front of its mother. We are no exception in this perception, as much as it would gag anyone else to observe. But whether it was Sasha's standing up on her back legs with her right paw outstretched asking for some turkey; or sitting patiently in front of the back door, only meowing occasionally asking to go outside and eat grass (she was an indoor cat with the heart of an outdoor cat, that maybe had some jersey cow in her lineage); or if it was her mid-morning habit of crawling under the bedspread to snooze; or her climbing up to the top of the cupboard to curl up inside a wicker basket; or jump up into an open dresser drawer to explore and sleep; or to find the warmest (hottest) room in the house to doze on those scorching summer days; or lay on top of a hot-to-the-touch heat register in the frigid winters of Michigan; so many ways she displayed her distinctive personality and please her proud parents. She is such a good girl! And we told her so incessantly.
She handled the move like a champ when we left Ann Arbor, Michigan, for the warmth of Savannah, Georgia. Some description of this transition can be read in the sketch . She left behind a few furry friends who occasionally called on her as she lay in one of our open windows. We kept her inside for her health's sake only allowing her out under supervision to the back or front porch so she could revel in the sounds and smells and sights of the great outdoors. So normally she had to visit these callers behind the barrier of a window screen or glass. She loved to sit in her lambs wool hammock in the window scoping out low flying birds, her teeth chattering after the intended prey, ears flattened as if invisible to all. But here in her new house on the islands she has made new friends, particularly "Little Bug." Crawford is a neighbor's oriental that is left to her own devices in the world and is a regular visitor here. She has the longer snout of an oriental cat, though still pretty, that reminds Melissa of a little bug. She has a beautiful singing voice. Any noise emanating from her is a musical phrase, with the lilt and air of a very pretty song. Sasha pretends not to care much for her, but we can see that when Crawford does come calling Sasha will eventually make her way nonchalantly over to the window. And she will sometimes act tough, bouncing off the screen or glass as they play the game of The Attack of The Big Cats. But when they are actually face to face, like out in the garage where Crawford likes to bed down or get fed (her people seemingly have little or no contact with her), and if I let Sasha out there, our girl is more placid. Even though she is out-gunned (Sasha is de-clawed, Crawford is not) Sasha may act blustery but they have never really come to blows. Mainly Sasha keeps a very close eye on her friend. Crawford has the sweet heart to know not to take a swipe at her even if Sasha gets particularly nasty, which has occurred once or twice. Crawford restrains herself enjoying whatever attention she can get from anyone. Theirs seems to be a love-hate relationship but deep down Sasha is glad for the visits we are sure.
And speaking of handling moves like a champ, I am reminded of the abrupt evacuation in which she unwillingly participated, September of 1999. More details can be read insketch so I won't be redundant here. But it is one more example of what a brave little heart this cat-person has.
Sasha is dying. She has mere days to live. We just found out this morning, July 15, 2000. She is fighting the latter stages of kidney failure and she will lose. She just started three days ago, Wednesday, refusing to eat solid food even while obviously wanting to, even to hover around the food dish but not eating. We are faced with the inevitable and it is devastating. So much love poured out onto so small a cat-person. And it must so soon end. Yes, I am crying. We both are. It is heartbreaking. And if the worst thing that can be said about me is that I love this little cat too much I gladly bear the honor.