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GUEST COLUMN

Attached to our pets

When we first brought her home over 11 years ago she sat shivering in fear in the darkest corner of our apartment while my wife, Celine, and I sat close, but not too close, trying to make her feel better. I had never had a pet, let alone a cat before, and while I had visions of endless lap sessions, cuddling and purring, I had little idea what to actually do.

That night we sat with Calamity until her shivers turned to silence and ultimately towards walking up to us, sniffing for a while then taking a seat on my lap. She slept at the foot of our bed that night, more on my feet than on the bed, waking us up at 4 a.m. mostly because she wanted a little attention.

A rumpled Calico with a perpetual weight problem, Calamity Allison (after Calamity Jane and my friend Allison) was our child before we had a child. She got spoiled, eating table scraps at least until one unfortunate incident with a possibly bad shrimp cost her a night in the hospital and us $700.

Aside from that one medical incident, Calamity gave us little trouble except for the two times she found her way outside our house. The first time she escaped, we spent the afternoon and evening desperately searching the neighborhood for her. We were crying and generally terrified that she would get lost, hit by a car or that we would never know what had happened to her.

She returned, just after dark, walking into the garage a little dirty, but with what would count as a content look on her face if a cat could have such an expression. The second time she got out, I found her fairly quickly huddling under our neighbor's porch, wedged between some rocks and quite obviously scared. That adventure ended her quest to escape and she would be content lying in the sun or just looking out the window thereafter.

A friendly cat, she had a patented move where she would walk a few steps onto the carpet and then cast herself to the ground in a shameless attempt to have her belly rubbed. This almost always worked as did crying in front of her food bowl as a way of getting sneaked a few extra pieces.

She was a shelter cat when we adopted her in 1998 and we had no idea as to her exact age. The shelter worker guessed four and that would have made her approximately 15 this year -- fairly old for a cat. She had slowed some recently, sparring less with her "sister," Noodles, and becoming a lap cat who spent long stretches purring on top of one of us.

In the last few months she started rapidly losing weight and lost her normal zeal for food. She became even clingier, never leaving one of our sides and perhaps she knew in some way that we did not have much time to spend together.

Our vet told us her liver was failing and that force-feeding her in an attempt to get her appetite back might buy her a little time. We tried gamely to give her droppers full of a horrible smelling concoction, which she resisted, eating only a tiny bit. It was as if she knew her time was gone and she didn't want to participate in a charade that she would recover.

She spent one of her last nights sleeping between us, waking me more than once with her purring. Whenever I woke I rubbed her a bit and unashamedly gave her a kiss. Now that she's gone, I tear up at the little things, like seeing only one bowl food out or when I expect her to be there when I get home.

She was a good friend and she will be missed but not forgotten.

- Daniel B. Kline's work appears in more than 100 papers weekly. He can be reached at dan@notastep.com

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