Sunday, November 30, 2008
I came home from Thanksgiving yesterday to find that my sweet Llumi had died. I was so sad she died by herself, without me. I was so glad that I held her in my lap on Thursday before we left. Still, I wish I had been with her.
She was almost 14. She was the first cat that was really mine and that made me hers. My brother-in-law found her and her siblings in the back of a trailer where he collected paper for recycling. One day when he went to sell the paper, he found their nest, but no mom. There were seven tiny black kittens with varying degrees of kinky tails that the vet later told me were hereditary. They all had their eyes closed and still had umbilical cords. They couldn't have been more than a day old. My brother-in-law tried looking for their mom but never found her. We volunteered to raise three of them and he took the other four.
Raising kittens from birth is no small feat. You have to feed them every two hours and also make them poop. (We used a Q-tip to simulate the mother's tongue.) We filled up soda bottles with hot water to keep them warm and checked on them constantly. I still have a little notebook where we recorded how much they ate, when they ate it, if we got them to poop, how much they weighed. It was exhausting but it was fun too. Clearly, BK (before kids)
Llumi was the first to open her big wide eyes, and that's how she got her official name, Llumeta, which means "little light" in Catalan. She was also the first one to understand how to drink from the bottle. And the first one to go walking around exploring.
I spent that first summer of her life writing the first edition of my HTML book, back when it had 176 pages. I was down in my basement office and she would come down and keep me company, knocking cherry tomatoes out of a bowl and around the room. So I put her in my book.
She loved to hunt. She could catch chipmunks and on the morning of September 11th brought me two baby rabbits, the second of which was still alive. I'll never forget driving to this tiny town in the boondocks to find a wildlife rehabilitator to take this little rabbit as I alternately listened to the radio and turned it off as the world seemed like it was falling apart.
She missed us when we went to Barcelona. Upon my return, usually late in the evening local time and early in the morning in my head, she would sit on top of me as I tried to sleep and kneed my chest with her claws. She didn't do it any other time, only when I got back from a trip.
Her favorite spot, though, was right in front of my monitor as I worked. Rarely still, stretched out, say between the keyboard and the screen, but back and forth from one side to the other, under my nose, in front of my eyes. Occasionally she'd stop and lay down on my mousepad. I had long learned that leaving her right next to my mousepad was a bad idea; my constant mousing would invite a bite after not too long. So I had to push over a pile of things a little farther on and make room for her. She would still try to walk in front of the screen, but after a while would settle down.
If I went out to garden, she always came with me. I don't know where she came from, but a few minutes after I got there, she'd be there too.
She loved the snow. She never shook her paws after touching it like so many cats do. Instead, she jumped in it, chased snowballs, stayed out for hours and hours. She was a snow kitty.
After we lost Sir Edmund (renowned for his climbing abilities), I insisted that all the cats come in at night. We had six at that point. DH had long ago taught them to come with a whistle and Llumi, as smart as she was, recognized the call and came right away. She didn't actually come in though. Instead, she'd hover about six feet away. If I got closer to try to pick her up, she'd move off just out of my reach. If I went in, she'd come closer to the door. Night after night, we played this game. It makes me feel less guilty to think of it. Because I would wait and be still for a pretty long time, and pretend I didn't care if she came or not, until eventually she would and I would snatch her up and bring her into the safety of the house.
She never was very friendly with any of our other cats. I was her friend, her human. She slept with me every night. One night, our big cat Night was in my bed instead and she stayed downstairs. There had been no altercation that I had seen, they must have worked it out ahead of time. I tried kicking him out and bringing her up to her usual spot (she was a master bed hog), but she immediately ran back downstairs and Night again sauntered in. After a few weeks, he moved on and she came back.
She loved to go on walks with me. If I walked anywhere from the house, she would follow me. It got so that if I was going far, I would have to sneak out, or take the car, so she wouldn't get lost. She loved being outside.
Two years ago, she disappeared for almost three weeks. I was sure she was gone forever and felt really sad. Black cats are notoriously identical looking and hard to find. But her tail saved her. She was born with this little stubby tail that she hated anyone to touch, but it was unique. A friend down the road found her in her garden and recognized her and called me up. She was a shadow of her former self, and seemed dazed and confused. I couldn't believe I had found her. I brought her home and fed her and she was back to normal pretty quickly. She didn't ever wander after that though. I could always find her close by in the backyard.
She got old quickly this past year. She lost a lot of weight and her hair got straggly. We were giving her thyroid pills to try to control the weight loss. I knew on Thursday that she wasn't doing well. I'm so thankful for having her in my life. I really loved her. I will miss her. If there's anything you think you should be doing for someone you love, do it right now.
Posted by Liz Castro at 8:39 AM