And I Love Her.

When we moved into our house in Oakland, after a while we noticed there were a bunch of feral cats around. The woman two doors down was feeding a colony, and somehow a few of them found their way to our doorstep.

One was a friendly, stripey butterscotch colored boy who we found out was named Rumpole, and his sister, Teaser, who was gray and white striped with a brick colored nose. Rumpole loved pets and snacks — Teaser wouldn’t let us near her, but deigned to let us feed her. Then there was a little solid gray cat who flitted in and out, and seemed to “live” in our backyard, where there was a duplex. A few months after moving in, our neighbors in the duplex bought a house and were moving out. “Will you take care of the little gray cat who hangs around?” they asked. We promised them we would.

In no time, the little gray cat parked herself on our doorstep. She had the notched feral ear, and her other one had a bite taken out of it one day, the blood still fresh, but she didn’t seem bothered at all. She left us gifts of birds and rats on our lawn, and was such a little character we started calling her “Scrappy.” She had an elegant leap — when she would jump up on the little wall on our porch, it was so graceful it looked like she was flying. Her favorite thing, next to Meow Mix, was having her head rubbed. She would lean up and into our hands, purring and chirping.

At the time we had a cat named Norman, adopted from our friends who were moving a week after our beloved cat BeBe died. BeBe had been my baby, and I was convinced no other cat could ever compare to her magnificence. Norman was sweet (though he peed everywhere), and though he was no BeBe, we loved him. But we grew fond of the ferals on the porch, and fell more and more in love with Scrappy every day. We were head over heels, actually. She was so funny, so sweet, and so so smart.

Scrappy knew the sound of my car, an old Volvo, and would run and meet me wherever I parked, sometimes two or three blocks away. I’d get out and there she would be, and we would walk home, her darting in and out of neighbors’ yards, and go up the steps together. In the mornings, she would meow at our door until we came out to say hello and feed her. One stormy night we made her come inside, and she had carte blanche from then on. She’d curl up in different spots in the house — on the bed, the couch, on a newspaper on the dining room table, in drawers, on boxes, on the cake stand in the built ins… She would pick a spot for a few days, and then move on to a new one. Every morning she would meow to go out, and run around all day and come “home” at night. Norman was our indoor cat, and Scrappy was our outdoor one. All we had to do was go outside and call, “Scraaaaapppy!” and she would come from wherever she was — we would see her running up the street — and she would do her elegant leap onto the wall and get scratches and kisses.

Then poor Norman died, and Scrappy moved in permanently. She still went outside, but she was indoors every night. When my mom passed away, she curled up in bed beside me, leaning in for kisses and putting her paw on my cheek. She was a good little friend, a little angel when I needed it most.

When we bought a house and were moving out of Oakland, there was no question we were taking Scrappy with us. It was something that we always talked about, that we would bring her along wherever we went. In preparation I took her to the vet — her first visit — and she was a trooper. And once the moving van came and we were settled in our new house, I went back and got Scrappy.

I cried driving her the hour to her new home, worried that she would miss her neighborhood and not acclimate to being an indoor only cat — our new street was too busy to let her out.  Her whole life had been on the streets until we came along — would she be okay? We read articles, and got a little kitty tent and put her in so she could get used to her new surroundings. All the advice said to keep her in there for 2 weeks, but within a day she was roaming around the house, using the litter box (!!!), and happy as can be. We realized that it wasn’t the neighborhood that was home — it was wherever we were. She loved us as much as we loved her.

But then we kind of ruined it for her, and brought home 2 little chihuahuas. We were sure that she would be okay — after all, this was a cat who faced giant raccoons and was fearless, but she wasn’t happy about it. Instead of having the whole house, she stayed upstairs. Not that upstairs was bad at all — she had free reign and still played with her toys and purred and slept happily on a cozy bed — but I know she was lonely sometimes. I would go upstairs and sing to her, changing the words in love songs to her name, but I should have done it more often. Sometimes she would meow at the top of the stairs, but I wouldn’t go up right away, staying on the couch until bedtime. Then she would still curl up next to me, purring, my good little friend. And thanks to my insomnia, we spent a lot of quality time together. I figured that “one of these days” she would come around to the dogs, that soon enough she would be on the couch, too.

Right before Thanksgiving, she started “fuzzling” (our word for kneading) me, especially my head and hair. This was a change in behavior, but she didn’t seem sick, just her eye was infected. She was prone to eye infections — we’d treated her before. We got her eye “goop” and antibiotics, but they didn’t seem to be working.

We took her back to the vet, and she had lost some weight, which was alarming in a little cat. But we got more meds and were sure that she would be okay — she was scrappy, after all. But her eye wasn’t healing as it had in the past, and she was still fuzzling frantically and seemed out of it, hiding under the bed. A couple days later we took Dino in to have his ear checked, and I showed the vet a photo I had taken of Scrappy the day before. “Her face looks swollen,” she said. “Can you bring her back in?”

So we did, and her swollen face was a tumor that had grown quickly. Because of the size, and where it was, and that she was older (we will never know how old — somewhere between 12 and 16), we opted to forego treatment and took her home with painkillers to live out her last days.

She lasted two more weeks. We showered her with love, and some days she was still elegantly leaping, but the past few days she was getting skinnier and weaker. Still, she curled up with me, and last night she slept with her cheek on mine, purring and loving. We struggled with the decision — what if there’s a miracle? — but knew that it was time, and it was the kindest thing we could do. She ate her last lunch of baby food today, and then we both held her and I sang to her and told her how much I loved her, and got her head wet with tears. We took her in this afternoon and she’s gone.  We fulfilled our promise to our neighbors, and took care of her to the very end.

The house feels empty, and I’m absolutely shattered. It’s so hard to say goodbye to unconditional love, especially when it goes both ways. But above all else, we are so grateful. How lucky we were that of all the doorsteps in Oakland, she chose ours. We didn’t rescue her as much as she rescued us, and gave us so much. She has been our sweet constant for almost 12 years, and I still can’t get over that she’s gone. Every night when I pull in the driveway I have looked at our bedroom window and thought, “Scrappy’s waiting for me!” And now… She’s not. The bedroom is unbearable right now, and her little toys are still scattered about. But I know we did the right thing, and love is never past tense. We will love her forever. She was a gift. We miss her so much already.

And this is the song I always sang to her, and especially fitting since on her last night there was a lunar eclipse:

I give her all my love
That’s all I do
And if you saw my Scraps
You’d love her too
And I love her
She gives me everything
And tenderly
The kiss my Scrappy brings
She brings to me
And I love her
A love like ours
Could never die
As long as I
Have her near me
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her
Bright are the stars that shine
Dark is the sky
I know this love of mine
Will never die
And I love her
Thank you, my sweetheart, Scroopa. May there be chicken an head scratches galore for you, and we will see you again someday.  I love you, I love you, I love you.
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2 thoughts on “And I Love Her.

  1. Wonderful story. I used to sing to my dogs up until they died. And I substituted their names in the songs. I sold them 2 French songs and one in English. When the younger one Pepper died I was with her in her final moments at the vets and she was totally out of it but I held her and sang the 3 songs. She lifted her head slightly and gave me one woof ad was gone. That was 8 years ago and it still hurts. I tried 2 other dogs afterward but nothing worked. I could never replace her or Patches.

    Reply

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