They pull you in immediately.
The petite faces with the huge ears…the pointy tails…the jumpy little bodies.
Tiny feet. So easily startled. Inquisitive. Loud purrs that couldn’t possibly come from such small creatures.
And you are theirs from the first tiny mew.
When I met Blur, she was in no condition to jump around. She’d been in some sort of accident – no one really knew what had happened, but her front right leg and her right eye were hurt. The leg healed, but the eye didn’t.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
I met Blur at the vet’s. In the back room where they kept overnight patients in roomy cages against the walls.
A friend of mine worked there part time. She had brought Blur in. The wonderful vet chose to try to save the tiny little stray, rather than just put her to sleep.
Blur – so named because that’s all she was when she dashed from hiding place to hiding place beneath the furniture – healed, mostly, and was in need of a home.
I already had four cats. More than enough, probably. Two older cats and two very young – maybe a year old – a brother and sister.
But when you’re already at four, what’s one more?
So one Monday, the day after Easter, I met Blur. She was small and gray and afraid.
I stuck one arm in through the door of the cage and let her sniff my fingers. Eventually, when she was ready, I scratched her around the neck, behind the ears…
At the end of an hour, she was lying on her back, purring, while I rubbed her soft tummy.
She’d accepted me. I was granted permission to care for her.
Now, as I said, the leg healed, but the eye didn’t. Actually it wasn’t the eye, but the tear duct. Somehow in her mystery accident, the tear duct was damaged and could no longer keep her eye moist. I put drops in her eye as often as I could.
She stayed in my bedroom, away from the other cats, during this time. They’d sniff around the door on one side, and she would sniff around the door on the other side.
She slept on my bed, on my chest.
Sometimes, if I was sleeping on my stomach, with my feet dangling off the end of the bed, she would jump up under the blankets and attack.
Yeah. That’ll wake you up – a claw in your toe, a kitten dangling from it.
Eventually it was evident that the tear duct wasn’t going to heal. The surface of her eye was dry and ulcerated. So one day Blur’s eye was removed, the lids stitched closed. She came home looking a bit like a pirate.
Once that had healed, it was time for Blur to meet the other cats. I’d read somewhere, or someone had told me, that a good idea before letting all the cats meet and greet was to lock up the original cats in a room and let the new cat explore the house. She could get to know the layout – and the hiding places and escape routes – without worrying about the other, bigger, cats bothering her.
So that’s what I did for a couple of days. I’d close the other cats in the basement and let Blur explore.
Another recommendation was to introduce the new cat at feeding time. This way (so the theory went), ALL the cats would be mainly interested in food and not so interested in the new guy.
So I did that.
Breakfast time one morning, I put out five bowls of food. I opened the bedroom door.
And I waited.
Soon, Blur came hopping down the stairs, following the smell (this was when I still fed them canned cat food). Most of the other cats had already gulped down what they wanted and had moved into another room to clean their faces.
One remained. One of the brother-sister pair. He was a big, gorgeous orange cat with the official name of Elmo Buster Hobbes. Three names, because I couldn’t decide on just one of them. And I called him Baby Guy.
He was still eating.
And Blur, so tiny, still a kitten, marched right into the kitchen, to where Baby Guy was eating, and – much to his surprise – managed to push her way in front of him and started to eat.
Just like that.
And Blur and Baby Guy became good friends.
The only cat who really never accepted Blur was Baby Guy’s sister. Her name was Oolie.
She was a smart one.
She figured out that Blur was blind on one side, and Oolie would hide around doorways – on Blur’s blind side – so she could attack.
Oolie was smart, but she wasn’t very nice.
Didn’t seem to bother Blur, though. And, with only minor skirmishes, really, the five of them got along.
That was nearly twenty years ago.
So much has changed.
Baby Guy and Oolie were adopted by a coworker. I was looking to move into an apartment closer to my job, and I knew I’d never find a place that would take five cats. And would I really want five cats in a little one bedroom place? Not really.
I found an apartment that allowed two cats, and they looked the other way when I brought in three.
Time has gone on.
The two older cats have also gone on. One, when we were all still living in the apartment. The other, when Bill and I were living in the tiny converted summer cottage before we bought this house.
Bill didn’t like Blur at first.
She used to walk along the back of my couch, when he and I were first dating, and she’d rub up against the back of his head. She was being affectionate. He thought she was head butting him.
But he got used to her.
When we bought this house, Blur was our only cat. And within that first year, Alex was born. Our first baby.
He was born in June, and during that summer, we started finding dead crickets in our bedroom.
For some reason, Blur was killing them and leaving them for us.
A friend of ours told us he’d read something about that – about cats with new babies in the house, and how the cat might consider the parents “inefficient hunters” and go about trying to teach us how to feed our young.
Blur was bringing food for Alex.
Alex, when he first started to talk, referred to Blur as “TEE-uh-tat.”
