Just about eight years ago to the day I looked at Kelly and decided her story needed to be told for my Tuesday rescue story. Just two weeks after we’d lost Cookie, Kelly and I were finally feeling comfortable with being at our desk without her, Kelly settling on my lap for her bath, having it all to herself for the first time in her life. I felt very close to my last senior girl, she so timid but loving and friendly; I had a sense we didn’t have long, though I didn’t realize how brief that would be, and I knew I wanted to focus attention on Kelly from myself and my readers, and most importantly to tell the story of a kitty whose journey was long, confusing and often painful, and needed to be shared.
After telling many others’ rescue stories through the years, I sat down with Kelly intending to write the usual post outlining the highlights of her rescue knowing I’d tell more some time later, calling it, and intending it to be, “A Little Bit About Kelly”, kind of like “Cookie Remembers”. Little did I know that even that “little bit” would grow into a five-part series, each part written with Kelly sitting attentive on my lap week after week, very much a part of the process.
Kelly’s health was failing through February and March for reasons I never determined physically, though I could sense her emotional landscape. With Cookie she had lost the last of all her lifelong feline friends, the ones who had encouraged her to blossom and trust, much like “the last rose of summer” for which Irish poet Thomas Moore had named his poem in 1805, very soon put to music and popularized as a song, telling of finding a single rose left blooming while all others have faded, leaving “no flower of her kindred” to share her thoughts and memories.
In the poem he decides to scatter the rose’s petals so that she may join her mates; I decided to scatter Kelly’s petals as a story so that this little cat’s journey be remembered by others so that she would not be forgotten, and hopefully to inspire others to give a frightened kitty a chance to learn to love and trust on her own terms.
As I wrote out Kelly’s story with her on my lap, and as my, and our, grief over losing Cookie eased, I also discovered other needs in her and changed her diet and found a daily routine that suited her needs at that point in her life, and she turned around from her lethargy, began eating again and we enjoyed our last few months.
Though I had posted the last chapter in the series of stories at the end of March 2012, I knew as I was writing and discovering all the lessons within it that Kelly’s story should be a book that would also help other cats like her, strays and ferals on the street, frightened in the shelter, timid in homes with humans, but finally learning, obviously, from other cats to let herself trust and enjoy her life. Readers also asked that it be published as a book.
The five parts I published were each the first and only drafts as I felt an insistence to get Kelly’s story “on paper”, intentionally brief for publishing here, hardly ready for publishing as a book. In early summer I put them all together as chapters and began fleshing out the story with more detail, looking back through my years of cat health records, researching photos and planning illustrations and putting together a little book.
I had been hoping to finish this while Kelly was still with me, but her health changed near the end of summer and I lost her August 11, 2012. Taking that into account I decided to give Kelly’s story some time, knowing I’d find even richer details as I recalled her life with me, and so I have, though I didn’t think it would be eight years waiting. It is where I left it years ago, trying to decide how I should publish it. I am planning a print version and an e-version, of course, and also an audio version; it’s not that long, and I can record that.
I have been thinking of Cookie and Kelly lately, as I do in February, and I’ve been posting archive and vintage photos of Cookie too. I’m hoping to finish her story this year and finally share it as a book. In the meantime enjoy my favorite photo of Kelly, the one that has been the wallpaper on my studio computer since I lost her in 2012, and below that the original introduction to the series “A Little Bit About Kelly” and the first original “chapter” to her story.
A Little Bit About Kelly
It’s about time we told little Kelly’s story! She’s been a part of this home since 1997, joining us along with Namir as fosters from a person who was traveling to California for graduate studies and hoped to take them at some point but never found stable enough housing before we decided they belonged here.
This is the fictional portion of little Kelly’s rescue story, the part no one really knows but her. I’ve pieced it together from bits and pieces in her paperwork, observing the arrivals of many other young kitties who have found themselves a member of a stray and feral cat colony in an urban setting, and included as much of Kelly’s innate personality as I guess would have influenced her activities.
On that note, I make reference to Kelly talking and mumbling and explaining. It is one of the most endearing things about Kelly, for all her timid and cautious nature she is one of the most talkative cats I’ve ever known. She always has something to say, either simple remark or a complete sentence. She’s quite the storyteller, and talks not only to me but to herself as she goes about her daily activities. That’s why this story is told in her voice.
Pieced together from long-ago records, we do know what Kelly was found with a stray and feral colony in an abandoned building in Oakland, near Pittsburgh, in the midst of several colleges and universities, so it was assumed she’d been adopted by a college student and either escaped or been abandoned, or was born to a cat who had been. But the fact she’s such a talker has convinced me she was a socialized cat at one point in her life and was abandoned.
