tags: best friend, cat, death, linty, personal
On Friday, the 31st of July 2009, I put my cat to sleep.
My cat’s name was Lint, but I almost always called her Linty. Well, I almost always called her so many things – an endless and endlessly changing selection of affectionate and kooky nicknames: Linty, Linticus, Linticus the Mighty, Lintl Loaf, Loaf, Lintolian, Linty Bean, Bean, Fuzzy Pants, Tiny Fuzzy Pants, Tiny Tuna Pants, Pants, Fuzzbutt, Fatty, The Mighty Stinkmaker, Green-eyed Ladyface Kitty, Mouse, Wondermouse, Bubbles, Minou, Meems, Bunny, and so many others I can’t think of. Fifteen years is a lot of years of nickname giving. A lot of names came and went.
But her name really was Linty. Not like the little specks you lint-roll from your clothing (although she produced plenty of those too), but like the big poochy wads of soft deep grey lint from the dryer, warm and squishy. Especially if you’ve neglected to clean between each and every dry cycle, and there’s some hint of dark blue in the deep grey, which itself is heavily studded with sticky-out kitty hairs. And that dryer lint, of course, trails around after you. As you shake it off one hand, it bounces to the other; as it descends to the floor it finds you and trails behind you, still warm, still soft, covering all the newly clean clothing you tried to protect with a fine film of lint. That was my little girl.
Linty was not all grey. She was grey and white. A grey cape that went down in a V over her ears and face – except for the tip of one ear that was the sweetest transluscent pink, especially when the sun shone through it – all the way back to her tail. Which was the narrowest, silliest tail I’d ever seen on a cat. Somehow she got the wrong tail, a pointy too-skinny tail with faint rings on it. The rest of her was white: around her tiny pink nose, under her chin, her legs and her feet, and her silly hangy-down pouch of a belly that swung when she ran. That tummy, the best of all tummies, was white with pink undertones, where her skin shone through. She was so very white, as she kept herself perfectly clean. Her paw pads were the very pinkest little pearls.
And then there were her eyes: The most spectacular green eyes I’ve ever seen on a cat.
The Lint and I were together for 15 years. I got her when I was 19 and a junior in college. Linty was a teensy tiny kitten, at most 5 or 6 weeks old, still attempting to suckle because she and her sister (who became my roommate’s cat) had been abandoned (maybe their mama kitty had died) and then been discovered by a crazy Berkeley cat lady. Linty especially had plenty of health problems, fleas and worms and gum disease (almost all her teeth behind her canines had to be removed) – just all sorts of other things, and she was the runt of the litter.
She bonded to me and only me.
You can see where this is going.
Over the next many years, Linty would go with me, wherever I went. We moved from Berkeley to San Francisco to New York to Washington, DC to Orange County to Berkeley to Orange County again. The longest we were ever apart was a few weeks. For many years we lived alone, just the two of us, a girl and her cat, talking to each other in our little voices, developing a whole understanding that people always thought was weird and insane until they came over and saw it in person and understood it immediately.
My pops once said to me: “I’ve never seen a cat look at a person the way that cat looks at you. Never.”
I was Linty’s entire world. She rarely, if ever, took to other people. It wasn’t that she was mean to them, although she did hiss now and again. It was more that she’d refuse to come say hi in the first place. Or she’d do a bit of coy flirting and then head back for another nap, having decided there was no point in befriending whoever it was. Occasionally she’d voice serious displeasure at a person’s presence. Very, very rarely she would take to someone. And she was always right.
Hers was the little face I saw nearly every day for 15 years. She was the one constant in an ever-churning sea of growing up, becoming, learning, failing, figuring out, changing, moving, being. Few things made me as happy as coming home to a dark bedroom and quickly switching on the light in order to see a tiny little face in the middle of a big bed, sitting there, looking at me, blinking a sleepy and happy hello: Squinty Linty.
She was the only real routine I ever stuck to, the animal who never should have lived past two months but made it to 15 years, the cat who drove me crazy at times, the one I only once considered getting rid of in a fit of stupidity at a very unhappy (and young) point in my life. The creature who was loyal and loving to me, who would yell at me with delight and anger and flop on the floor and pound on me with her little footies when I’d return from a trip, who had annoying habits that drove me nuts in the best possible manner, who DEMANDED steak and corn on the cob and eggs with cheese, who allowed me to manhandle her in ways you’d think a cat would never tolerate, who let me cram my face into her belly and kiss her toes when I most needed it, when stress and sadness got to be too much. She really was my best little friend.
We were both beginners, out in the world, and we found each other, that tiny kitten and I. So on that recent Friday afternoon, I did the only thing I could for someone who had been so loyal and true: I ended her suffering. It came quickly and I did not expect it to happen quite as suddenly as it did: one day she was climbing in my lap, the next we were at the vet, and I was making the decision. Cats are masters of hiding pain, and she had been hiding by sleeping in the closet and not eating as much. She had cancer in her intestines – we think lymphoma. She had lost a lot of weight, more than I even realized. I could have done a biopsy, tried to battle it, to save her, but at what cost? On that Friday, she was so clearly sick and in pain, with a rough coat, and when I found her breathing shallowly, panting and shaking, her whole body hot, her eyes sunken and dark, I knew. To try and save her would have been to torture her. As much as I did not want to lose her, I wanted even less to cause her any more suffering. She had given me love for 15 years. There was only one thing I could do.
The vet agreed with me – while it was the hardest decision, it was also the best. The assistants brought me Linty wrapped in someone else’s old tea towel, all pink and white and green. She was scared and upset, just like I was, but I held her in my lap and tried to soothe her, kissed her head, scritched her cheeks and chin, kissed her toes, looked at her sad belly that had been shaved for the ultrasound, and talked to her through my tears. The vet, who was so kind, came in and asked if I was ready. She told me it would be very fast, and it was, so fast it still makes my head spin. Within seconds my little kitty’s head was on my knee and she was gone.
I held her for a moment more, kissed her little foot one more time, her little nose. The vet shut Linty’s green eyes one final time, and lifted her out of my arms. She took her away, and I broke down.
Later I decided I would not take her ashes. I had nowhere to sprinkle them; after all, where did Linty like to go besides out on the deck? She slept in her donut, on my bed, and followed me from room to room. And keeping her ashes – while I could respect that some people would want to have them, I knew the ashes weren’t her anymore. Even the body wasn’t, as much as I desperately wanted it to be, those pink toes and the little ear tip. I let it go. I still have her, in my heart, in my photos, in a video, and in a box I created with her little catnip hemp bags and mousie toys and a clump of fur from the very last time I brushed her. These things are more her. I can see her in them.
And while I wish I could have buried her in the garden in Berkeley, so beautiful flowers could grow from her, I’m glad she died in Orange County. For that’s the real, true reason I liked Orange County. Linty loved the condo we lived in there. It was her favorite place ever.
I wanted to scan the photos I have from when she was a tiny kitten, but one of them is stuck to the glass of the frame, and the others are scattered in books and piles. Some time soon, I’ll add them to set, and to this post. For now, I give you these, most of which are recent. One of which is me, the day after she died. And I include a very important video (the only one I ever shot) and what I consider to be the single best photo I ever took of her. Oh noes!
Forgive me this long post. But she was the best kitty for me, and my heart has a big Linty-shaped hole in it these days. I miss her terribly, and after 15 years, I wanted to remember her the best way I know how. Thank you.
I love you, little girl. Now and forever. xoxox
The Linty set, on flickr
Photos of Linty and me, taken by Pablo the weekend before (who flew down to be with me as soon as he could, after she was gone) xox