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Bernie

Calamity Jane a.k.a. CJ
March 5, 2005
Bernie BK4Leg@aol.com 



Empty Food Dish
05 Mar 2005

A food dish sits empty just outside my kitchen. It is the dish for Calamity Jane (CJ), a calico cat. She no longer has need for it. Soon it will be put away, perhaps to be used in the future by someone else.

There will be no more Monday visits to the large vet hospital for Calamity Jane; she has no more Mondays.

A clear winter morning, cold even for early March, was her last morning. Since last Monday's simple exam, no treatment, her strength had rapidly declined, alarmingly. Instead of waiting for next Monday, a scheduled treatment date, it was on Friday we went, in last hope. The shining light of her spirit had grown dim as her strength ebbed. In the last day or so, her hind legs had become weaker, so CJ no longer felt strong enough to climb upon the edge of the
bathtub for her ritual morning combing. Still, she was there waiting for it, just not able to climb.

She was interested in food, but did not eat, no matter what the food or style of serving. Painfully thin, so frail, yet her spirit remained feisty, resisting pills and meds, a struggle I did not always win.

On sunny mornings after food and for me a hot drink, the cats joined me on the couch, one on either side. On Friday, CJ was nearby and looked at me, and I understood that she wanted to join us, but was uncertain she could. I picked her up and placed her ever so carefully on my right, where the early rays of winter sun could warm her, gently bathe her in its light. We sat awhile, as I combed her, petted her, and was rewarded with a gentle purr, a catly moment.

All too soon it was time to leave, for the hope of treatment, some respite from the final dark. I lifted her from the couch, placed her in front of the cat carrier and she walked in as she always did, the training from so many years, from so long ago.

CJ was with me for about 13 years, rescued from a feral life near a barn. Not even a barn cat, she and her sisters lived in nearby bushes. With food and quiet ways, I was able to win some degree of her trust. Her trust, but not her sisters', so she was the only one rescued.

Classic calico was her coat, white with artistic splotches of black and orange, with a black mask across her eyes that led to her name; the mask reminded a friend of outlaws, so for a female outlaw she was named Calamity Jane.

She was shy, always hiding if strangers were in her home, as one might expect given her background, but both sweet and feisty. She came into a home ruled by my first cat, Shadow, a small mother cat, firmly in charge.

The first few years vet visits were an adventure, with vet techs needing to
wear heavy gloves for protection. Much work by me on her and her body turned this around, so in future years resistance no longer involved clawing or biting.

Kitten soft fur, with a sweet nature to match, remained throughout her life.
Not a lap cat; she did want to be close, close enough for soft stroking, or
just to be within each other's air, the silken joy of nearness.

Asleep in bed at night, sometimes I became aware of a small weight upon my hand or arm, as she used that for a pillow. She did that to the very end, so frail, but so loving.

Last summer she was diagnosed with lymphoma. For months we did weekly visits for chemotherapy and such to a large vet hospital an hour away, summer to autumn to winter, knowing that all along we were just buying time, that there was no chance for complete permanent reprieve from the cancer. Several months of excellent quality of life, with no hint that she was ill nor any side effects. In December she came out of remission and the downward slide began.

To the end of her days she remained feisty, as well as loving and sweet. But the body had become so weak, the joy was seeping out of her life.

That last cold clear winter day, with spring almost in sight, there was little hope to restore quality to her life, little chance that she could regain much strength. While she still had some dignity left, still glimmers of the soft warm colors of her character, I gave her the final gift : I let her go, easily, quietly, in my arms, loved to the last breath and beyond.

 

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