Kelly has been the sweet, quiet presence you didn’t see as often as her more outgoing housemates. I’ve long tried to condense her story, but decided that didn’t do justice to a kitty who’s been through a lot. Because her story is long and involves details of the story of a stray and feral colony along with Kelly’s own long path toward learning to trust humans, I’ll be telling it in several parts over the next few weeks for my Tuesday rescue feature. She has traveled a great emotional and spiritual distance to be the kitty you see today, and who is right now curled in a happy purring ball on my lap, head turned upside down and hugging all her legs together.
. . . . . . .
I’m not certain how I came to be where I was, and I didn’t know how to get away from it because everything else was much more frightening than the dark and dirty basement where I found myself.
I was very young and had gone from being a kitten with my mom and siblings to being with a bunch of people somewhere, all I remember was legs, they were so tall and loud and frightened me with big loud feet so close, so I ran one day for where it was quiet and peaceful, and then I couldn’t find my way back. I hid until night when the day grew dark and more quiet, looked and looked and found nothing familiar, so I just started trotting around the streets, crouching behind bushes, under cars, I had no idea where I was or what I was looking for. I was so hungry and realized the food that had always been available had come from those people, and the water in nice bowls like I was used to…what had I done?
Just desperately moving about in the dark, I had no idea how long or how far I wandered, but soon it became light again and noisy. There was just house after house, and cars parked and moving down streets, and those long-legged people who terrified me more and more.
Other cats were on porches and in yards and I thought they might help me, just answer a question, but they clearly told me to keep out, even the one who looked like my mom and I thought she might understand when I tried to explain, but she yowled some feline profanity my young ears had never heard and slapped me across the face.
My chest tight with fear and sadness, I ran and ran and ran until I was so tired and hungry and thirsty I thought I just might die, but I smelled and sensed other cats again and I was so desperate for just the presence of others like me that I slowed down and stopped, quickly washing my face, swiveling my ears and bobbing my nose to catch the little threads of sound and smell…yes, cats, many cats, and I even smelled the deep birth smell there, the first smell I remember ever, even before the smell of my mom.
And I smelled food. It seemed to be coming from a building across the street, and then I saw an orange cat come out from under the porch, and in the darkness under there I could see other cats too.
I slowly approached, and if it had not been for the enticing smell of food I would have been much more polite and even waited until after they had gone to move forward but my stomach was already gurgling, ready for food and in a daze I started to talk about food and how hungry I was and I walked across the street and into the yard and through the brambles around the porch and the little opening in the criss-cross wood behind it.
The smell was intoxicating. I saw a bunch of cats of all types gathered around a big bag of food, ripped open and the dry bits falling all over and still mumbling to myself I hurried forward in a daze grabbing several pieces from the dirt with my mouth and barely chewing before swallowing, getting a sharp swat from one of the cats already at the bag.
Without any awareness of danger or proper feline etiquette, I shouldered in, under and between two cats and got my face in that pile of food talking vigorously through mouths full of dry crunchy wonderfulness, getting more swats and shoves and jostles and warning sounds through their mouths full of food, but I think they were just as hungry as me, and for the first time since I’d nursed with my siblings from our mother I felt the comfort and warmth and smell and sound of another cat, and for that moment reveled in the community I’d found.
. . . . . . .
Read the whole series:
The five parts I published were each the first and only drafts as I felt an insistence to get Kelly’s story “on paper”, intentionally brief for publishing here, hardly ready for publishing as a book. You can read the original drafts of Kelly’s story with the links below.
And you can find Kelly in photos and sketches and stories all over The Creative Cat.
Gifts featuring cats you know! Visit Portraits of Animals
When the sun moves around to filter into this window, Kelly hops over to enjoy it and have a nice bath on the cabinet. In a rare moment of repose, she sits still and lets the sun warm her back, the light reflecting back from the pine wood cabinet warming the tones of her tortoiseshell fur. The original art is sold, but I have prints and notecards, plus tiles and keepsakes with this image. Read more and purchase.
All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used without my written permission, although links to your site are more than welcome and are shared. Please ask if you are interested in using and image or story in a print or internet publication. If you are interested in purchasing a print of an image or a product including it, check my animal and nature website Portraits of Animals to see if I have it available already. If you don’t find it there, visit Ordering Custom Artwork for more information on a custom greeting card, print or other item.
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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: Book 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!