She was the runt of the litter, and she was the only one who actually let me hold them. That’s when I knew – she was mine. We were going to bring her home and love her.
She was kinda like me, actually. Nervous, cautious, quiet, but also an observant wallflower, kind, playful, and very sweet. And weird, because she really loved to lick human hair if we let her express her need for social grooming rituals.
We rescued her from the local animal shelter and she was in a cage with her two brothers Calvin and Hobbes. She was a tuxedo cat: black, with a white chest, tummy, and feet. Every other toe was alternately black and pink. Her shelter name was Susy, but I renamed her Lucy on the car ride home. That was 1998 and I was 15.
This past weekend, my family had to help her die because she had come to the end of her life and my mom could tell she didn’t feel well. I’m so sad to have lost one of my very best friends.
We grew up together, Lucy and I. She listened to my secrets and napped with me and kitty-massaged my calves and licked my hair. We chased her in this game that always went the same way where she’d lead us to her rug where she’d stop and fall over so we could rub her belly and brush her. I clipped her nails, gave her treats, cleaned up her vomit.
We (everyone but my dad) fought for a while to get a pet. I joked that we slowly worked our way up the food chain. First we had three goldfish who, one by one, committed suicide by jumping out of the bowl. I can only guess that the first one was depressed, and then the other two were overcome with grief. Years later, we got a female rat. She was really sweet, but didn’t live long. Next, we tried two sister rats. They lived a bit longer and were fairly fun, but cleaning the cage was a huge chore. Finally getting Lucy was wonderful because she gave us a moderate amount of love (she was a cat, after all) with only a moderate level of cleanup and care. My dad eventually warmed up to her, too, which was an added bonus. I think she made it pretty easy to love her.
Lucy was the oddest, most well-behaved kitty I have ever met. She didn’t like people food. Seriously, we tried. The only food she’d eat was ice cream, and even then we had to dab it onto her nose so she’d lick it off. She had her claws and never destroyed anything. She never bit or clawed – quite the opposite, actually – she’d allow herself to be manhandled by my brother and never fought back. She was the most docile creature.
She came to us with a bunch of health issues. Yes, she was the runt and was underweight, but apparently this stray from Oakland also had fleas and mites and had had a tough time. My mom’s friend commented on how little Lucy was so lucky, “She won the lottery, because now she has all of you to love her.” She was right, but the feeling is mutual.
I won the lottery that day, too.
I want you to know, Lucy, that I really wish I could have been there for you during those last few days. I desperately wanted to be there to comfort you, to hold you, to whisper my secrets to you again. I am very thankful that the rest of my family was able to be there for you, and that my mom held you in her lap when the vet helped you die. I just want you to know, that I wanted it to be me. If I could’ve, I would’ve been the one to hold you. I held you on that first day when you picked me and I wanted to hold you on the last day, too.
I love you and miss you, baby girl. I’m so glad you’re not hurting anymore and I hope you’re licking ice cream off your nose right now.