The end of 2001 was a tough time. The country was, of course, still raw from 9/11. Husband had recently been, quite literally, nearly lost at sea when his research vessel capsized and he nearly died. I was sick with what we now know was a flare of endometriosis and rheumatoid arthritis, although at the time we didn’t know what was wrong with me and were ruling out truly scary diagnoses such as ovarian cancer. In the midst of all of this gloom and chaos Husband and I decided to add some joy to our lives by adding a new member to our little family. We had adopted a feral kitten back in college, and Husband, formerly an exclusive “dog person” had fallen hard for the spunky feline. It didn’t take much cajoling to convince him that a second cat was just what we needed.
We ventured to an adoption event at the local Petco. There, a local cat rescue organization, had a bank of cages filled with cats of various ages. I spied a playful looking cat and took out one of my shoelaces to play with him or her; the cat wasn’t particularly interested but a skinny kitten in an adjoining cage saw the shoelace and began reaching her paw through the the cage, batting at it with enthusiasm. She was a tiny “dilute” calico with a head that seemed a bit too small for her body and long slender legs. The tag on her enclosure read “Patches”; a fitting, but sadly generic name for such a lovely little girl. She cocked her head to the side as she played; giving her a perpetually curious look. We were hooked and submitted an application that day.
She came home to us not long after and we christened her Cossette. She was still full of innocent spunk but also full of some serious germs. The cute little head tilt we had seen at the adoption fair was actually the result of a massive ear infection which caused her to turn her head so that she was able to hear out of her good ear. In her first weeks with us Husband was taking care of two sick girls; little Cossette and me. I had surgery and Husband brought me handfuls of pain medications and then after wrapped up our little kitten in a towel and fed her a cocktail of antibiotics, anti-virals, and immune boosters. Cossette had been abandoned or lost her mother very early in her life and had never really “attached” to anyone. Husband and Cossette bonded and she became his cat. For the past 15 years their nightly ritual was for Cossette to wait patiently, but insistently, for Husband to lay on his back so she could climb onto his chest; kneading and purring.
Cossette was an anxious little soul; skittish and shy. Many people didn’t even realize we had a second cat. She loved to be loved but always very much on her own terms. I would often find her curled up on top of my head in the middle of the night. If she really liked you she would try to groom you. She was quite a chatty little cat and had the loudest purr per pound of any cat I’ve ever known.
She was initially timid with the kids, just as she was with anyone new but she developed a regular habit of napping with them on our bed; particularly Middle and Baby. I break out in a grin when I remember the sequels of delight that the girls would let out when they woke up next to Cossette. Her shyness taught the children to be kind and gentle with animals.
Over the past couple of years she had her ups and downs with health; expected for a senior cat I suppose. We worried about how she would handle the move to our new home but she was completely nonplussed; becoming even more cuddly and friendly. She would often curl up in our bed with the five of us while we read stories to the kids. She would lie in Middle’s bed when she was sad or falling asleep. She would sleep between Husband and I, right between our pillows, nuzzling me and purring when my alarm went off for early mornings at the hospital. When Husband or I were up late working or grading Cossette would be curled by our sides, a calm comforting presence in the darkest hours of the night. Every morning when I made our bed she would grudgingly and delicately walk around my movements of sheets and pillows to end up sitting as queen of her fluffy domain. Whenever I got to the top of the stairs I saw her curled up on our bed; the picture of feline contentment. I had come to think that I would always see her there.
A few weeks ago she seemed somehow older than usual; slow and indifferent to food. Hundreds of dollars of tests and medications later we didn’t have a definitive answer. A little over a week ago she stopped eating entirely. We went to a different veterinarian and on Friday received a diagnosis of terminal kidney disease. The veterinarian said that with fluids and supportive medications she might be made comfortable for some time longer. I left for work on Saturday morning, heart heavy, but hopeful for more time. Husband was planning to take Cossette into the doctor’s office so that he could learn how to admisnter fluids. But it was not to be. Cossette declined rapidly that morning. She was clearly uncomfortable and struggling. I came home just in time. It was time to help her go. A local veterinarian who made house calls came that afternoon and surrounded by her family, in her favorite spot in the world, we put Cossette to sleep.
It was as peaceful of a death as one could possibility hope for (feline or human) but it is still a death with the same result that she is well and truly gone. Older cried longer and harder than he had since he was a colicky newborn. Middle has alternated between fascination at the process, denial, and deep sadness. Baby is doing the best of all of us; she’s too young to feel it as deeply which is something of a blessing for her and for us.
We had just finished planting a rose garden in our front yard that day and buried Cossette in a tiny plot next where the beautiful flowers will bloom. We will make a petite headstone, fitting for her, place a bench or a tree stump nearby to sit remember her. I feel more off balance from her death than I would have expected. I think it is missing her but also that we got her just a few months after we were married. She was with us through most of our adult lives, the birth of our children, and all three of the homes we have had together. Her death is yet another marker of the end of this era of our lives. I will miss her greatly. Rest in peace little one.