I can’t remember exactly how old Winnie was when I picked her up from my co-worker’s place.  She was just a scroungy little kitten though. Gorgeous tortoise shell coloration, long hair, and piercing gold eyes. I wasn’t allowed to have cats at the apartment I was then renting, but Winnie wasn’t my cat anyway.  I put her in a crate with a towel, placed her in the front seat of my car, and started the 8 hour car ride back to South Carolina.  The tiny cat’s pitiful cries to be let out of the crate were incredibly effective.  I reached over and pulled her out, and the rest of the ride home, she slept soundly snuggled in the crook of my left arm, while my right arm steadied the car.  She remained this comfortable all the way from Florida to South Carolina.

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My parents named her Winnie, after Winnie-the-Pooh.  Their first thought was Snickerdoodle, but I’m not sure if that was too difficult to pronounce in a hurry, or if they wanted to pay a little homage to my sister, who had loved Winnie the Pooh ALMOST as much as I loved dolphins.  I had brought her home to be a companion for Lucy, my persnickety cat who had been BFF with our recently deceased older cat, Fuzzball.  Winnie and Luc were supposed to hit it off, instead, Lucy just hit Winnie.  My parents ended up separating the two, and they felt bad for the pretty princess, so when I moved into my own place that allowed me to have pets, I brought Winnie home with me.

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The night I brought Winnie to Florida is one of the funniest memories I have of Florida.  I had flown with her from Charlotte, so I didn’t bring any food or litter supplies.  It was around midnight so the only store open at that time was of course, Wal-Mart.  As much as I hated Wal-Mart, I needed to go.  I really did pick a doozy of a time to bring a cat home with me.  It was somewhat close to Christmas, so even after midnight, Wal-Mart was very very crowded.  I grabbed some cat food and looked at the litter boxes carefully before choosing an enclosed box, which I was encouraged from my parents to get since Winnie apparently enjoyed spraying litter all over the room with her scraping.  So I hurried to the check-out to get behind the most frustrating customer on earth.  She was paying for her items by check but could only spend a certain amount, so when the total was too high, she asked the cashier to take one item off at a time, to see where each item would bring the total, and then when she finally got to the right amount, she “realized” the items she had had removed were the ones she had really wanted, so they had to go through the process all over again.

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Finally, I got to the check-out and to my dismay, there was no barcode on the litter box I picked up.  The cashier sent her associate to grab a barcode, but when he came back, the price rang up $99.97.  “WHOA!  That’s not right,” I exclaimed.

“”Well, that’s what it rang up as,” was the cashier’s reply.

“Look at my litter box!” I couldn’t help but yell.  I mean, SERIOUSLY?!?!  “I’m not buying my cat a resort spa, it’s a COVERED LITTERBOX!”

I had to convince the associate that it wasn’t the correct price, and finally they went back and found the correct barcode for the box reading $12.97.  You know, not that big of a difference.

I think since that time, I have stepped foot in Wal-Mart exactly three other times, and they have all been just as frustrating.

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I enjoyed having a pet again.  Winnie wasn’t like Lucy with me, but I had a special bond with Lucy, and I was getting Winnie at a slightly older age.  Winnie was a bit temperamental.  Mom blamed Lucy, but as time wore on, I felt it was just Winnie’s personality.  She wasn’t exactly thrilled with most of my friends, either.  Except one.  Jason was a friend from work that would sometimes come over and help with little things around my apartment: hook up my ceiling fan, set up my computer, that sort of thing.  And Winnie absolutely adored him!  It wasn’t a “guy” thing because she didn’t like any of my other gentleman friends, even Chris.  It was only Jason.  The only other human I’ve ever seen Winnie take to was our pet sitter, Karen, in Seattle.  But even Karen didn’t get Winnie’s heart like Jason.

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Eventually, I wisened up and finally married Chris, and we moved onto our first home, with a back yard and everything.  We would let Winnie venture out to explore, but we usually kept a pretty close eye on her.  Not that anyone would take her if she escaped.  She was a fireball that didn’t even like to be touched.  But we did worry about her wandering around streets, not knowing to get out of the way of stupid cars.  We stopped keeping strict tabs on her once we had our fence built, so she could roam freely.

