I'll put in the normal (and highly useful) links to the Friday Ark
from The Modulator and this weeks' Carnival of Cats, hosted this week at Sharp as a Marble
. For this week, it's not the usual, current pets here at Running Scared. Whenever winter begins to set in and the snow starts to fall, my thoughts turn to my old Rags Cat. She's no longer with us, as she passed away on Feb. 9, 2003. I have a long and, I'm sure, tiresome story about her below, but before re-telling it, I'll post the picture in case that's what you came to see. This is one of the few remaining pictures of Rags, sadly, and I apologize that I don't have a full size version of it. She was looking particularly silly for a cat of more than two decades in age, getting into my wife's knitting and spreading yarn all over the chair.
I always get to thinking of Rags in the winter, because she really hated winter. Each year, though she lived to almost a quarter of a century, I kept telling myself that she would make it another year if she could just make it through the winter. In the winter of 2002-2003 she finally didn't. The following is a piece I wrote at the time. I apologize in advance for the poor writing, but I wasn't myself at the time. So, then, I present my story of the Rags Cat. Dated Feb. 10, 2003
Last night my old Rags Cat passed away. It happened some time during the night. She'd been doing very poorly again, and we had given her some medication and some water with an eye dropper to make her more comfortable. But apparently she just decided that the time had come. She laid down in one of her favorite napping places, atop the back of our love seat, on a heating pad we'd put up there for her, and never moved again.
She was a mean cat.
I say that only because, in the beginning at least, it was true.
You may or may not know that some ten years ago, back when I first met my wife, I was in a weird point in my life. I had finished up some contracts I was working on in New Jersey and decided to go back home where I grew up and just take a break for a while. I was living at my Mom's house to keep expenses down and had begun volunteering at the Humane Society during the day. After a time, their shelter manager was retiring, and though I knew it would be temporary, they asked if I would fill the position for a while, so I took over the day to day management of the shelter.
On one particular day in December a man came in with a cat carrier. He was not there to adopt. He was there to "drop off" as we used to say. Lots of people drop off their animals at shelters for many different reasons. Some do have legitimate reasons for doing so, though many, many had totally stupid, if not made up, reasons and only angered me. This fellow claimed that his new girlfriend was allergic to cats and so he was going to give up his cat. Now it's true that a very small percentage of people are *so* allergic to animals that they can't breathe, have significant health concerns, etc. However, Vets estimate that they represent less than one in ten thousand people. Many more can have mild reactions that vary from barely noticeable irritation to congestion that is easily controllable with periodic medication. The number of people I heard make that excuse during my time there would lead you to believe that cats and dogs would be the imminent downfall of mankind because every other person on the planet would die if they so much as came within a hundred yards of one.
This fellow opened his cat c
arrier and released a simply beautiful cat. She was in excellent health, current on her shots, and had obviously been well kept as an indoor cat. She was an orange base calico, obviously a bit on the old side, and polydactal on all four feet. (The cat amazingly had a total of thirty claws. Eight on each front paw, and seven on each back paw. Her feet looked like snowshoes.)
The man filled out the forms to give up his pet, and informed us that the cat was "about ten years old". (The vet, upon first inspection, later told us the cat was a minimum of 13, if not older. But people tend to lie about an older pet's age to increase their chance of adoption, so that's understandable.) And he said the cat's name was
Rags. (Again, a fairly typical name for a calico.)
Rags was moved into a cat cage, with great difficulty, for she attempted to attack anyone who came near enough to try to pet or pick her up. You could get close enough to put down her food and water dishes, but she would tolerate no picking up, holding, petting, or cuddling of any kind. She shredded my arms fairly efficiently in the process of getting her settled in.
Now, one of my least enviable tasks on that job was the weekly "count" of the animals in the shelter. State laws and sensible sanitation concerns insisted that we could only have up to a certain maximum number of dogs and cats in the shelter at any given time. Any number over that, unfortunately, had to be scheduled for euthanasia by injection. This was performed by a visiting doctor, but I had to assist with it many times and it made me simply ill.
Christmas week had arrived, and the shelter was preparing to close down for a few days except the minimal staff who would do the feeding and essential daily cleaning. I went through on Christmas Eve day and counted the animals. We were fine on dogs, because adoptions always seem to go way up at the Christmas Holiday. But the weather had brought an influx of cats, and even with brisk adoptions, I was one cat over the limit.
The normal method for selecting candidates for Euthanasia was that the very sick or badly injured cats would go first. Then, any animals with bad, or even dangerous temperaments, as they would be difficult or impossible to place in a home. After that it came down to age. Old animals went first because people most want to adopt kittens and puppies, but barring that, will take a young animal over an old animal.
We had no sick or injured cats, and the majority of the rest of the cats in the facility were under two years old, with some being kittens.
And then there was the
Rags Cat, at least ten years the senior of any other cat there, and hissing up a storm as I approached her cage to look in on her. But it was the holidays. I slowly opened her cage door and said, "Look, cat. It's Christmas Eve, and I simply don't' have the heart to call the doctor down here to Euthanise one cat and ruin everyone's holiday. So I'll make you a deal. If you can manage to learn to behave yourself a bit, I'll take you home with me and my other two cats, and you can stay there, at least for the holidays." And so saying, I slowly reached inside the cage to attempt to pet her and put her in a carrier to take her home.
She shredded my arms so that I was bleeding for some time to come. So much for Christmas miracles.
Right. So I grabbed her by the scruff of her neck, stuffed her into a cat carrier and stuck her in my car. At home, I released her and she immediately ran off to hide. She remained in hiding for many days, staying behind the furniture whenever I was at home, and I only knew she was there when I would catch her furtively moving from the litter box or the food dishes back to her hiding places.
Then one night, while I was laying on the couch watching a television program, the cat came strolling out into the center of the living room and looked at me. I didn't move, for fear of alarming her. She seemed to look at me as if to say, "Well, I appear to be stuck here, so we may as well make the best of it. Just don't get too comfortable." And she jumped up on the couch and lay down on my lap. I thought this was great progress, so I began to pet her. She immediately swatted me with one of her huge eight clawed paws, drawing blood again, but only once (sort of as a reminder, I suppose) and went back to napping.
From that time on, we moved into having a sort of uneasy peace together, sharing our home while respecting each other's space. It was a satisfactory relationship all around, I think, and the best that could be made of the situation.
Now it's finally over. She somehow lasted into her mid twenties, far older than most any other cat I've ever known. She might, under other circumstances, have died back in that shelter. But she got an extra decade of life out of the deal, and we were able to spoil her rotten as she reigned as queen of the household's cats. She was a good cat, and I miss her very much. I don't think I shall be the same again after this.
Going back after almost two years, I realize that I was right. I never get over missing Rags Cat, and I shall most likely never be the same. Merry Christmas, Rags Cat. I'll see you again some day.