By Connie Bays of Hurricane
My beautiful calico cat, Lilly, was born in my home in the spring of 1992, to a pregnant stray we had taken in. We had actually taken in two strays and both were pregnant. They gave birth within a couple days of each other. One of them was a young mommy who didn’t take care of her babies. The other cat was accepting of the other kittens along with her own and was taking good care of them. Within a week, however, she was growling when the baby kittens nursed. Upon checking her, she was very red and inflamed. A trip to the vet found her to have mastitis. She was not going to be able to nurse anymore. I bottle fed the kittens during the day while my daughters were at school, and then when I went to work in the evenings, they would feed them.
Lilly was the one who immediately stuck out in the bunch. She was a fuzzy ball of fluff with a distinctive black spot on the back of one foot. (That spot eventually took on the shape of a heart). Lilly was very pushy and demanding during feedings and she ate a lot. She soon became a pudgy little fuzzy ball of fluff. We gave all the kittens a home with us. They were spayed and neutered and given their vaccinations and such. Lilly initially didn’t like being held much. I would pick her up and she would kick with her hind legs and squirm until put down. She was always talkative. When I was working in the garden, I would hear meowing and look up to see Lilly crossing the yard, coming towards me. While I hoed the garden, she would stay one aisle over, supervising my work. Often, I would go to sit and rest a spell, only to find she had claimed my lawn chair for herself. We would end up sharing. Me in the chair and her in my lap.
She got along well with the other pets, but if one aggravated her, I noticed that all she had to do was give them “the look” and they would immediately back off. Everyone, myself included, knew that Miss Lilly had a mean right hook and wasn’t afraid to use it, to either get what she wanted, or teach one a lesson for whatever she deemed them guilty of. I myself caught it a few times, if I didn’t share all my food with her, or didn’t share fast enough. Lilly had a unique palate for a cat. She loved cheese, Vienna sausages, graham crackers, and she definitely appreciated the aroma of my chili, and wanted it, but that was not one I would share with her. I felt that it wouldn’t be good for her. She let me know she wasn’t happy about it. She also loved rotisserie chicken and often ate more of it than I did!
Lilly long outlived all of her other litter mates. Miss Lilly was very perceptive when it came to seeing a need in me, and she reacted to meet my needs. I had another cat, a full-blooded Bengal named Bagheera. Bagheera used to meet me at the car every time I came in. She would jump on the hood, walk to the side view mirror, and wait until I rolled the window down, and then climb through the window and plop down in my lap. We would often sit in the car like that for an hour or so, just cuddling and enjoy each other’s company. Bagheera became suddenly and seriously ill one day, and the vet determined that she had a previously unknown congenital heart defect. They did everything they could to save her, but she didn’t make it.
I missed her terribly, and one day, Lilly started meeting me at the car, and doing everything Bagheera had done. She had never done that before. She saw my sadness and she stepped in to fill that void. A few years ago, when my Mother first became ill, and I was caring for her, Lilly started wanting to come inside more and began sleeping with me. The sicker my Mom got, the more attentive and loving Lilly became. She would climb into my lap when I was watching TV and graduated from sleeping with me, to sleeping on me. She would walk up on my back, or my side, and plop down on my back or the side of my upper arm, and hook her paws over the edge of my shoulder. We would both go to sleep that way. If I woke up in the middle of the night, she would often be lying across my neck, and I’d have her tail as a mustache, or she’d be asleep on my chest. That went on for a few years.
When my Mother passed away last November, I was deeply affected by my grief. Lilly stayed right with me constantly. When watching TV, she no longer lay in my lap; she laid against my chest and would rub her head against my cheek, and give me kisses with her rough little tongue on my cheek. When I went to bed, she went with me and stayed right by my side, or often, ON my side. She usually was up before me, and after deciding I’d had enough time in bed, her earsplitting yowl could be heard across the house. If I waited a few minutes, she would come to get me. She’d jump on the bed, walk up my legs and my chest, and start licking my face like a dog would, until I got up. She was hungry and wanted her breakfast, what we called “her nummies.” Just like she was as a kitten, Lilly liked to eat!