One lovely afternoon, Winnie was outside and I just peeked my head around the corner, and saw her nudging something with her nose, and the something moving away.  I watched her amused and saw her nudge the little frog again and it move away.  She eventually tried to grab it in her mouth, and immediately jerked away.   Suddenly, I noticed she started licking her chops a lot and was even foaming a little.  OMG, that stupid frog had just poisoned my poor baby girl!  I rushed her to the vet, and had her stay for observations.

I decided to set up Winnie’s regular vet exam, and I picked her up, good as new.  The funny thing was when I picked her up, the receptionist knew exactly who Winnie was.  “Oh, she’s YOUR cat.  Well, when you bring her in next week for the vet, please sedate her,” the lady exclaimed as she slid a couple of tablets across the counter.

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The next week, I went to slip Winnie a pill an hour from our exam appointment.  Of course, she wouldn’t touch it, so I was forced to grab her and put it down her throat.  Should have went ahead and put both down, because all I accomplished was pissing that girl off.  She wasn’t sedated.  She wasn’t even calm.  So thirty minutes later, I went to give her the other pill, but the gig was already up.  She knew what I was trying to do, and she wasn’t having any of it!  I had to shut all the doors and corner the poor cat.  I grabbed her and had her secure, but her claws were still unrestrained.  I have never seen a cat contort herself so twisty and ninja like.  She turned the tables and had my hand, unsheathed her dagger like claws, looked me square in the eye, and then dug those claws as deep as she could, ripping my hand.  The look in her eye was sending a very crystal clear message- “I do NOT want to take the stupid PILL!”  I had to wrap my hand in a towel, and I grabbed an oven mitt for my other hand.  She needed to see the vet, and she would need to be sedated for them to handle her, so I cornered her one last time, let her grab onto my oven mitt with her death grip, and slipped the pill down her throat.  Oh, the joys of the vet visits with Winnie.  To this day, nearly 13 years later, I still have the scar from her claws around my thumb.

Winnie had a lot of curious quirks, too.  She didn’t like being touched, but she certainly didn’t present herself like she didn’t.  She would roll on her back and chirp at us as if to say “aren’t I the cutest thing EVER?  Don’t you want to come over and love on me?”  But we weren’t fooled.  She did NOT want you to come over and love on her.  She wanted your undivided attention, but she did NOT want that attention to be physical.  But whatever you did, no matter what, she may tolerate a scritch behind the ear, or a quick stroke down her side, but what she would NOT tolerate at any given time was her paws being touched.  Especially her left rear foot, which oddly was the only white fur on her.  The running joke was she did not surrender, DO NOT TOUCH THE WHITE PAW!!!!  The time she did want physical attention was always when you were in bed, just about to fall asleep, after your eyes would get droopy.  Then Winnie would jump up on top of me, and start kneading into my boobs.  Problem wasn’t only that she startled the living shit out of me, it was that she had tiny, pointed paws that felt like they were stabbing me over and over.  We called them “Stilletto Paws”.  The other problem was Winnie was borderline schizophrenic and she would nudge me a few times and let me pet her, but suddenly without warning, she would get upset and attack me.  Most of the time, the main object of her sudden outbursts was my face.  It took me several months and lots of patience to actually train her to get down off me without attacking my face.  That was just Winnie’s way.

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Winnie was particular about toys as well.  She couldn’t have cared less about store bought toys.  I remember getting a cat laser and even playing with it on the way home, exclaiming how much fun Winnie was going to have with the laser.  We would probably get her to chase it and run all over the house!  I got home and found Winnie, who was sitting in the guest room like her regal normal self.  I showed her the laser, and this was her reaction:  she looked at me, she looked toward the laser, she looked back at me and then I swear she ROLLED HER EYES back to the “laser”.  “You want me to what?  So, what I “chase” the laser and never catch it?  I hate you so much.”

