That was your real name.
Maybe not as elegant or presumptuous as the name the others foisted on you.
You were sweet, affectionate and loving, but....
Madonna just didn't fit.
You were definitely a Maddie.
At least to me.
Small, delicate, dilute calico; funny little round amber eyes, and a rumbling purr as loud as an engine.
I fell in love with you, sweet Maddie, as you rubbed up against the bars of your shelter cage; little cat born in the same month that I lost my dear Bogie.
Only seven months ago.
So finally after waiting through two quarantines - one because you got scared and scratched the pet store lady's arm (she told me later that she knew you didn't mean it, and she wished she had never told anyone); and then waiting another ten days while you went back to quarantine for sneezing.
No sneezers could be allowed to leave the shelter - so back you went to another cage encased in glass, where for ten days they plied you with medicine.
Finally, on March 4th - you came home. With me.
There are no cages in my home.
Small rooms maybe - for the first few days as you settled in. First, the bathroom where you ignored all your new toys, and gleefully set about demolishing a full roll of toilet paper, and tearing down the towels from their racks - a stupid lack of foresight on my part.
Not to mention the pure joy of digging into your clean litterbox so frantically that there was more litter piled outside than was left inside.
Then there were the excursions through the rest of house - running, climbing, clawing the new couch, ignoring your brand new scratching pad. You loved to explore, chirping and purring all the while.
You were stopped short a couple of times by that strange creature under the bed, but you kept a respectful distance, and when she hissed, you knew the wise move was to walk away. But you were soooo curious about her
After a week, you got your big room all to yourself. A den - complete with a lawyer bookshelf that made you, when enthroned upon it, the tallest creature in the house, and gave you a good view through the window into the great outdoors.
When it got warmer, we would open that window and you would be able to feel the breeze, just as you would be able to roam out on the deck and watch the birds. It was going to be a wonderful spring and summer.
I hadn't taken any pictures of you yet. There would be plenty of time for that, I thought.
But then, last week, in small increments, I noticed changes.
You were't quite as fast slipping through my legs when I tried to catch you.
The food bowl which had always before been empty in the mornings wasn't empty anymore.
You didn't seem to be very interested in anything but your little black cloth mouse which you carried around in your mouth as you walked back and forth, back and forth across the room.
Then you even lost interest in him.
You only wanted to lie on my lap all evening, or curl up under the table and sleep.
Finally, you just wanted to stay up on top of your bookcase, where you felt safe.
And then came the morning when the food bowl filled the evening before hadn't been touched.
And your little body felt like a furnace.
And you cried out when I picked you up.
And my heart stopped.
So, little Maddie, I had to take you back to a cage - to a place where I desperately hoped they would tell me that it was nothing serious. Just a little fever. A place where they would let me take you home that same night with some pills to make you better.
But that's not the way it happened, and, oh, what a nightmare it must have been for you.
Nothing they gave you brought down your high fever, and you still wouldn't eat.
They stretched you out for X-rays.
They bound up your fragile front leg to hold an IV line in for fluids.
They stuck you to run blood panels.
They shaved your vulnerable little belly for an ultrasound.
And that's when things became even scarier.
Because then we knew that you were very, very sick, and that you weren't going to get better.
For six long days and five nights you stayed in that cage.
But tonight you came out and climbed into my arms.
For one last time we rubbed noses. We looked out the window together. I talked to you, and your rumbling purr was as loud as an engine.
Finally I held you close as you went to sleep for the last time. It was so quiet and so fast.
I told you that when you crossed the bridge to the next life, you should look for a big gray and white tabby who would help you find your way around this wondrous new place.
This other world where there is no sickness, no pain.
This place where you can run free with no doors or walls or bars to restrain you, where the breeze is always warm and fragrant.
This Eden where there are no cages.
Your happiness in that world will help assuage my grief at losing you in this one.
I wish you joy, my Maddie.