Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Farewell, Dear Friend

Smudge at 18 1/2 years, in an extremely rare moment, laying beside our Westie on the back of the couch.
We had Smudge for 18 1/2 years.  We got her in the spring from a friend whose cat had a litter; Smudge was the name my friend had given this little tortoiseshell kitten, and it did seem to suit her, so it stayed.
When she was young, she loved to chew things.  I remember one pair of red high heels that was one of my favourite pairs of shoes:  Smudge chewed the heels and made them unwearable--to my husband's delight, he hated those shoes. 

A few years after we got Smudge, we became pregnant with our first child, and Smudge was there to greet us when we at last brought our little bundle home.  The cat accepted Delainey (more than she ever accepted any animal we brought in to her home!), and taught Delainey as she grew how to show affection by pushing her head against you.  Honestly!  I would ask for a hug, and I got a gentle headbutt from my now toddler.

When Delainey was two, we discovered we were to be blessed with yet another baby.  By then, we had moved to a slightly bigger apartment, and decided to bring in another cat, this one a male orange and white that we affectionately called 'Scooter'.  Yes, the name did fit him.  He would hide around the corner, and as you walked by, jump out, attack your ankles with his clawless front paws, then dash off madly, leaving you standing there laughing at his antics.
Delainey took to Scooter, as did our second baby girl, but Smudge would have nothing to do with him.

A few years later, and another two moves, we were now in a house of our own, complete with a new four-legged addition to our family:  Buster, part sheperd and part terrier we were told by the Humane Society where we picked him out.  Sadly, Scooter was found lifeless in a neighbour's yard after we'd been here just a couple of years, I can't remember if he associated with the dog at all...but Smudge did not.

Several months later, we brought in another second cat, this one we didn't have to worry about choosing which cat to adopt from Kittenaide...Vixen (afterward called Stormy) chose us.  When we brought her home, wondering how she would react with the dogs (two by now, our second being a Westie called Daisy), we discovered to our delight that she would play with the dogs...and the dogs with her.  Anyone watching might have been frightened upon seeing Buster's teeth around Stormy's little kitten neck, but sitting as closely as I was, I could tell he was holding back and we wouldn't have to worry. 

The difference in the two cats was huge:  Smudge didn't like animals, Stormy did.  Smudge didn't like to play, Stormy did.  When winter weather hit, Smudge still enjoyed going outside, Stormy did not.  :)
A few more years passed, and Smudge started to show her age.  Her once charcoal and orange coat had faded to a light grey and pale orange coat.  She stopped wanting to go outside as much, especially in the winter.  Last summer, she stopped eating and simply laid on her cushion in the basement and we feared it was time for her to leave us.  After three days, this spell ended, and Smudge was her 'normal' self once more.  The winter of 2010-2011, Smudge didn't go outside at all, but by then, she was approaching what to us would be 90, and having lost a lot of weight, I am sure the cold would have seemed even colder.

Near the end of January, Smudge again stopped eating.  One night, she jumped from the seat of the couch to the floor and fell over.  She did manage to get up and walk to the kitchen, where she wound up laying on her side on the mat with a small patch of urine beneath her.  I knew my dear friend of almost 19 years was leaving us soon, this time there was no doubt. 
Thursday, January 27th, I went to work, wanting nothing more than to stay home to be with my feline friend.  When I came home from work Friday morning, rather than heading off to bed once the girls were in school, I laid awake on the couch, with Smudge as comfortable as I could make her in a box beside me.  How could I fall asleep when I didn't want to leave her alone in her final hours, for I knew it would be only hours.  I petted her, and watched as her breathing slowed until she drew her last breath.

I had known it would be hard to say good bye, had known the time was coming and thought I would be prepared, but losing my faithful pet was devastating.  I cried all day, and still as I write this, there are times I feel that if I turn my head from the television, and look at that dent centred on the back of the couch, there will be a little ball of pale grey and orange fur looking back at me.
To Smudge, not a cat, but a dear, beloved part of the family, I find it hard even now to say...good bye.

No comments: