Tuesday, August 19, 2008

From Six to Five

Last March, our little family of four expanded to five. My two little girls got their wish as a friend of my beautiful wife Darlene brought over a six month old little kitten.

She had a white body with a black cape and a black little mask with her white nose sticking out. As a family we had a vote for the name, and my eldest daughter won – coming up with the name Skye.

I wanted to call her Buster, but Alannah and Ashley-Ray insisted she was a girl, and needed a proper little girls name. So the kitten was called Skye.

I am always out voted by the women in my house.

This little kitten had lived a tough life already, abandoned on the streets and scrounging for morsels of food, she arrived at our door very timid and frightened. The first two days she hid in our partially finished bathroom downstairs. Only when Alannah dragged a toy mouse on the floor would she come out. And she had always favored Alannah ever since.

During the day, Skye would follow Alannah all through the house. She would sit beside her on the couch while they played games or on the floor with her while she watched TV. At night, after the girls were tucked into bed with stories read, Skye would sneak into Alannah's room and cuddle up to her while she slept.

Sometimes Skye would sleep with Ashley-Ray – and she took to an oversized Barbie doll house in her room and tried to make it her own – claiming Kitty squatters rights. But in the end, it was Alannah that Skye would cuddle with.

In April, we got a new puppy, a little black Labrador Retriever that had already been named Suzy. And for a couple of weeks Skye was forgotten as Suzie got all the new pet attention. Forgotten by all except Alannah, who went out of her way to make sure Skye got all the loving a kitten deserved.

Suzie and Skye became great friends. After the initial bum sniffing ceremony – the two moved their relationship to playful pals. Skye would often sneak up on Suzy in the house, punch her in the nose with her declawed paw, and dart away while Suzy tried her best to punch her back with her nose.

Often, Skye would sit at the back patio door – a sliding glass door that usually found Suzy on the outside lying looking back at Skye. Or she would lay on the sill of the giant front window watching the flowers in the front gardens blow around and chase the bees and bugs on the other side of the glass.

Skye never once came outside at our house – but she watched it more intently than a senior citizen watches the weather network on TV.

Down in the family room, Skye would often dart around the pool table as we played, chasing the end of the cue stick or attacking a loose chalk cube that had fallen to the floor.

Last weekend, amidst all the happenings of company coming and going, poor Skye – once again squatting in the big Barbie dollhouse – found herself closed into Ashley-Rae's bedroom. She didn't make a sound – as Skye could never really meow louder than a whisper. When she was discovered, she was playing with a toy diaper from one of Ashley-Rae's dolls. The kind of doll that wets herself – and the diaper used over and over again.

While Skye never ever chewed anything before, this time she chewed and ate the stuffing from that diaper. There was a little mess, but we didn't think there was any cause for concern. Not until the next morning when a visitor informed me that the cat had made a mess on the downstairs carpet.

The mess was unlike any I had seen before. It was kitty poop and vomit together. And when we found Skye the kitty, she looked very weak and tired. She would not eat or drink unless pushed, and that was always thrown back up.

Yesterday evening, Darlene and the girls took Skye the Kitty to the vet. They expected the vet to explain what was wrong and that he would fix her. I was driving on the expressway on my way home from work when my cell phone rang. It was Darlene, and she asked that I please get over there right away.

The scene was odd. In this beautiful little room, sat Skye looking sickly and tired. Darlene was crying, yet the girls were behind her fighting over who could use the red crayon as they colored on paper the vets assistant had given them.

At that glance I knew this was the end of Skye the kitty.

The doctor explained to me that Skye was suffering from an entangled and perforated bowel. That her temperature was way to high, and that the prognosis was slim to none to save her. Should we opt for surgery, she had only a small chance of survival, and then not for long. And yes, the operation would cost a thousand dollars.

The suggestion was made that I bring the girls back into the room, explain the circumstance, and allow them the opportunity to say goodbye to Skye. The scene was heart wrenching. Alannah and Ashley-Rae both fought the idea and insisted we leave there now with Skye and take her home. But I had to tell them no. Skye seemed to perk up at Alannah's presence while Alannah hugged and kissed her kitty and told her how much she loved her. Ashley-Rae had a moment as well, but Alannah went back and kissed Skye goodbye.

I took the girls home, while Darlene stayed with Skye through the end. When she came home hours later her eyes were red and swollen.

And so our little family shrank from six to five.

There are lessons in life that we all must learn.

How to love. How to care. How to cherish.

And how to let go and say goodbye.

The girls are now learning the pain of these lessons. And how to deal with their grief. And my hope is that this experience will help them deal with ones promised to come in the future as our loved ones age over the years.

So there was purpose to Skye the kitty. She was a teacher. And she taught both Alannah and Ashley-Ray to love, cherish, and say good bye.

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