Ali was my mother's. She was the matriarch, she was composed and nurturing. She let me use her as a pillow or wear her around my shoulders as fur stole. She was around before my parents had my brother or I and she took to us well. She adjusted easily to having a crazy puppy join the family and was a sure steady presence in our lives when things were in turmoil.
Chemo was not the brightest bulb of the bunch, but she was fiercely protective and loyal to all of us. She was a runaway that crashed my sixth birthday party eating all the pizza and begging for cake. After returning her to her owners a multitude of times, we were told to keep her if she ran away again. Ten minutes later she was ours. She often got in trouble, like the time she ate a box of tampons or all the fingers off my Madame Alexander dolls or the many times she rolled in deer poop while we were apple picking. She accompanied my brother and I on our early morning paper routes. But she was truly a boy's best friend and slept each night at his feet. She was silly and affectionate and beloved.
Ashes was my baby. I picked her out of the litter of kittens that my third grade teacher's cat had. Ashes had paws that looked like mittens, which I thought was the coolest thing ever. She was mischievous - she climbed our Christmas and Halloween trees, she escaped to the backyard to chase squirrels, and once I took her for a ride in the basket of my bicycle. That ride turned out to be a very bad idea, as she jumped out of the basket and I ran her over (don't worry she went on to live many, many more years). She slept every night with me, from third grade until I left for college, curled warmly and protectively against me.
All of my childhood animals are gone now. Ali was 18 when she put down. I was in third grade, thus squashing my eight year old dreams of becoming a veterinarian. Chemo hung on through my mom's chemo therapy treatment for breast cancer and died when I was in my twenties. And good ole Ashes gave up the fight the week before my wedding. In my family, animals live a long darn time.
That is a fact that does not, in any way, bode well for my husband. Andy is many wonderful things, being an animal lover is not one of them. His family never had pets, save the goldfish Andy won at a church festival. That poor fish lasted less than 24 hours.
I knew that Andy was not an animal lover when we started dating. I knew it when we moved in together and I continuously begged for a cat. And I knew that he had not changed his mind when he gave in and, as a gift for our date-iversary, let me adopt a cat.
After a solid month of stalking the ASPCA I finally came home with Michelob Rooster - an orange tabby who was doing back flips into her bowl and who burrowed into my neck purring when I picked her up. Since bringing her home, over eight years ago she has added much to our lives - tumbleweeds of fur, mounds of vomit through out the house, endlessly loud meowing. She has no hunting instincts, so our spider population has zero fear of her. She is petrified of rain storms and she has made the mistakes once or twice of not using her litter box (i.e. when we moved here she used Andy's pool room as her personal poop pan without us knowing it for quite some time).
She is high maintenance and needs prescription food. She demands water bowls in the basement and on the first floor. If we go on vacation we pay for it when we return with 48 straight hours of mewing and obnoxiousness.
There is absolutely no love lost between her and Andy. She hisses at his empty boots and he would rather hold his hand over an open flame than have her curl up on his lap. But, the good man that he is, Andy knows that she's part of the family. He knows that she makes me happy and she makes, more importantly, Addison ecstatic.
She is Addie's very best bud. Addie uses her for a pillow, a dance partner, to play dress up. She read Mich stories and beckons her to her lap. It is Addie's job to feed Mich every day and she's the one who reminds to refresh the cat's water bowl. In the warm months they frolic outside together and in the cooler temperatures the cuddle up in forts made of blankets.
At times Addie will lose her patience with the cat's incessant meowing and often I catch a look on the cat's face that is nothing short of weariness and irritation (perhaps because she was awoken from a nap so that Addie could adorn her with clip on earrings).
But, when push comes to shove, they are buds. Addie loves her and the silly old cat loves Addie.
It was never more evident than when I went looking for the cat late Sunday night - she wasn't in any of her usually places. She wasn't curled up on the blanket box, or under the dining room table or in the wing back chair. She wasn't down in the basement shedding on the futon or purring in my lap.
No, instead I found her curled into a ball at the foot of Addie's bed with one of Addison's pajama-clad feet resting on her back. And I smiled - a little girl curled up in bed with her best furry bud - just as it should be.
*I had a Beta Fish for 8 months named Oglethorpe, who I did truly love. He got the ick and had to be flushed down the toilet. It was sad - just ask my mom who laughed.