I’ve dreamed all week of my old cat, Bella. Ten years ago my sister-in-law and I decided to each take a kitten from a litter that had been born near where SIL lived. Though my SIL took one home, at the last minute the owner decided that I couldn’t have one, and I was supremely disappointed. (SIL already had a dog – I had no pets, and thus the kitten would be “too lonely” in my house. Or something.) SIL, who had gotten me onboard with Project Adopt Kitten and felt bad about the whole thing, went to Pet Smart and selected a tiny shelter cat for me instead, and surprised us with her in September 2005. She was orange and black and white, and super tiny – probably taken from her mother too soon. After much debate I named her Bella Clementine, and for three years she was my sweet only baby. My sister lived with me at the time, and loved on Bella as much as I did. She was a good kitten aunt.
Then I got married, sister moved out, and some human babies came along, rather quicker than we’d intended, as did a wearisome corgi who just wore Bella out. She hardly got any affection because he would chase her off. She got fat, she ate my plants, she scratched up all of my linens and furniture. I’d never in a million years have sent her to a shelter – better our Corgi House of Torture than that – but we did start looking to rehome her if possible, to a place that could give her more than I had to give. We only had two little boys at the time, but two tiny boys was enough boys to completely drain all of my energy and capacity for dependents. Let alone three. (PS IF ANYONE WANTS A BOSSY CORGI, HINT HINT.)
When we moved to Alabama, my sister agreed to take her for a while, to spare the cat the trial of the move and homelessness we experienced for several months. She never came back. It was for the best. My sister and her husband got along swimmingly with the cat, who lost weight, stopped destroying things, and flourished in their care. She got a little spoiled, and they got to do some spoiling. She lived the life of Riley.
They put her down on Friday night. Schmitten was diagnosed with cancer and deteriorated with alarming quickness. They tried a treatment, and it was able to give her a last couple of nights at home. But nothing could stop the downhill slide, and kitten was clearly suffering. So they did what loving families do in these situations, and they carried her to an animal hospital and held her close as she passed away, assisted by the loving hands of a caring vet. They are understandably wrecked.
She has been theirs for a long time, and so I have less claim to sadness. Nevertheless, I am wistful. Bella was a lot of things to me, and though she’d exited my daily life three years ago, it made me happy that she was doing so well in her new home. I feel like I did right by her, both when she was mine and when I set her up in a new happy place that better met her needs. I feel like my sister and her husband did right by her, too, and in all things through her years of health and her days of sickness, they made the best choices to give her a glorious and love-filled last three years. I’m glad my SIL picked her out all those years ago. I’m sorry my sister is suffering her loss so deeply, but also glad she had the opportunity to experience the depth of that love, even though it hurts her now. I like thinking about Bella, released from pain and miaowing her rickety, pathetic meow (she never had a good meow) in a catnip field in whatever heaven is, watching down on all of us humans who shepherded her through her life and death.
Sweet Bella Clementine. All our love goes with you, good girl, now and forever.