Julia, when she started walking – and carrying things – used to pick Blur up under the “arms” and lug her around like that until Bill or I would see her and make her put the cat down.
Blur never complained. Never scratched.
And then a couple of years ago we brought the kittens home. Annoying, pesky little kittens. They eventually learned to leave Blur alone. She was patient with Alex and Julia, but never hesitated to let the kittens know who was boss.
I am sure you know where I’m going with all this.
Blur turned twenty earlier this month.
She’s been suffering with chronic congestion for a couple of years now, or so. For a while, antibiotics would clear it up for a while. But last time around, it wasn’t as effective.
And other things…stiffness in her hind end…she stopped grooming herself…she couldn’t seem to get warm – she’d sleep next to the boiler, or on top of the fish tank lights.
The last couple of months…well, we could see that the time was coming.
Last Friday I made the decision. And made the phone call.
And this morning I brought Blur to the vet.
I was okay all weekend. I saw Bill off to work, brought the kids to school.
And then it was just me.
Of course, she didn’t want to get in the cat carrier. Ornery as ever.
I told her I was sorry.
And I drove to the vet’s.
I always overestimate how long it takes to get there, so of course, I was early.
I went in, explained I had an appointment at nine, and asked if I could take care of payment right away.
I’ve been through this before. I knew I wouldn’t want to linger afterward.
We took care of paperwork and payments, and I was brought into a room. I let Blur out of the carrier and she wandered around the little room while I sat on the chair and fought tears and felt horrible.
Naturally, she was perkier than usual in there. Isn’t that always the way?
The vet came in – he was new there, at least to me. He had a kind, sympathetic smile and I really wanted to tell him to cut it out, because kind, sympathetic smiles just make it worse, in my experience. Part of me wanted to just discuss this clinically and I’d go home and bawl in private, thank you very much.
But no. He was nice. He took his time. He asked about her. He listened to her lungs and heart. He watched her move around. He asked what’s been going on with her, and for a panicky moment I was afraid he was going to tell me there was no reason on earth for me to be there, and what the hell was I thinking???? As I mentally geared up to defend my already painful decision, he told me – in his kind, sympathetic voice – that I was making the right decision.
Damn him. Damn him and his kindness and sympathy.
He explained how they did things there, and I nodded and let him know I’ve been through this before. I was ready. I would not freak out or anything. I can handle this.
He left for a few minutes, gone to get the sedative first.
I held Blur on my lap. She decided to stay there. And I suddenly thought how…something…it was to be there, at the vet’s. Just like we began. Full circle, so to speak.
She grew very dozy after the sedative was injected. She put her head down on my arm and rested, mucus from her nostrils draining freely onto my sleeve. She was very relaxed.
Dr. Kind and Sympathetic came back and took her out of the room so they could catheterize her leg, or whatever they call it. You know how if you’re in the hospital, they attach a thing to the back of your hand, with a needle that goes into a vein or whatever? So they can just switch out the IV line and don’t have to keep jabbing you? That’s what this was for.
While I was alone, I took the towel out of the cat carrier and put it on the exam table. I didn’t want her to be lying on the metal.
The assistant came in with Blur and a towel of her own. She’d brought it for the same reason. She put Blur down on the pink towel from home, and covered Blur’s back end with the other towel. It was dark green with a few white bleach spots. In the safe, clinical part of my brain, I understood that the green towel was over Blur’s back end in case she lost control of her bowels or bladder at the end. I would be spared the sight of that.
But it wouldn’t have bothered me. It’s what happens.
The vet, Dr. Kind and Sympathetic, came in and – for the umpteenth time – said something like “She’s a cutie” about Blur.
Why do you have to do that, Dr. Kind and Sympathetic? Why do you have to say things that make me feel more horrible than I already do? I know you mean well, and maybe some people are appreciative, are comforted by the knowledge that you can see how cute and sweet and wonderful their pet is. Was.
But oh, that doesn’t help me at all. You say “she’s a cutie” and all I can see is that tiny kitten who let me pet her in a cage nearly twenty years ago. She purred, and accepted me. It was my decision to bring her home, but her choice to climb into my heart.
Dr. Kind and Sympathetic asked if I was ready, and I said yes. I was. I wasn’t. But it was time.
The little details.
The fluid in the syringe was pink.
I stroked Blur’s head as she lay there on the pink blanket.
She took one last deep breath and before the syringe was even half empty, she sighed peacefully, and then she was gone.
I kept petting her as Dr. Kind and Sympathetic finished injecting the pink liquid. And while he listened to her quiet heart. And a little after that.
And then I was thinking “Should I ask for the towel back? Would that be tacky? Would I seem insensitive?” It was a distracting dilemma, and I was grateful for it. I decided they could keep the towel.
I thanked Dr. Kind and Sympathetic. He asked if I wanted to stay a little longer, and I said no, I was okay.
I ran my fingers over the soft gray fur of Blur’s head one last time.
And then I picked up the empty carrier and went home.
Thank you, Blur, for adopting me.