“I’m One of the Nicest Kitties Here”
That’s what the sign on Sweet Pickle Annie’s cage said when we went to the Humane Society back in early 2002.
But before I tell you about Annie, there’s some back story to life before she came along.
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We had a cat named Goober Pea Chumley; A brown tabby that we loved and loved. Sadly, Miss Pea, as we called her, died unexpectedly of kidney failure in January of 2002.
At the time, we lived in a building of condos that had been sold to a new owner, and the new owner didn’t allow pets, BUT because we already had Goober Pea, we were grandfathered in with her when they bought the place.
After the death of Goober Pea, we wanted another cat, BUT we couldn’t have one because of the new “No Pets” policy. And, of course, the only thing to do was to find Miss Pea’s twin. So…
Luckily, we were trying to replace a brown tabby, which are not difficult to come by. It’s probably the most common coloring/breed combos out there. We went to the Humane Society, and there was 6-year-old Annie, a custom-made fit. On her cage was the sign, “I’m one of the nicest kitties here!” We spent a little while sitting with our new little sweetheart and getting to know her. She was shy – standoffish, even, but that’s to be expected in an older cat under the circumstances. She’d been left at the shelter, adopted once and brought back and abandoned a second time. Why would someone do that? She seemed so sweet. So, we signed the papers, and took her home. (And, yes, I know we were breaking rules all around. We weighed giving a homeless pet a loving environment against a white – okay “gray” - set of lies, and we forged on. I’m certainly willing to discuss the wrongness of this in the comments. For those of you who live in spaces that you don’t own, I would say, “Don’t try this at home” or you’ll risk further traumatizing a rescue pet. We only risked it because we were looking for a house to buy and we knew we could make it work.)
So. She hid in the basement for 6 months. No, really. She spent the majority of six month’s time hiding in the basement. Six months can be a really. long. time. It wasn’t until later that year when we moved from the apartment to our first house that Annie began to become a personality in our lives. She came out of her shell a bit in her new surroundings. My goodness, she was shy and scared, our Little Pickle. Not what you’d call a friendly animal, at all. But she was tiny and sweet and I would not give up on her.
She was always “my” cat. She just knew that I was the one who “got” cats. She would allow herself to get close to me. Sometimes I could actually touch her. After a time she was somewhat approachable and would tolerate affection. Barely. I don’t know what was done to her in her first six years, but she was such a cautious and fearful animal.
We lived like that for 4 years. The only lengthy reprieves from Miss Stay-Away-From-Me-I-Don’t-Need-You was at night when she would sneak up onto the top of my computer monitor to sleep where it was warm (remember monitors that were big enough to hold up a cat? :-)), and when she would creep up to lie on my back while I slept at night, which was awfully sweet. But, if I made a move to pet her at night, she was gone.
Then the first of two things happened. When Annie was 10 years old, we decided (based on a whole bunch of happenings) to get two kittens. Well, at first, you’d have thought we had brought Thing 1 and Thing 2 into the house. (And, really, she wasn’t the only one who felt that way. ;-)) Once Peeves and Milo came to live with us, Annie perched herself up in her basket in front of the window, got out her best Miss Pickle face and wore it day-long. She radiated displeasure like a forcefield. Poor little orange tabby Milo really wanted a mom-figure, but when he’d run up to her, Annie Girlie would just turn on him and “hiiiissssssssss.” Peeves the gray floofy cat was oblivious. If it wasn’t Peeves-centric, it didn’t exist.
But, soon I noticed that she was watching both of them with a very focused interest. And without the pickle face.
This lead to my heart nearly stopping one day when I came around the corner into the dining room and found Annie writhing and squirming on the floor. “She’s having a seizure! Oh, my Gawd, SHE’S HAVING A SEIZURE! What do I do!?”
“Oh wait, she seems okay. She’s… Uhh… Oh. Oh, my gosh! She’s playing!” And she was! Or trying to, anyway. Unfortunately, Miss Annie playing was the feline equivalent of Elaine dancing. But, holy cow, Miss Anti-social was trying to play with the Knucklehead Brothers! It was the first of many breakthroughs.
The other thing that changed life was that, about a year after we got the kittens, Annie got sick. Well, sicker, really. In looking back, we realized that she’d always been sort of a serial puker. I think we just sort of saw it as an extension of her personality. Protest puking, if you will. But, no. It worsened. After a horrible, messy time of monitoring symptoms and after several vet visits, we decided to treat her for Irritable Bowel Disease. IBD as it progresses involves a lot of diarrhea and vomiting. The steroid shots were amazing. They had her instantly back on her feet and feeling better than she had in a while. Of course, as with any steroid, they were hard on her little 6-pound system. She was such a bitty thing. The affects of each shot lasted about a month and, though they took their toll on her eventually, they gave her 4 great years of learning to be a real cat.
I will shorten the next few years to say that Annie watched Brother Peeves and Brother Milo and learned how to be happy. She learned how to play. For the first time in our life together, she began to go outside onto the back deck. To ask to go outside. To play outside. To lie on the railing and sleep, soaking in the sun. To climb up onto the garage roof to watch the birds. She learned that it was okay to ask for love. To jump up on laps and shoulders. To sit on your chest and stare you right in the face and purr. She purred. My Annie Girlie purred.
But we knew her time was measured. Starting this last November, the time between shots became shorter. The symptoms of her disease broke through more and more often. On Saturday, February 25th, she had a bit of a rough afternoon, symptom-wise. Then, not late, but after dark, she wanted to go outside. Not a regular thing, but not unheard of. Usually, I would just see her a bit later, sitting outside the sliding glass doors to the deck, waiting to be let in.
Then I heard the yowl. I didn’t know that it was her, it didn’t sound like her, but I knew that it was a sound that “didn’t belong.” We have lots of cats in the neighborhood. It could have been any of the usual perps. I looked on the front porch. Nothing there. I was on my way to check the back deck, when I knew - it was Annie. She was out there. It was her. This realization came at the same time that my husband, who had gone outside just a moment earlier, opened the outside kitchen door and yelled, “Kelly, it’s Annie. Something’s wrong. I think she’s dying.”
I hurried down the back deck steps and saw her lying on her side by the laurel hedge. Watching her for a few seconds, I was fairly certain that she had had a stroke, and that her physical time with us would be over very soon. Chris brought out a blanket and I placed her carefully on it, wrapped her up and carried her into the house. For the next hour or so, I sat with her in the rocker next to the fireplace. We “chatted.” She would meow a bit and take a ragged breath. I would tell her how much we loved our Miss Pickle, and that it was okay for our girlie to let go. Repeat. Fade…
It was not always an easy time, life with our Sweet Pickle. But this I know: We gave her the best life we could offer her. And, in the end, she seemed to have left behind whatever abuse and abandonment she had suffered in her early life. Thanks to The Boycats, she learned what it felt like to lie outside in the sun. She learned how to play. She learned how to purr. Towards the end of her life, she learned that life was good enough that a cat could love and play and purr, sometimes all at the same time.
I love my Annie Girlie. I always will. And I will remember always that love can be learned. Both the taking and the giving.
Rest, now, my sweet Annie. You really were “one of the nicest kitties here.”
(Diarists edit: Please feel welcome to jump in with your FPs without commenting on the diary itself. Sometimes I think it can be off-putting to be "stuck" on someone else's FP. Know what I mean?)