October 6, 2003

As I write this entry, it has only been a few hours. It is hard to keep my eyes focused on what I type, but I need to do it now. A little over 21 years ago, a small four legged soul came into our lives. She brought with her joy, sorrow, lots of love, and a feistiness that stayed with her up until she moved on this morning.

Mandy came home with us from a pet store on a Saturday at the ripe old age of eight weeks. We decided that the scientific name for her was Mandis Cattis. The instant she was put in my hands, she started purring. Once arriving home, she had to explore everything, which she did at the speed of warp 5. She was still unsure about these humans she was with, and stayed away and a bit wary. After both my wife and daughter went to bed, I settled into the rocker and turned on the TV. After a little bit, she came over and sat down on the floor next to the chair and looked up at me. I told her "Come on", and she jumped into my lap, curled into a ball, and purred herself to sleep. From that moment on, she decided that I was her mommy.

Although she stayed downstairs that night and hid under the couch, she followed me to bed the next. Once she stopped chasing the shadows, she came over to sleep. She walked up on my pillow, touched her nose to mine and decided that this was a good spot. So, she curled up right there and went to sleep. This was ok, until I turned over. Then she had to get up, walk around, and do the same thing on the other side. Needless to say, it was an interesting night.

When we got our second cat, Casper, two weeks later, she welcomed him into the house by telling him that it was her house. She did the same with our first dog, Alfie. But although Alfie wasn't much bigger than she was, and wanted her to have puppies, she did tolerate him, and actually trained him to shake hands. Whenever Alfie got near her, she would raise her paw, and he started doing the same thing. I'm sure Alfie was one of the souls greeting her today.

Over her lifetime, Mandy trained six dogs, four of which have passed on. When we got the second dog, she ran and told us of her dislike, but this second dog, Ursa, calmed down Alfie so that he bothered her less. After that, she even played with Alfie, and would sit there while the dog put her head in his mouth.

When Alfie left, we brought home two Labrador Retrievers, Winston and Corky. Mandy's friendship with Corky grew to where the dog would lick on her, and instead of batting him away, she would turn her head like saying "over here."

She shared 'her' home with two cats, Casper and Murphy. Murphy left us at the age of seven, and Casper, who went to live with our daughter moved on at the age of 17. In fact she called us to tell us that she had to have him put down, and that "Mandy won".

Our first night in our temporary apartment in Florida, I walked out to the car to get something and heard this cat crying. I looked and there was a cat with its front claws stuck in the screen in a neighbor's window. It wasn't light enough to see who it was, but I figured I'd go see if I could help it. As I got closer and could see, I recognized the cat. I yelled, "Mandy!" and was rewarded with a very loud "meow!"  After that, she didn't sneak out of the door any more, or even attempt to.

We almost lost her in January when she got dehydrated and lost weight and muscle. The vet pumped her full of liquids and we started giving her canned food twice daily to get her to eat. Since then, she has just been her normal self, feisty as ever.

Saturday morning I took her to the vet as she was having bladder problems. The girl on the phone asked "Is that that old cat?" When I told her it was, they cleared a space and got her in. Although she let me take her out of the carrier and hold her, Mandy kept showing her displeasure at being there by growling a lot. The Doc had to give her some gas to put her in a light sleep so he could examine her. He told me she had the beginnings of renal (kidney) failure, and gave us food to control it. Up until this morning, she was fine.

She started throwing up around 3:00 this morning, and I was out like a rock, sleeping. I remember her coming up to me purring. i petted her for a while, then she walked away. When my wife got up, she couldn't find her. When I looked, she was under the couch, and it was obvious it was time. I removed the lid on the carrier, and placed her in it on some towels. All she did was lay there, mostly limp. Every now and then I'd hear a small meow.

When I walked into the vet's office she gave out a half meow, half growl, feisty to the end. While I waited for the doc to arrive, I calmed as best as I could and flooded her with energy. I wanted to make sure she got where she had to go. Even the Doc said this wasn't the same cat he had seen the other day.

I held her gently as they gave her the sedative that put her to sleep. I watched as she took her last breath. The Doc offered to give me a few minutes with her, but I knew she wasn't there. As the Klingons would say, all that was there was an empty shell.

My wife had told me that she thought the cat had been hanging around this long just for me. Maybe. I thought it might be for spite. But it probably was for me as she seemed to just be where she wanted to be when I was with her. I told her this morning that it was ok to go.

She had a good long life during which she did a lot of things. She lived in five different places, two of them temporary. She took charge of two cats, and trained six dogs (and a number of people). She used to have such balance that she could fall asleep on the narrow wrought iron railing at the top of our split foyer stairwell in Maryland.

She was always feisty with the sitter when we had to leave her there to go away (as we did this past December). The sitter was always afraid she'd die on her. But feisty cat always came back home. The sitter used to comment that 'the good die young'. Of course she was always smiling at the time. I'll be making sure any unused food and litter go there as they now run an animal shelter.

I'll miss our weekend mornings where I would start coffee, check e-mail, and then lay on the couch with Mandy and Bebe, our Golden Retriever. I'll miss the comforting purr as she'd nestle next to me or the insistent demands for dinner, including the scolding if we were late.

She loved me greatly as I loved her. As my neighbor put it, she always wanted 'her Brian'. It's hard to imagine that someone so tiny could have that much love in her, and that she could have such an effect on someone. But maybe that's why pets don't live as long, because they give everything they have in every second they're here.

I'm sure there are six souls waiting to take her home. And I can picture two of the dogs looking at each other, and Winston saying "Straighten up Corky. The boss is coming."