Yesterday when I got home from work, I was greeted by two four-footed creatures. One was overjoyed to see me; the other was, well, simply glad that someone had responded to her imperious calls. Because as far as Peaches was concerned, she was THE QUEEN. She presumed that it was she for whom the rest of the family toiled.
It’s been that way since the day she showed up on our doorstep more than 20 years ago. She fooled an 8-year-old into pouring her a saucer of milk and that was that. She was there to stay.
That was the only time I’ve been grateful for allergies, because my pronouncement that she could stay but had to live outdoors was met with loud objections. But hey, if Mom’s gotta breathe, kitty’s gotta do her breathing outside. That lasted for about four months…until the cold of winter set in. We settled on a deal that she could come in when it was REALLY cold and/or REALLY wet. But she had to be in the basement. This worked most of the time, except when Anne sneaked her into her bed. Which she did a few weeks ago.
The funny thing was, after about 12 hours of indoor life, she was ready to go back outside. She’d sit in front of the door and meow. In later years, she’d howl. We’d let her out and off she would go to do her daily hunting and gathering. Any small rodent was fair game. In fact, large rodents weren’t necessarily off her radar. It became her habit to present these to us as gifts, gazing up at us in that condescending way of hers. And waiting. For praise. Which, by the way, she did NOT receive.
We probably should have kept track of her catches, but after the baby bunny on the doorstep, we lost interest. That was the day that the girls and I had to summon Dad home to dispose of the little guy. Peaches watched Fred with disgust as he performed a bunny burial.
Oh, but she could be charming. She could purr as loud as the rest of the cats, begging for a scratch behind the ears or a belly rub. Not from me, of course. She and I had an understanding. There was to be no rubbing of a furry body on the legs. In turn, she expected me to slip her a snitch of tuna or salmon periodically.
Peaches was a walker. She often joined us on long walks. If she got tired or bored, she’d return home and wait for us on the porch, bellowing her disgust. About five years ago, she quit following us. She’d walk about halfway down the block, whining the whole way, then give up and go home to wait.
Her worst nightmare was the day I adopted Ike. She’d tolerated every other dog, but none of them were interested in her. Ike was. He would dance in circles around her, eager to play. Finally, she’d stick out a paw, claws extended, and take a swipe. He never learned.
In recent years, we could tell that she was losing her hearing she wouldn’t come when called. Her howling reached decibels of discomfort. A trip to the vet 3 years ago revealed that she was in excellent health, with the exception of some signs of dementia. A couple of rounds of “kitty Prozac” and she was humming a happier tune. The trick was getting those little pink pills down her throat without losing a finger. Even Lindsay, who could get a lemon down a dog’s throat if she had to, finally gave up. Forget trying to hide it in her food. She was on to us. She’d eat everything and spit out a mangled pill, then fix us with a withering stare.
Every time the girls would visit, they’d give her an extra hug before leaving, “just in case”. We knew 20 years was pretty unusual in a cat — especially one that spent her days roaming the neighborhood. Knowing that didn’t mean we were ready for it when it came.
Yesterday, when I got home from work, I put her out to soak up some sun. When she hadn’t returned by 9 p.m., I was getting a little worried. At 2 a.m., I checked the front porch. No Peaches. Not a sound. When my running partner showed up this morning, I told her we were on a Peaches search. If there was a lump in the road, she would have to check it out. Not me. Couldn’t do it.
When I returned an hour later, I fully expected her to be on the porch. But as I walked up the driveway, I saw her, lying on her side in the grass. Even from a distance, I knew she was gone. I wrapped her in a towel and placed her on the patio, then called Fred and told him the first order of business when he returned from his conference would be a burial. He sounded as sad as I felt.
In an odd turn of events, the girls have had to console me this time. “She was OLD, Mom.” But it was Lindsay’s Eric, who put it in perspective for me.
“Peaches has joined Fritz (another cat) in what Native Americans call ‘the great rift in the sky'”.