"It's the littlest one. He wants the littlest one", said Andrew, Sarah's older brother. Sarah had kittens and a lot of them. On a whim, I decided that Ethan needed a pet and a kitten it would be. We went to pick out our future family member a couple of weeks before she was ready to leave her mama. Sarah's mom, Ellen, was a great friend and before we picked up the kitten to come home with us, I asked if Sarah was OK with it. The last thing I wanted was a sobbing Sarah tugging at my heartstrings as Ethan carried her kitten away. "She'll be fine. She knows that we can't keep them. We've talked to her". Ethan and I were excited to bring our kitty home. I had suggested the name "Callie" since she was a tri-colored calico and Ethan readily agreed. When we arrived to pick her up, Sarah walked her out to us, her eyes brimming with tears. "Her name's Darla" she quivered. I cut a look to Ellen that said "This wasn't supposed to happen!" Ellen quickly took Sarah inside and we were off with our new pet.
We quickly christened her Callie Darla LaMaster. In the odd way that often happens with babies, the name completely fit her. She wasn't just a Callie or Darla. She was Callie Darla, the LaMaster kitten! Her first night home, I turned and asked Ethan's dad, Brian, to take care of something long forgotten. He was in his recliner and he replied that if he did "I will have to wake up the rugrat". Callie was sound asleep on his (rather ample) belly. She had found warmth and comfort and the perfect bed! She was adorable and well behaved...for awhile. I walked into our bedroom one day and saw her batting at her reflection in the headboard mirror. She was so darn cute! She was a good sport, allowing Ethan to take her for rides in a doll stroller that we purchased solely for that purpose.
She grew quickly and began to show her mischievous side. Soon she was climbing curtains at an alarming rate of speed. Not long after that came the moans that happen before a cat is "fixed", something that young Ethan termed "the gross out". "Mom, Callie's doing the gross out!" When she was old enough, we had her spayed and declawed, the latter of which resulted in a longer than usual stay at the vet's office due to Hurricane Fran. I felt the first reals pangs of cat motherhood when she spotted us days later. She was one happy feline and a true member of our small family!
In her younger years, her curiosity got the better of her a few times and she would sneak out the door when we least expected it. I blamed the lizards and salamanders as she couldn't hold herself back if she spotted one on our steps or deck. Sometimes she was missing for several hours and more than once I was up in the middle of the night walking around our house shaking a bag of treats in an effort to coax her out of hiding. She always came home and I called these disappearances "Callie's Great Adventures".
She was a good mouser, too. On my way to wake Ethan for school one morning, I noticed she was playing with one of her toys. Except it wasn't a toy at all, it was a dead mouse that she was flinging all over the place. I abhor the nasty vermin and called my husband in a panic. He talked me through sweeping it on a dustpan and throwing it in the yard. Callie didn't understand why I took her toy away and had a major attitude for days afterward.
Oh, her attitude! It was real and it was intense! She loved Brian, Ethan, and me, but few others. She would abide our friends the Dickerson's (I think she could tell they were a cat loving bunch), the Tatum's (although she wasn't fond of Winston's jumpiness around her), and Jackie (a cat lover, if ever there was one), but everyone else was pretty much dead to her and had no business sniffing around her domain. I was once watching a friend's daughters and one of them made the mistake of trying to pet her. Callie arched and hissed and was ready to pounce and the poor girl screamed bloody murder. You'd have thought Callie was Jason from Halloween!
Trips to the veterinarian were pure torture. Her vet was very old and often impatient with her obvious disdain and outright hatred of him. She once bit him. He looked me dead in the eye and said "Your cat bit me". One of the techs said she thought there must be some bobcat in her for her to be so mean. I was mortified and just wanted to get her HOME. I was always a bit offended because they didn't know the Callie that I knew and loved. In retrospect, I should have asked about anxiety medicine for her before a vet visit. I guess hindsight is 20/20.
She had to make a few adjustments over the years. She did well with the move after my husband and I separated, but it was another story entirely when Ethan went off to college. For days she walked from room to room crying for him. He came home quite a bit his Freshman year so Friday nights were wonderful because we were all reunited. She soon knew the routine and grew to pace on Sunday afternoons because she knew he would be leaving her again. Ethan brought his laundry home in those early days and she took to lying of top of his clean laundry in an effort to keep him home where he belonged. If he didn't come home on a Friday night, she would cry the most pitiful cry you every heard the second I turned out the last light and went to bed. It was the craziest thing...how she knew that it was the night he may come home. Her cries were mournful and often lasted well into the night. By the end of Freshman year, she was a bit more accustomed to his schedule, but by then he was soon home for the summer and we would have to go through everything again in August.
As she got up in years, we worried about her health more than ever, but she was the Energizer Bunny of cats. When I moved into a different house a couple of years ago, she was climbing counters and the refrigerator and discovered a Cat Narnia behind the cupboards. She had been with us on Ethan's first day of Kindergarten, his first day of High School, and through his college years. We began to think of her as Callie the Invincible and when I would sometimes worry, Ethan would calm me by saying that indoor cats could live a long, long time.
I noticed her gait first. She lacked the pep in her step. I would talk to her and she looked a bit mournful to me. Within a couple of days, she wasn't getting on the couch with me for "bonding time", our nightly ritual. It was the weekend and I would be unable to get her to the vet until Monday. She was eating and drinking so I felt like that was a positive sign, but something was definitely "off". My friend, Jackie, gave me the name of a vet that she had been taking her cats to as Callie's longtime doctor had passed away. I think in my heart of hearts, I knew there was the possibility that she was very sick, but could not face it.
I did not go to work on Monday, but instead spent the morning with her. When I scooped her up to go, she did not resist and that was not like her. I talked to her the entire way and she just looked at me with her "owl eyes". I was sobbing when I checked her in, sobbing as I waited for her to see the vet and blubbering by the time the vet came in. I knew, but was hoping against hope that it was not going to be the news I dreaded most in the world. When the doctor confirmed my worst fear, I immediately called Ethan. He wanted to come and say goodbye so Callie and I had a couple of hours until he would arrive. I sobbed and talked to her and looked into her beautiful eyes. I wanted to commit those eyes to my memory. I reminded her of the wonderful life that she had lived...her great adventures and how much she loved her little Ethan. Over and over I told her that when she got to the other side and talked to the other cats to tell them "You might think you are prettier than me or more regal than me, but I was loved more than any cat who EVER lived. I know this for a fact because my Mommy told me. And she told me to tell you." I told her over and over that no cat was ever, ever loved as much as her and not to ever, ever forget it. I cried and cried and cried some more. Ethan arrived and we cried together. We both told her over and over how much we loved her. We kissed her several times and finally it was time. I cannot possible write about her passing except to say that it was the most horrible, heart wrenching thing I have ever been through. It was a nightmare of the worst sort. I cry whenever I think about it and am sobbing as I type this.
Her ashes sit on a bookshelf beside my favorite photo of her. I carry locks of her fur in my pocketbook. She was simply the greatest cat ever. Because she was OURS.