Monday, January 21, 2008
In Memoriam: Harriet
Harriet died this morning.
I adopted Harriet about five and a half years ago from an animal shelter nearby my parents' house. I was moving out, starting an internship in another state, and I couldn't imagine living in a house without at least one cat. Of course, there were plenty of cats to choose from, and as any animal lover knows, a trip to the shelter means having to fight the urge to take each and every one of those animals home.
Harriet caught my eye here. She was obviously displeased sharing a living space with so many other, less intelligent cats, and some who even cried to beg for the attention of a passing potential adopter. She was curled up towards the back of her cage, but upon being approached, she was aware--she acknowledged it in a way that later on, after getting to know her better, I could only term as characteristically Harriet. She didn't open her eyes, but she did start to purr, and she flicked her tail in response to every statement I made to her.
It was only a matter of time before I took her home. I brought her with me to my internship, and she moved with me into and out of two different apartments. She put up with a number of roommates in the meantime, and she never minded them. In fact, she seemed to prefer to be around other cats and actually made an effort to "get to know" them. As for humans, well, they could generally be divided into two groups--people she liked and people she eventually decided to put up with.
It's hard to tell when animals get older sometimes. The passage of time is different for them than it is for us--five years isn't much to a human being, but to a cat, it could be a significant part of a lifetime. Her black fur greyed slightly, she slept a lot more, and she was even more disagreeable when she had to be taken to the vet or treated for her diabetes. However, Harriet still greeted us at the door when we came home, she still would try and chase the reflections that watch faces made on the wall from the sun, and she still commanded the position of queen of the house--a position none of the other cats dared to tread upon. She understood a large vocabulary of words. She always looked worried when we scolded her, and upon pairing that with her terror when I moved out of my last apartment, we thought that perhaps her previous owners had abandoned her--and, as much as we would like to think that animals aren't affected by things the way we are, whatever Harriet had been through had made an imprint on her that she never forgot somehow.
Three kittens came into our home while Harriet was with us. No matter how annoying they must have been at times--jumping on her, running over her, making endless amounts of noise--she was never impatient. Only when a young, naive Charlotte tried to vie for "alpha-cat" did Harriet promptly quell that rebellious spirit by knocking her clear across the kitchen floor at an unanticipated moment--which was never forgotten by Charlotte. Emily, Charlotte's sister, took a particular liking to Harriet and would follow her around, nap with her, rub up against her, and just generally did everything that Harriet did. Emily's shining moment was hopping into a laundry basket with Harriet after Harriet suffered a glucose crash and was without the ability to move or see on her own. The other cats kept a safe distance, but Emily snuggled up with Harriet, and Harriet, not one for a lot of affection, acknowledged her kindness the only way she could at the time--by echoing Emily's purr.
Harriet was well known at the vet. After a recent surgery, the office called and we were informed that "Harriet had a procedure done today. There were no injuries to the staff."
Well, Harriet, for all the bowls of soup we shared, for the times we sat on the couch together, for the selection of dead mice you brought me as "gifts", for putting up with my roommates both feline and human, and for having the strength to be entirely unapologetic about who you were--something a lot of people cannot do--I bid you a formal, affectionate, and tearful good-bye. I hope that you understand somehow that although I had to do things like give you daily insulin treatments and shave your matted fur, I love you very much.
And, if I learned anything at all.....that there will never be another Harriet.
And I prefer it that way.