Today, as far as I can tell, was the birthday of Lucy, a little black kitten who came into my life in 2006 and changed so much with her life, and her loss. These photos were taken just days before her first birthday, in March 2007, when she was playing her favorite game of making the bed.
Lucy, as you might know, was another of Mimi’s kittens, from a litter of the previous year. I took the kittens in to foster and rehome in mid-June 2006 and quickly found homes for brothers Angus and Donal, who we hear from on a regular basis, and the rare kitten of Mimi’s who was not solid black—Charlotte, who was a calico, and from whose family I’ve received photos through the years.
No one was interested in Lucy and she ended up staying with me. I was honestly in no mind for a kitten with four senior or geriatric cats who needed care all at the same time, but while I lost the last of my oldest cats, those who were my first rescues, Lucy became a part of my life, escaping from her “kitten area” upstairs with the help of Sophie who wanted Lucy’s food and wandering the house though I’d never let kittens as young as her out without supervision. I lost Stanley in January 2007 at about age 25, and turned to the kitten who I welcomed with my whole heart, already a part of my home. I had gone from nine senior cats to four senior cats—Peaches, Cookie, Kelly and Namir—in one year, and little Lucy, a foster who became a permanent resident. And great friends with big brother Namir.
I had Lucy spayed on her first birthday—it wasn’t planned this way, just coincidence, and I was so focused on my geriatric cats I forgot the application to the low-cost spay/neuter program until January. But it was just after her spay that I began to notice odd symptoms, and knew intuitively she wasn’t well. And she wasn’t. Just two weeks after her spay she was diagnosed with effusive FIP, had 200cc of fluids drained from her chest. Despite all the traditional, alternative, naturopathic, homeopathic, spiritual and otherwise recommended therapies for her condition we only had three months after her diagnosis.
Of course, as the story goes, I saw Mimi in my garden and Lucy told me to rescue her, and the rest is history. Looking at the current members of my household, what would it look like today if the story had taken a different turn? If Lucy had lived, there is a chance I might never have met any of the cats I live with now, and who would be here in their stead? Surely I expected Lucy to live a long and healthy life with me, but what if I had spayed her at four or five months instead of forgetting the application and waiting so long? Perhaps she was not adopted because she knew I would understand her illness when it came, that she would have a year with the elders of the clan though she would never be an elder herself, that when she left she knew I would rescue her mother and a litter of kittens. But perhaps it was all by chance. We can never know these things, nor choose them, only make the choices we do.
I’m so glad for one choice I did consciously make, with Sophie’s help, of course—that when Lucy kept escaping from her kitten area, I decided to just let her do whatever she pleased. I had my hands full already. None of the nightmare kitten scenarios I had constantly visualized came to be. She was a very good kitten, she cleaned all the cobwebs from everywhere kittens hadn’t been in ages, she got to know all the other cats very well and possibly lived a lifetime in that year. And in the time she spent at the basement door, she probably managed to talk with her mom, who regularly visited the patio just outside, which is where I saw her the day I had Lucy put to sleep.
I designed an animal sympathy card from the very first photo in this post today, and the words are heartfelt: “Remember the best moments with love and joy.” Lucy and I didn’t have as many moments as I had hoped, but they were the best.
Happy Birthday as well to Angus and Donal, and to Charlotte, and a happy mom’s day to Mimi, who has spent a good bit of the day wrestling with Mewsette and racing me up and down the steps. Thank you, my little black cat, for bringing yourself and so many of your children into my life.
Lucy’s short life inspired a story which I’ve written and began to illustrate three years ago, and then realized I needed to practice a little more! But you can read about the idea and see a few of the initial illustrations I painted for it in Meet Lucy, with links to the other posts. I’ve been working on the illustrations again this spring, and I hope to finish it soon.
Browse some rescued cats and kittens!
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Weekly schedule of features:
Sunday: Essays, Pet Loss, Poetry, The Artist’s Life
Monday: Adoptable Cats, TNR & Shelters
Tuesday: Rescue Stories
Wednesday: Commissioned Portrait or Featured Artwork
Thursday: New Merchandise
Friday: Bok Review, Health and Welfare, Advocacy
Saturday: Your Backyard Wildlife Habitat, Living Green With Pets, Creating With Cats
And sometimes, I just throw my hands in the air and have fun!