She’d been found with her three black kittens perched on an upper ledge of a business in downtown Denver. Somehow, a fellow intern had been alerted. She caught them and brought them to Alameda East, the hospital we’d just begun our tech internship at. It was Friday, and the day before Halloween. Her kittens were snatched so fast that l only saw one. There had to have been at least us 30 interns crammed in the kennels to see them- as if we’d never seen a kitten before.
No one was paying any attention to her, so I picked her up and just stood there, holding her while her fate was being debated. Her babies were old enough to leave her, and she seemed ready to have someone look after her for a change. She was maybe nine months old, which means she’d gotten pregnant at her very first heat, at six months old. She was still a kitten herself.
She laid there in my arms silent and fully at peace, her head over my elbow, her eyes closed, and her arm stretched lazily out over mine. I didn’t know she was mine right then, but she did.
The hospital administrator said she was not allowed to stay there but someone from Bel-Rea (our school) thought she’d be able to become a school cat, though not until the next week.
I didn’t want a second cat. I was 18, l’d just begun my three month unpaid internship, and I didn’t know how I’d feed and house myself or my other two Alameda East animals.
l was dating my now-ex-husband at the time, and he was (is) heavily superstitious. Toads give you warts, black cats are evil, etc. Did I mention the next day was Halloween? l said l’d take her until the school could and at three am, l took a bus to his apartment, got her settled and comfortable, and left her for him to find when he got home from his night shift. He called me immediately, of course. By the end of the weekend, I couldn’t give her to the school, so l took her to my home, and she became mine. Like she already knew she was.
That was fifteen years ago.
An hour ago, l held her at the vet’s office. She had her head on my elbow and her arm over mine, and she laid quiet and peaceful. This time, we both knew she would not come home with me.
When I got home last night, she was ataxic and wrong. I thought she’d had a stroke. l took her in, even though I already knew. Today, she couldn’t get to her feet at all.
Us techs always tell owners to be mindful of what they name their cats. Precious, Baby, Princess, Diva -we see these names and already know they are going to be cats from hell. Because they always are. At age eighteen, l felt too young to write my book, so I named her after my protagonist’s mother to remind me to keep writing. My protagonist’s mother was dragon raised. And this tiny little black nine month old cat was very quickly my dragon-cat. If anyone upset me, she was suddenly right there trying to beat the crap out of them. She’d break through screens if another cat came onto the yard. I wouldn’t see her for days. But I’d never see that other cat again.
She was the last of my three Alameda East pets, and l can’t believe they’re all gone. Where did fifteen years go? l sat with her and thought of my other two (God I miss them so), and all the ones between and after. I saw her through life and into death, and I like to imagine that our others were there to welcome her so that she wasn’t suddenly alone.
I didn’t bring her back home.