The one toy she loved more than anything was her baby jaguar.  She would carry it around almost everywhere.  When she thought we weren’t around, she’d pick up her jaguar in her mouth and start singing.  It was a really muffled cry.  But so adorable.  Chris and I would crack up as we watched TV or played a game and in the background we’d hear Winnie singing away.  But if we made any noise, to get a camera, or get closer to her, she’d instantaneously stop mid-meow and stare at us.

She wasn’t even all that impressed with The Kid.  I think the Kid kept her younger than she wanted, but she never really got on with him, like Fuzzy and Lucy.  But it wasn’t from lack of trying on Kid’s part.  I was always glad there were two cats in the house.  Whether we saw them cuddle or not (not, definitely NOT), they were there for each other.

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One of my favorite things about Winnie was the way she smelled.  I know, it’s weird.  But when she was sleeping, she’d be a little too groggy to resist me kissing her face, and I loved the way she smelled when she was in that state.  Sleepy kitty is still my favorite smell.

Winnie was a beautiful cat.  Dark tortoiseshell.  But she never let us trim her hair or clip her claws.  She always made me feel like an inadequate trainer.  I mean, how was I supposed to train a dolphin or beluga if I couldn’t get my own cat to behave?  Vet visits were always embarrassing.  I was told many many many times not to feel too guilty, as tortoiseshells were notoriously bitchy cats.  This statement, to this day, still baffles me, as tortoiseshells is a description, not a breed.  But I was told by nearly every vet I ever took her to that it was normal behavior for a torty, and she would calm down as she got older.

She never calmed down.  For 17 years, Winnie was our firecracker.  She didn’t take any shit from anyone.  She knew who she liked, and she was never afraid to let you know how disappointed she was in your service.

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Chris started working from home when we were in New Orleans, and I think it took Winnie some time to realize there was a human at her service to do her bidding nearly 24 hours a day.  But sometime while living in Seattle, she started soliciting Chris to pay attention to her during the most inconvenient times.  Her favorite method was to wait until Chris was either in a meeting or deeply concentrated on what he was doing on the computer, then quietly sneak up next to his chair, sit down and glare up at him, and chirp as loud as she could.  It would startle Chris so much, once he accidently threw his pen at her.

Her attitude and personality never changed.  From Florida to South Carolina, back to Florida, to New Orleans, back to South Carolina, to Seattle, and then Portland.  We changed, but she always remained the same.

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So, when she started to decline, we noticed the changes in her personality first.  She didn’t mind being loved on so much.  She didn’t want to nudge me.  She didn’t sing quite as often.

Her physical changes came quickly too  She’d stumble while walking.  She wasn’t interested in eating.  She lost weight quickly.  And the seizures started.

We were surprised Winnie made it to Portland with us.  After all she’d been through, we expected to have to say goodbye sooner than this.  But she kept hanging on.

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Until this past Friday night.  Winnie stopped eating and was stumbling more than normal.  Taking her to the vet was probably more than she could have handled, but not taking her in wasn’t much of an option if I wanted to know what I should do to care for our geriatric cat.  Bringing her home, we gave her some sub Q fluids and an appetite stimulant.  She laid in her bed in the corner for the remainder of the day and all evening.  She didn’t sleep, just laid there, letting us stroke her and pet her and even kiss her face.  The only sign she was still our Winnie was her whimpering when we would touch her paws.  But when she tried to get up to move around, stumbled near our bed, and couldn’t get up again, we knew we had lost our little princess already.

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On the way to the emergency vet, we saw a couple moments of Winnie gaining some clarity, so I hoped against hope there would be something that would help her, but unfortunately, the vet admitted there was nothing really to do for her symptoms, which were either a stroke, the result of a brain tumor, or a combination of both.  We could potentially have kept her alive, maybe for a couple of days, maybe for a couple of weeks, but she would eventually starve, or fade away.  And we just couldn’t let her go through that.

So Chris and I stood next to Winnie and held her as we said goodbye.

There will never be another cat like Winnie in our family again.  While we still have the Kid, Winnie’s departure has left a huge hole in our hearts that will take time to mend.  The Kid won’t be an only child forever, but we won’t rush into anything.

So long, Princess Winnie.  Forever in our hearts.

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