Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Lucy Fur, aka, Fang

My son Ian rescued Lucy from an island in Long Island Sound where her mother, a stray, bore two kittens in a stone building, dubbed "the castle," which Sarah Lawrence College's crew team used for boat storage. When he realized that the island regularly flooded, he figured that the mother cat likely wouldn't have time to get two kittens safely across the bridge to the mainland. So when they were weaned he tried to catch them both but only could snag one.

Ian had driven a couple of hours to deliver her to me at the vet's office so I could get her checked out and bring her home safely among the rest of our fur family until we got her adopted. She was, I think, a couple of months old. He walked through the door and approached me holding out the box as if he was presenting me with the crown jewels. I have always been taken by that delicacy and strength in one motion, when one hands over something reluctantly, while feeling the weight of some mandate to do it. In this case I had told him it was unfair to keep her in his dorm, illegally, until she was grown past kitten-cute and then hand her off to be adopted. Of course he knew that was a reasonable assessment. And I certainly couldn't take on another cat, already having Paws, Sheba, Puff, Spike and Lisa Miranda.

When I looked into the box all I could say was: "She's mine." There was no way I could adopt that kitten out and I could see why Ian wanted to keep her with him as long as he could get away with it. She didn't so much look like a kitten as a block of deep rich gray fur. She was completely irresistable. The vet tech took her in back to do blood work but was gone an awfully long time. When I asked at the desk what was going on they said: "Everyone back there wants to get their hands on that fur." She was healthy except for a hernia and now I can't remember if we got it fixed immediately or waited a bit and maybe they did it at six months when they neutered her.

I lived in the big log house at that time, with five other cats, the youngest of which were Ian's Spike and Bill's Lisa Miranda, each about four years old. Lisa and Spike had had trouble integrating into the family of cats. Paws had tumbled each of them across the floor when they approached him. Sheba and Puff hissed them away. So tiny Lucy had her work cut out for her - at her age she was bound to try and bond with one of them. Her last try was successful, sort of, when Lisa allowed her to follow her everywhere, quite closely. I saw no affection between them but at least the little one had someone to shadow.

Now they are 19 and 15 and live in my bedroom and bathroom, in chosen isolation from three Virginia cats I adopted despite the Connecticut girls' objections. But they are the queens who sleep in my bed and next to, if not often touching, one another. And of the two of them, Lucy has become the cuddle cat. She spoons and cuddles me so delicately that she is a constant comfort without ever causing me discomfort. It occurred to me today that I have been preparing myself for months for Lisa's death as she has flirted with it and is a walking skinny mass of matts. But Lucy? I have not even considered her leaving. Yet this morning I began to worry that this little "cold" she's had is not only not getting better but is suddenly much worse. The sneezing became very frequent and the runny nose downright disgusting. It sounded difficult for her to breathe. I called. They could get us in at two. Which really means about three, so we sat in the office for nearly an hour. Then Dr. Tony looked at her and quickly said "here it is. She's broken her tooth. Must have got it caught in something." "But what!" said I "What on earth could she break a tooth on in my bedroom?"

"Anything" replied Tony, "caught in a bit of cloth, the bedspread...." I was shocked to see her proud little fang hanging loose. "It's infected her sinus" Dr. Tony said, "We've got to put her under and get it out of there and get her on some antibiotics."

I felt like a child. I had failed her, not noticed the dangling fang. Not been there when she was caught and struggling. And I'd told her in the car not to worry. I'd said we would just get some meds and drive right back home. Promised I wouldn't leave her. The normally silent girl was meowing loudly and none too happily. We'd be home soon, I promised again. Now I felt panicked at leaving her because everything I'd thought and said had been wrong. And I think that was the first moment I realized that I won't have her forever. I want to delay our parting as long as possible, which of course meant I had to let go of her right that moment so she could get the help she needs.

So here I am about to go to bed without Lucy for the first time in fifteen years. All I can think of is whether she's sleeping. Or crying and frightened. Did they do it after hours tonight or will she be sedated in the morning? Will I be able to bring her home early tomorrow? One thing I do know is that I am anxious to have her curled up beside me again. But even better will be if her impish side comes back quickly. Even feeling lousy she had done her daily devilishness yesterday. I'd found the old woman cloth doll on the floor, her hat torn off, her yarn hair a mess, her neck starting to separate from her body, her shawl flung aside. The little cloth lamb had been tossed off the shelf too. But in a new twist, my antique hat pin holder was in the laundry basket and all the pins were helter skelter. So, yeah, I think even more than cuddling, I want to see that spunk back. It reminds me she was feral when she was found and is still a little wild thing inside, despite our shared contented sleep. Sleep well tonight Lucy. Deb's coming back for you. I promise.

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