Normally on Mondays, although I’ve missed a few weeks now, I put out an update on whatever I’m currently writing, when it might be out and that sort of thing. This week, something a little different.
I wasn’t a cat person growing up. We had dogs out on the acreage. Big dogs. Any cats I encountered seemed aloof and unfriendly. Probably because they were not mine, didn’t know me, and, frankly, at the time, I didn’t really want to know them, either. That was a long time ago.
Then, in the spring of 2005, encouraged by my wife who is a cat person, a grey tabby who ended up being named Pippin made his first appearance at our house. He was maybe eight weeks old and, as all kittens are, full of piss and vinegar.
A year and a half later, a calico, appropriately named Merry, came to keep Pippin company. I’ll never forget introducing the two of them to each other. Pippin was, by then, full-grown. Merry was only six or eight weeks old. She was tiny.
One of us held full-grown Pippin in their arms, the other held little baby Merry. Far enough apart that Pippin couldn’t reach her with his claws but close enough so they could see and smell each other. In what is a typical feline reaction, twelve-pound Pippin hissed at the intruder in his territory. And Merry — if she was two pounds, I’d be surprised – hissed right back. Didn’t back down a bit.
Right then, we knew we had a special girl.
Hilariously, she became the hall monitor, the cop, of the bunch. We added a third cat, Strider (Are you sensing a theme here with their names?) in 2010 and even though he’s now even bigger than Pippin – 17 lbs or so, she still was the one in charge, regardless of her smaller stature.
If either of the boys were doing something “wrong” or something that displeased her, she didn’t hesitate to cuff them on the side of the head. And they never cuffed her back. They just tucked their head down and did what she told them to do. When it was dinner time, she’d round the two of them up and get them to go tell my wife it was dinner time. She’d sit back and watch them do their thing. If that didn’t work, then she’d step forward and yowl at my wife until she relented and got up to get their dinner.
Merry’s favorite game was ‘chase the paper ball’. Ever rip a sheet off a pad of paper and crumple it up? In our house, if you did that, no matter where Merry was, by the time you finished crumpling, she was right beside you, looking up at the paper ball eagerly. She’d swat that thing around, chasing it across the floor endlessly. That is, until it ended up under the couch or the coffee table where she couldn’t reach it. When we vacuumed the living room, we would often find a paper ball graveyard when we moved the couch.
Her favorite place to sleep during the night was right between my wife and I. She’d often scamper up the stairs ahead of us and be waiting on the bed when we walked in with an expression on her face that said, “What took you so long?” Once we laid down, she’d curl up between us, often getting scratchies on the tummy or behind her ears, and purr so loud, some nights it kept us awake. She’d also come and curl up with me on the days I took an afternoon snooze, too. I always looked forward to those moments and, I suspect, so did she.
It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I have to say that Merry’s diabetes finally got the best of her. Despite twice daily insulin injections, her physical health deteriorated to the point where she was having a great deal of trouble getting around and, I suspect, a fair bit of pain. On Thursday, just two days ago as I write this Saturday morning, my wife and I took her to the vet for what the vet called a “Quality of Life” exam.
The vet’s office is only a couple miles from our house but that was one of the longest drives of my life. Once we parked outside the vet’s office, it took us even longer to get out of the car and take her inside. We were with Merry for nearly two hours, right up to the end. Petting her, scratching her, and talking to her before a final kiss on the forehead from each us and that final injection.
There were a lot of tears shed in that room.
Afterwards, the vet gave us all the time we needed. We had the hardest time leaving that room. It just didn’t seem right to walk out and leave her body laying there on the exam table. And ever since we got home, we’ve been confronted with more of the same. Her empty bed by the fireplace, the empty chair she used to sit on at the kitchen island, that empty place between us in bed.
Both my wife and I agree this is the hardest thing we’ve ever done.
For nearly 15 years, she was the house cop, the basher of paper balls, and snuggler-upper extraordinaire. I always told her, she was my best girl. I’ll miss her forever.
Rest in peace, best girl.
Merry (June 19, 2006 – December 10, 2020)