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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Lady Butterfly

She just never had a chance. Lady Butterfly came into my household as a feral cat that needed very little taming but I was dealing with the terminal illness of another cat. He was “that special cat” one that we all have. Somehow amidst all the turmoil I was able to find a home for the pretty little Lady with a family that was excited to have her.

Lady was a petite brown classic tabby and white cat with the silkiest fur I’d ever felt. Almost immediately when I let her out of the trap she became a sweet loveable pet. But I wasn’t in a position to keep any more cats so I sought homes for both her and her brother, Target. I finally got a call from a woman with two teenage daughters who really wanted a cat. I was thrilled that someone was willing to take on an adult cat and made plans for them to take her.

Meanwhile Misha Baryshnikat was dying. He was my special cat, one that had traveled around the Midwest with me to many, many cat shows. He’d been the second best Household Pet Cat in the CFA Midwest Region one year but was the best in my heart every minute of his life. His pancreas was inflamed and he probably had a tumor that was growing in his gall bladder but he would never have survived surgery so I could do no more for him. His veterinarian gave him about a week to live.

Then one day amidst the snowy beginnings of the blizzard of ’96 I got a call from the woman who had adopted Lady. Seems the sweet little Lady wasn’t fitting into the family as quickly as they’d hoped and they wanted to return her. I agreed to meet them halfway between our homes to pick her up. I found the little Lady swimming in a carrier covered in urine and feces. She’d obviously been in the carrier a very long time. I transferred her to my own carrier and left right away. She just never had a chance. The snow began falling with even more ferocity that I’d expected on our way home.

Lady made herself at home once more in my isolation room with her brother and I returned to Misha’s side. Then the blizzard hit. It snowed that night and by morning the skies were so white I couldn’t see my neighbor’s house! I awoke in a puddle that morning and realized that Misha was having a seizure losing control of his bladder. I tried calling his veterinarian but she was stuck in Des Moines at a conference. It didn’t really matter anyway since I couldn’t have gotten to the clinic myself.

I spent the next two days just holding Misha in his plush little red bed wishing I could calm his seizures and staring out the window. I knew I was losing my baby but I could do nothing more than hold him. Finally, that Sunday, a trusted friend made it to my house and drove me to the clinic. I held Misha tightly the entire trip. I knew nothing more could be done; his liver was failing, his pancreas was inflamed and who knows what else was going on in that ravaged little body. My buddy of 14 years left me that night.

That next week I cared for my other cats like an automaton. I fed my own cats, cleaned their litterpans then did the same for the ferals but then I went back to bed to curl up with Misha’s little red bed. But each time I entered that isolation room Lady wouldn’t let me ignore her. She’d ignore her food to talk to me instead. She’d crawl up on my shoulders every chance she got but she couldn’t give me what I really wanted.

Finally I gave in and took the two cats into my family giving them names. Lady kept trying. She would sleep under the covers with me much like Misha would as if she were trying to fill the void. But she couldn’t replace him. She talked to me at night as if to tell me it was bedtime much as Misha would but she wasn’t him. Even later when I started to show her, she did very well bringing home almost as many awards as Misha. But she wasn’t Misha.

She just never had a chance but somehow she broke through anyway. Lady became a great Pet Therapy cat comforting many residents in nursing homes and youth shelters and even fit in with my sister’s young children and all their noise. Today she is almost 16 but still very active and still very loving and still trying to fill that void. In doing so she’s become her own part of my heart.

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