She's been with me for more than 18 years. I don't know what that equals in cat years, but in human years, that's most of my adult life. Here's how young I was when I first brought her and her sister Maddie home after responding to a free kitten ad in the newspaper:
Our relationship can best be described as complicated. Spike was not an easy cat to love. She wasn't as pretty or affectionate as Maddie. But I couldn't love her less, just differently. While Maddie came across as beautiful but dumb, Spike looked ornery and conniving. Maddie could pull off a "who me?" look even when caught in the act. Spike looked guilty no matter what. But Spike liked me and trusted me, and she ignored everyone else. As long as she had me, she needed no one else. And so I loved her with a fierce protectiveness.
To be fair, I was probably not an easy human for her to love. I inflicted all sorts of crazy ideas on them. Since they were my first babies, I featured them proudly on Christmas cards each year. Here's from 1995 (message: Merry Christmas from our set to yours) when I borrowed some lights from the TV station and started a small fire in my apartment:
The next year I tried an easier idea: I brought them to work with me for a photo on the news set. Did I mention Spike also hated car rides? Another unpopular idea.
I gave up on fancy after that. It was me and and the cats under the Christmas tree in 1997.
Fast forward to 2001, Jeff and I were now married and had just bought the land where we now live. By then we'd added a hyper dog to the mix, and brought them all for the photo opp. Look hard and you can find Spike showing her lack of cuddliness in my arms. (Worth noting: it was a year prior to this picture that I learned I was allergic to cats. And still I kept them. Because they were my first babies.)
Spike's biggest issue, however, was what the vet once termed "inappropriate urination". Translation: she peed where she pleased when she was displeased about anything.
Such as Jeff. He was competition for my attention and she had no time for that. Spike had to give Jeff a whole bunch of new hockey gear one year for Christmas. Had Jeff had his way, we'd have gotten rid of her back in 1999. During a pre-marriage counseling retreat, Spike was identified as the single biggest source of tension in our relationship.
Jeff is a saint for putting up with her as long as he did. For any of his colleagues, if you saw him doing a happy dance at work today, you now know why. He outlasted the cat.
(Maddie, for those who may not know, passed away fourl years ago.) And still Spike lived on. And on.
She had no interest in cat nip and other toys cats were supposed to play with. When a mouse got into our basement, she ignored it. Even when it pooped in her food dish. No lie.
If it was possible, Spike grew crankier and even less affectionate in recent years. She seemed to come out of her shell a bit during the couple months when we were in between dogs and she was the only pet. But ever since Gus joined our family, she's grown more and more withdrawn. Most of her days she'd spend hiding and sleeping in Sydney's closet or under her bed.
There have been more and more instances of "inappropriate urination". I knew the situation wasn't good, and in some ways wished she would die so so I wouldn't have to make the dreaded decision to end her life. Finally, last week, Jeff had had enough. And I don't blame him. The carpet in Sydney's room and on the stairs to the basement stinks beyond words and will have to be replaced.
Last Friday, I made the dreaded call to the vet. They could have gotten us in that day, but I wasn't ready. I purposely picked a day farther off to so that I could have just a few days more with her. I confined her to the basement so she'd do no more damage upstairs. And the days marched on. I started really looking at her and seeing how badly she was limping and how mentally dazed she often looked. How bad has she been for how long and I just didn't want to see it?
Spike stayed true to her character right up until the end. I brought her upstairs so the kids could say goodbye before school, and she managed to sneak away and hide behind our bed. She's always been able to sense when something unpleasant was imminent. Jeff and I had to pull the mattress and box spring off the bed in order to get her out. Why should this trip to the vet be easier than any other trip we've made? At last I set off with her to the vet.
As hard as it was, I needed to do it by myself. I needed to be there with her because I'm the only person she's ever trusted and needed. As always, she purred and yowled at the same time for the entire car ride and while we waited in the exam room. She managed to projectile shed fur and dandruff all over my clothes while we waited for the vet.
And then, in a matter of seconds, she was gone. I'm glad it was quick and painless. But it seems so unreal that a cat can be living, breathing and purring one moment, and then just a few seconds later be forever still.
We will never get another cat. My heart is heavy, but I know it's the right decision for me, my allergies and my relationship with my husband.
I will miss you, Spike.We grew up together, and I am thankful for the many years we shared.