Over the years, I had to adjust her diet, because she lost all her teeth. She received wet, canned food in the mornings. She loved Friskies shreds, flakes, and bits in gravy. I would give her a base of the pâté and top it with the gravy mixture. She loved it. In the evenings, she still ate dry food. I don’t know how she did it, but she swallowed it whole. The canned food was added to maintain her weight. She also had lost most, if not all, of her hearing. She learned to respond to hand gestures. To come, to stop, or to go. You’d just have to get her attention so she was looking at you, and then she’d respond to whatever gesture it was, most usually, to come.
To be as old as she was, 29 years young, she only had two health problems. She had a recurring ear infection, and a growth on her hip. The ear infection necessitated a few trips out to the vet for a steroid injection and ear drops. She did not like riding in the car. I had the soft fabric carrier for her. She would claw at it, and try to bite it, and yowl the whole trip. I would stick my hand in to comfort her and she would sometimes bite me in frustration, but gum burn was the worst she could do, with no teeth. She got her point across, though, that she wasn’t happy. Putting those ear drops in wasn’t much fun either. She might not have been able to bite, but her claws worked just fine! She had to be wrapped in a towel in order to get them in with my skin intact. The growth on her hip did not bother her. The vet said it wasn’t cancer. It was just under the skin and not attached to anything. Actually it seemed more like a cyst, because the size would sometimes go up or down, but it wasn’t painful for her. She was too old to have it removed. She would have never tolerated a surgery, and the vet advised against it.
She loved going outside during the day, and one day recently, she caught a chipmunk! She had never been noted to hunt before. I think she just happened to be in the right place at the right time. She didn’t hurt the chipmunk. She had no teeth. She carried it a few feet and then I made her put it down. Then she caught it a second time, and again carried it a few feet, and I made her put it down again. Then it scampered away. Lilly was quite proud of herself.
Lilly had two buddies – Whiskers and Bitty Baby. Everyone knew Lilly was the head honcho. One of her looks would send them packing. Lilly’s appetite decreased on June 18. She stopped eating and drinking by the 20th, and I had to use a syringe to give her fluids and baby food. I held her in my arms all weekend while she alternately slept or nuzzled her head under my chin or on my cheek. She slept at night on my chest. I didn’t sleep much. A trip to the vet brought an antibiotic. We went home. She took the medicine and some water and baby food. She went to sleep in my arms and slept peacefully, about four hours, and slipped from this world on June 21, to where she will wait for me one day.
My devastation at her loss is immense. When I can think and imagine things without crying, I imagine her little sweet soul young and renewed. I imagine her cuddling with my Mother. I imagine her cavorting with who knows what kind of shenanigans, just like the last joke I imagine her pulling on me. No way was anyone gonna call Her Royal Highness, Lilibet of Hurricane, the big 3-0! She will forever be 29. She will forever be here in my heart. I love her immeasurably and miss her the same, but I will see her again. Oh, what a reunion that will be!
I Stood By Your Bed
I stood by your bed last night, I came to have a peep.
I could see that you were crying, you found it hard to sleep.
I whined to you so softly as you brushed away a tear,
“It’s me, I haven’t left you, I’m well, I’m fine, I’m here.”
I was close to you at breakfast, I watched you pour the tea.
You were thinking of the times, your hands reached down to me.
I was with you at my grave today, you tend it with such care.
I want to reassure you, that I’m not lying there.
I walked with you towards the house, as you fumbled for your key.
I gently put my paw on you, I smiled and said, “It’s me.”
You looked so very tired, and sank into a chair.
I tried so hard to let you know, that I was standing there.
It’s possible for me, to be so near you every day.
To say to you with certainty, “I never went away.”
You sat there very quietly, then smiled, I think you knew…
In the stillness of that evening, I was very close to you.
The day is over… I smile and watch you yawning
And say, “Good-night, God bless, I’ll see you in the morning.”
And when the time is right for you to cross the brief divide,
I’ll rush across to greet you and we’ll stand, side by side.
I have so many things to show you, there is so much for you to see.
Be patient, live your journey out… then come home to be with me.