Monday, September 25, 2006

There's my two little kittens, circa 1991. It was April of that year, when Brian was 5, and I was ... 28 (!) that we heard through the grapevine that a nearby farmer had some kittens to give away. I'd bought a house in January, and we had our act together except for one thing: We needed a pet. We should, we decided, probably check out those kittens.

This particular one chose us in a matter of minutes, and we merrily hit the road, trying to pick out a name for her. Brian decided, suddenly, that her name would be Sylvester! That was it. Sylvester the Cat!


Sylvia, she became, after a little coercing on my part.

She was a precious thing, and meowless. She'd utter a weird voicy growl, now and again, but meowing, rarely. She and Brian were fast and furious from the get-go. He'd drape her over his head, and she'd happily ride along like his little cat-hat, never offering up any kitty arguments, and often coming back for another ride. They pounced and screamed, and ran through the house for years, he with a feather on a stick, and she determined to make mincemeat of it.

We taught her a few cool cat tricks. After feeding her, we'd walk away, and tell her, "Say thank you, Sylvia." She'd leave her dish every time to give you a quick rub across your ankles before heading back to the grub.

And there was a game called "I'm a cheetah," in which we'd wrestle around with her (saying, of course, "You're a cheetah, Sylvia!") until she was tempted to bite. Then we'd call out "no bite!" and she'd stop where she was, mouth still open, a tooth poised on your arm. She test you a little bit, but with another "noooooo" she'd leave the game altogether, as if to say "screw it. If I can't bite, I'm not playing."

Brian and I browsed through a cat book once, in which cat's emotions were potrayed. One of the portraits amused us, with a caption that said "this means worry." He'd then tease the hell out of the cat, holding large objects (usually pillows) over her head, and when her expression was just right, he'd say "Look, Mom. This means worry."

I'm pretty sure he held one of our floor pillows over her head when he was home on leave in July.

15.5 years we've been coming home and greeting our beloved Sylvia.

Alas, she fell very ill last week. When I took her in to our vet, it was only a matter of minutes before the doctor informed me that she had a lymphoma that was fatal. I wasn't altogether surprised to hear her words, I knew our kitty had been slowing down for a few years, and I knew she wasn't feeling so hot.

I'm usually pretty good at keeping my emotions in check. But I began weeping at the word "fatal," and I cried unapologetically through the rest of the conversation, in which I determined that she would only continue to suffer, and worsen, if we kept her alive. It was a no-brainer, the decision to put her to sleep.

The house is lonelier by 1 now. I still unconsciously look for her, before jumping into bed, so I don't land on top of her. I gave Brian the bad news on Saturday morning, after he'd gotten in from the field, for 10 days. "Ohhh, Poooooooooooor Kittyyyyyyyyyyyyy" he said, in a baby voice that was meant for me, I know. He is a tougher soldier than I.

And you know, I have the nicest friends in the whole world. I put out a mini-APB on Thursday morning, and friends called within a half-hour, to see if I was OK. And e-mailed through the day. And left me messages to call them, also. And though I had a few things to take care of at work, the bossman told me to go home whenever I wanted to. And when I felt like burrowing in at home on Friday night, I still got phone calls from my coffeeshop buds, inviting me down, and telling me whom all had asked for me, or said hello. And my mother called, and some others, I learned today, toasted Sylvia and drank to her.

So. Thanks, you guys, for looking out for me.

And have one for Sylvia, next time you're out.


  1. I'm shedding a few tears for you and Brian and Sylvia. So sweet. I often marvel at the fact that pets just want to be so near their owners. It's the purest form of love. I don't have any pets myself. I'm far too fragile.

  2. So sorry for Sylvia. It must be lonely without her. Molly the Cat took over our house as a kitten seven years ago. It didn't occur to me at the time that I'd probably outlive her. Reading your post made me find her and let her cuddle on my lap, so I could appreciate her warm catness and her luxurious fur. I know you gave Sylvia a wonderful life.

  3. It is so hard to lose a pet---they're part of the family. My mom went into some serious mourning when her two cats died(they'd had them for years and years). Some people think that's silly but pets become as intregal to the household as the people in them almost.


    gentle tears

  5. Sorry to hear of your loss. Our Sammy is coming up 12 so we have to prepare for the inevitable too.

  6. I'm so sorry for your loss. We've lost many a dog over the years, some to old age, others before their time and it never gets easier. They are truly family.

  7. Sorry about your lost as well. I worry about my father and how he's going to take when his dog goes. My brother thinks that he loves the dog more than us. :)

  8. Thanks, everyone.

    Laurie: I understand too fragile. I'm going to wait for awhile and see if the house feels terribly lonely before I consider another pet.

    Larry: Ha. They do take over, don't they?

    Jay are: My Mom lost her poodle a year ago, and it was just a few weeks before she felt she needed to fill the void. She picked out a precious pekinese from the Humane Society.

    Wil: Right on!

    Dogbait: Say hi to Sammy for me.

    Mal: I don't know why, but I think it would be harder to lose a dog; it's one thing that makes me hesitate about getting one.

    Stephen: Funny; my sister and I tease our Mom, too. She actually phones home and talks to her own answering machine when we're out, so the dog can hear her voice.

  9. Anonymous9:18 AM

    I'm sorry you lost your Sylvia.
    I think its the sadest thing in life that our pet family companions don't live as long as we do and we have to go on without them. Its like loosing a child.

  10. It is very hard to lose a pet..which is evidently just one of the family...We lost our pet a few months back...and it was very hard on all of us...although I portrayed to be much stronger and less sentimental than the rest of the fam...

    I'll be sure to have a Cosmo in her name!

  11. Poor Sylvia!

    I started to look for her the other day at your house...

    She was a sweet, sweet girl!

    Thanks for sharing your memories - I enjoyed reading about the cat games. I'll test out the worried look game at home. ;0)

  12. Share some sweet memories .. She was amazing ..


  13. It sux losing a pet. I have lost many. Sometimes I think I connect better to them than people, who knows?

  14. I had to put my dear sweet dog Buttercream down last year after she was with us for 18 years! It took over a year before I could adopt another - and frankly, I'm still not over it.
    I'm so sorry for your loss.

  15. Anonymous2:41 PM

    Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that!!

    I've had a rough last few months with one of my dogs, and the word "euthanize" came up once as a possibility (in the event she had cancer). She's only seven; I wasn't nearly ready to hear that word. I didn't stop crying (and drinking) for the rest of the night. And I continued crying (at home) and being terribly depressed about it for several days.

    Luckily we've avoided that and she's doing somewhat better (knocks on wood). But it made me realize that I'll have to face that someday, and I just don't know how I'll deal with it. Not well, for sure.

    I always said if I had three wishes, one would be to have my dogs live as long as I do. ;)

  16. Sweet Sylvia. She was such a gentle soul with those big eyes and even bigger heart.

    I loved the "I'm a cheetah" game, she would kick her back feet and just get so close to biting but not quite do it.

  17. I'm so sorry. Such as loss.

  18. So sorry about Sylvia.
    15.5 good years, what a blessing she was.

  19. You've seen my blog - you know how much I love my animals. I had a birthday party for them for Christ's sake :-))

    My heart goes out to you and just know that our bestest friends run ahead and wait for us in a better place.

  20. Look Mom, this means no more worry.

    Heaven wouldn't be heaven without our pets waiting for us. Still, I hate this part. You're in my thoughts.

  21. oh sweet sylvia
    tiny paws big silver heart
    little butterball

  22. I was so sorry to hear about Sylvia. Syl-vee was a very sweet cat. I thought it was a very special thing when she jumped in my lap once. We'll miss her...


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