Sunday, May 16, 2010

Another Goodbye - My Feline Master Keiko

Some people believe that animals have no feelings or personalities. Anyone who has ever owned a pet for any amount of time can tell you different. Cats, dogs, ferrets, birds, they all have distinct personalities, likes, dislikes, moods, even humor.

Pets can be your friend, console you when you're sick, boss you around. They may not be able to speak in words, but they can communicate with you all the same. The better you know them and they know you, the easier that communication becomes. Some are extremely intelligent, others dumb as a box of rocks. Mellow, mean, happy, moody, easily bored, ADD, cruel, kind every extreme found in our own species can be found in theirs.

This week I lost my feline master and friend - Keiko.

Keiko was a fourth generation cat in our household. Her great grandfather was my beloved Lestat, and her great grandmother was Gretta. Grandmother was Claudia, who survives her at this time thought she's looked like she's been about to kick the bucket for years. (She will probably outlive us all!) The mother I did not know, as she'd been adopted by my mother and sister-in-law from one of Claudia's litters. Keiko was born at the Beltline house and after much prodding by my daughter, and my gooey husband capitulating to her whims, we'd brought the oh so cute (and I had resisted so well! I had just about escaped!) black kitten home.

Keiko was black from tip to tail with golden eyes and utterly adorable. Though she didn't smoke cigarettes, she was of the Nermal line, looking diminutive and cute her whole life. As a kitten, she'd been fearless. She would approach strangers in the house without a qualm, until she was somewhat traumatized by one of my husband's friends and then she grew extremely shy of strangers. (Steve, you fool! *shakes fist*)

More trauma was visited on her when we had to leave her and the others as outside cats for a few months, as our old house sold too quickly, the new one was not finished, and we had to move into an apartment complex for several months that didn't allow pets. She did not take well to being outdoors. Shell shocked from three seconds in. Coming by on weekends and spending time in the back yard with treats, I had no problems consoling the others, but Keiko remained aloof and distant, a tree her permanent perch.

When the time came, however, I was able to entice her close enough to reconnect and take her and the other back us once the house was finished. We settled in to our new place, and she slowly came back to herself. I will NEVER put a friend through this kind of hardship ever again. (Lost Gretta because of it, Lestat got kitty aids, Angelique got locked inside a storage shed in summer without food or water for days before we found her and got her free. Never, never again!)

Lestat was king in our house, and though he allowed me to lavish love on the others, he was top cat. On his passing, Keiko took up the mantle, having been the self designated heir for sometime.

Twelve years she spent with us. She ruled with an iron paw for one so small, but was normally quite gracious. My lap was her throne. She watched over me constantly and made demands when she deemed she had a need and castigated me when she felt I was laughing too loud or seemed upset. She comforted me when I was sad or ill, making sure not to leave my side until I was better. She took all the love I could heap upon her as her due and never complained in that regard.

In the last several months she'd become thinner than her already svelte self. We'd assumed it was just age finally catching up to her. In no other way did she seem different. But in April she looked like she was not feeling well, spending a lot of time in the bed during the day, which was unusual for her. She seemed to rally after a few days so we figured she'd just caught something we, the humans, were passing around.

On the day I got back from Conestoga I realized something wasn't right. Her poor belly was distended. I just about freaked. But we didn't take her to the vet. A sad experience with Miaka, the beloved ferret we lost a couple of years before, made us hesitant to take her in.

When the bloating didn't go away, however, I caved and my son-in-law was kind enough to take her to the clinic. Later that day I got the sad phone call. Keiko had cancer. There were growths on her liver and it was too far along to do anything about it. While chemo was an option, there were no guarantees. I couldn't see putting her through that. While you can explain to a human what chemo is and why they feel bad during treatment, how do you do that with a cat?

The vet felt we had a month with her, maybe two. I fought to hold it together and lavished what love I could on her as often as possible. The diagnosis came on 5/7/10. Rather than a month, Keiko left us in one week. She was gone by the afternoon of Friday the 14th. My husband had had a feeling she was going that morning before we left for work. The way she just lay unmoving on the comfy pile of sheets my daughter had made her, the fact she'd stopped eating the night before.

I petted her gently that morning and got a soft purr in return. Despite my husband's prediction, I didn't think it would be so soon. The son-in-law was home and keeping an eye on her, making sure she was comfortable. Daughter called me that afternoon after she got home.

Keiko was gone.

My husband had checked on her and realized she had left us sometime that afternoon. He buried her in the rain in our backyard. A feat he would not have done for just anyone.

I miss her terribly. She was my friend.

Good bye Master Keiko.
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