My cat died today. She was my companion for 16 years. She lived with me through some of the best moments of my life and some of the worst. Family came and went. Friends and came and went. Partners came and went; yet through it all, there she was, loyal, loving and at my side; purring, playing and napping—as cats do. She was my little furry touchstone as I went from one stage of my life to the next. When the dust settled it was she and me.
Her name was Tallulah (named for a lyric in a Tori Amos song, in case you were wondering). I adopted her from the Toronto Humane Society in 1996. She was a bit of an anomalous adoption because she was an adult and typically people go for the cute and cuddly kittens when on the prowl for a pet. I could say that I chose her, but anyone who has adopted an animal knows that they choose you.
She purred so loud I thought she could be heard over every other creature
I remember spending two days at the THS looking for just the right cat. It was mind-boggling as there are typically hundreds of cats and kittens looking for a home. Sadly, many won’t find one. Tallulah happened to me on the second day of my search. She sidled up to the front of the cage and just locked eyes with me. She purred so loud I thought she could be heard over every other creature there. I’d never heard a purr so loud. Maybe it was just loud to me because she decided I was her new human.
And so began an odyssey between man and feline that would last over 16 years: There were plenty of funny—and bizarre—times like when she went on one of her morning sojourns around the apartment and at top speed, bouncing off walls and furniture—as cats do. This time she miscalculated the contents of my claw-toed bathtub and nose-dived into four feet of water. She launched back out like a guided missile and tore under the bed. Cowed for a cat, she glared at me with a mix of peevishness and humiliation as I laughed hysterically at her soaked self.
Then there was the time—not long after I brought her home from the THS—that she went into heat. I didn’t realize that she’d gone ‘seasonal’ as I hadn’t had a cat since I was a wee child and didn’t know the signs. I was soon to learn. I awoke form a deep sleep in the middle of one hot summer night to the demonic yowl of a voice calling my name, sort of. “Meeeaaannddrrooooo” was being caterwauled through the apartment. I sat up in bed, half awake, listening to this nocturnal sonata thinking to myself, “Wow, how cool, my cat can talk and she knows my name.”
Tallulah used to love to climb on my back and stretch out from shoulder to shank while I lie on the floor watching TV. She had a sonorous purr that would make me fight to stay awake. Her purr was so soothing and familiar. In times of stress or strife, I’d pull her up on my chest and pet her as she purred, her vibrations giving me a sense of calm and peace. That was one of the incredible things about this little ‘hollow kitty’ as she was called: she had a purr that could register on the Richter scale.
Tallulah, I hope I gave you as much as you gave me.
In the last year of her life, Tallulah became very tiny and frail. She struggled to eat and keep food down from time to time, but she was not to be taken by death just yet. When it seemed like she was about to give in, she would rally and show vestiges of the girl I knew for 16 years. Finally, she just couldn’t win her battle against the inevitable; she was, after all, 19 years old.
As anyone who has lived with an animal companion knows, making the decision to euthanize him or her is incredibly heart wrenching. You don’t know if you’re doing it too soon or too late. You are racked with thoughts of ‘too soon’, ‘am I making the right decision’ and all of the other ambiguities that go along with the responsibility of ending another creature’s life. As much as it broke my heart, I knew that Tallulah was ready. She was not enjoying her life, she was struggling. I did not want my friend to suffer. I had to hold her and send her on her way.
Here’s to you, the feisty bundle of fur that brought so much laughter, comfort and companionship to my life. Tallulah, I hope I gave you as much as you gave me.
Tags: Andrew Vail
, Tori Amos
, Toronto Humane Society