Friday, November 18, 2011

Penny: In Memoriam

Below is the text of an email I sent to Barb, Beth and Hannah this morning. It gives you the sense of where this post is headed.

We have a 4:30 appointment this afternoon for Penny with Dr. Hicks at the Moose Jaw Animal Hospital. She explained the procedure - we can be with her and all. What to do after - do we want her ashes, to scatter or bury or whatever – can be decided later.

I am an emotional wreck, but I do think this is best. I know we all love her, but she can’t continue being the unwanted cat – we don’t want her inside (because of the possibility of messing); we don’t want her messing on rugs and floors (even though we have been willing to clean it up); we don’t want her on our laps because she smells (I didn’t this morning); we don’t want her on the furniture and blankets (though we have been pretty lenient with the furniture part); we don’t want her in the cold in the garage (though she has done surprisingly well with the cold up to this point). In short, as much as we love her, she is unwanted (this sounds harsh I know, but in some ways that makes it easier for me). She has been a good kitty and I love her dearly, but it is time. I feel like a dope for crying so much, but that’s the way I am.

Penny came to our home in Rutland, Saskatchewan in October, 1993; the same weekend Joe Carter hit his walk-off home run to win the World Series. I have always enjoyed connecting these two events - an iconic Blue Jays moment and the arrival of a life-long friend.

Penny was born in Three Hills, Alberta in the home of our good friends and fellow cat-lovers Douglas and Veronica Lewis. Among the litter of kittens born in their home that August was one wee kitty that grabbed our hearts with that “I am a nice kitty and will love you and be cute and not be too much trouble” expression on her face. We were smitten and three months later she became an official part of our family.

Our earliest memories of Penny are of this little kitten wandering around the house, meowing like crazy, looking for Beth and Hannah who had gone off to school. As she waited for them to return, she occupied herself with kitten things – endless wandering, exploring, climbing, and meowing. This is just the beginning of so many memories.

One Saturday evening, while watching Hockey Night in Canada, I heard a rustling around in the pantry in the kitchen. In checking it out I found Penny sitting up so proudly with a plump, living mouse in her mouth. Acknowledging her accomplishment, I took care of the mouse, and went back to the game. Soon the rustling in the pantry was back, and yes, there was Penny with her second trophy of the evening. As I figuring out what to do with this mouse, Penny preceded to let it go and chase it around the kitchen. Not wanting to lose sight of this mouse, I followed Penny into a small storage room off the kitchen, had the mouse run up my pant leg, quickly took off my pants, and Penny and I watched the mouse run down stairs to the laundry room. All the while Penny stared at me with a “why did you interfere with my mouse?” look on her face. (In case you are wondering, I found that mouse the next morning trying to scramble out of the laundry room sink. It met its demise.)

Penny’s earliest animal friends were Chester and Waggles, two female dogs we cared for in Rutland. It did not take long for Penny to show her comfort hanging around these two friendly, cheerful, accommodating pups. That is until Penny boldly approached their food bowl for a sample. One of the dogs, Waggles I believe, took offence and snapped at Penny breaking her left hind leg. Thus Penny had her first visit to a vet and carried the scar of that event the rest of her life.

One day in June, 1994, on Hannah’s bed, Penny became a mother to three kittens– Blackie, Rae and Oreo. She proved to be a caring momma-kitty, cleaning and protecting her three babies. We remember how, as mother cats do, she moved her kittens to a new location – the most remote, hardest-to-reach place in the back of Hannah’s bedroom closet – likely to keep us kitten lovers from handling these three fur balls too much. The next spring Penny became a grandmother when Rae gave birth to five kittens – Cobbles, Chubbie Cheeks, Goatee, Stripe, and Butch (the best set of names ever given to a litter of kittens). Penny proved to be a rather grouchy grandma and never warmed-up to her progeny. Over the years as other cats became part of the family, notably Duckie (Hannah’s cat) and Danielle Rousseau (Beth’s cat), Penny greeted them only with low growls and the occasional “stay-out-of-my-way” hiss.

In July, 1995, Penny joined us in our move to Pambrun, SK, where she quickly adapted to small town living. She enjoyed wandering the streets, being cared for by Miss. Dickson, and bringing to the door fresh trophies of birds and mice. Pambrun life proved to be a good life for an easy-going cat like Penny.

These years were not without struggle. In 2005, Penny experienced a serious case of dehydration. She was not drinking water or eating food, became listless and gave every indication that the end was near. A trip to the vet proved to be just what she needed. Dr. Wanda gave Penny an I.V. of fluid directly under her skin, which would allow the fluid to be slowly absorbed into her body. For a day or so Penny was a round, soft, fluid-filled balloon of a kitty, but was soon restored to health and strength.

It was this event that attached Penny to me and me to Penny in a deeper way. She wanted to sit on my lap. She greeted me at the door when I came home. She woke me at night so would sit with her. She looked to me for the occasional, okay, the regular bowl of cream.

As she turned 18 years old this past August it was clear her body was showing its age. While she still enjoyed having her chin scratched and being rubbed behind her ears, she had grown hard of hearing, had difficulty jumping onto her favorite chairs, and has not managing her bodily functions well. We knew this was the day.

Penny died peacefully in my arms at five o’clock this afternoon. Dr. Hicks and the staff at the Moose Jaw Animal Hospital are so caring and sensitive to the emotion of the moment. Penny will always be with us in the fondness of our memories. We are thankful to have had her as part of our family.