Goodbye, Maggie   11 comments

Maggie PortraitIn the summer of 1996, I wasn’t a cat person. I never had a cat before, and gave them only passing consideration at the zoo. At this point, my wife and I were dating, living in apartments roughly a mile apart. Naturally, I would go over to see her with some frequency.

There was a cat hanging out in the parking lot. My then-girlfriend would let this cat into her apartment and hang out with us. When I would go to visit her, I’d stop on the stoop and pet the cat for a bit. I’d stop again for a “good night.”

As the summer wore on, it became obvious that this cat had been abandoned. She was declawed in the front and spayed, so she was once someone’s pet. But no one claimed her when we asked, and we saw no signs.

By Labor Day, we decided one of us would take her in, prior to the cold settling in. My apartment would let me have a pet for free; my wife’s building had a charge. So, we decided she’d start in my place, and we’d see how it would go. As we were both fans of Irish culture, we named this red-haired girl “Maggie.” An initial check with the vet showed she was healthy (aside from being a bit thin), and between three and five years old.

Maggie and I bonded over those first months, until we were best friends. I got used to having a predator roam my apartment, jumping next to me on the futon while I read Jurassic Park: The Lost World, startling me. While she was strictly an indoor cat, she would sun herself on the generous windowsill my apartment had. Many of my neighbors would give her a quick wave on their way in. My wife would visit, and she would sit next to us while we would watch a movie. She curled up to next to me as I slept, keeping me warm.

Maggie on her Back

Her purr could be heard across the room, and it took little to start it. The vet once asked that I try to measure her heart rate when she was relaxed. I’d try to position my hand over her chest with my stopwatch at the ready. Maggie would start purring, masking her heartbeats. To this day, I don’t know what her resting heart rate is.

maggieThe girlfriend became my wife, and we moved into a house. I was worried about how she would adapt, but she settled in like she spent her whole life there. She loved all the windows she could look out of, and spend time in many of them.

Jean Cocteau wrote “I love cats because I enjoy my home; and little by little, they become its visible soul.” Maggie was the textbook example of this notion. She was part of our everyday routines whether we realized it or not. The timing of her feeding became a reminder for other activities. She would herd us into bed if we were staying up too late. On more than one occasion, a hard pretzel disappeared on is trip from bag to mouth, I’m certain by feline involvement. By merely being there, she made the house seem warmer.

Maggie kept an eye out for us. Once, when I was on a business trip, my wife was burning a candle, as the power had gone out. The wax started dripping all over the floor. She alerted my wife to the situation with some constant pestering. Any time I was upset, she did not hide–she would walk up to me, flop over, and cheer me up. My wife and I have jobs that require 24×7 response. Maggie took “on-call kitty” duties seriously, keeping whoever got paged in the middle of the night company.

We set up a chair for her next to mine at my desk, so she could sit while I did things on my computer. We were gone for a trip once. On our return, she ran to sit in that chair, and started mewing. This is what we were supposed to be doing.

Sharing the Window2004 was a big year for my family. A Labor Day bike ride brought a kitten into our home, Eddy. She tolerated him, for the most part. A dignified thirteen-year-old lady has limited patience for the antics of a twelve-week-old goofball. For the most part, though, they worked out a rough balance in the house, and respected it.

Over the last year or so, though, this tolerance increased. They could sit on the couch next to each other. She would even accept the occasional bath from him.

It was two months after Eddy’s arrival that my daughter was born. Maggie was always a very shy cat–pretty much, her friends consisted of me, my wife, and the cat sitter. She hid for everyone else. I was not sure how Maggie would handle it. For the first year or so, they basically ignored one another.

Maggie started to have some medical issues, starting with diabetes. She didn’t like canned food, so she stopped eating, leading to some complications. We helped her recover, but I think the combination of the recovery and a little person toddling about gave her pause. She spent the better part of the next eighteen months hanging out on the basement steps. She could see what went on in the family, but was able to avoid unwelcome contact.

Caitlin & MaggieAs her condition improved, she gradually started coming out. First, she would hang out on the sofa after my daughter would go to sleep. Then, she would come out a bit earlier. Once again, she would cautiously roam our first floor.

She claimed our comfy new couch as her throne, where she could usually be found. As if to make up for lost time, she would demand pettins’. If you stopped before she was ready, you could expect an insistent tapping with her paw.

My daughter and Maggie became pals over the last year or so. I suppose Maggie decided that this little one wasn’t so scarey, and, in fact, could bring a lot of the benefits the big people could. She would cross the couch to sit next to her (on at least one occasion, crawling over me). They developed an after school ritual of watching TV while my daughter had a snack (crunchy peas being sampled by the cat). Maggie loved being brushed; my daughter loved playing hair shop. It was a match made in heaven.

Maggie in Profile

A housecat will live to be about 16 years. We think Maggie was 19. We knew the last several years were “bonus time.” Unfortunately, last week, this time came to an end. While making preparations for Thanksgiving, she passed away.

The impact of larger indicators of her absence–giving her medication or cleaning her litter box–has subsided. It’s the million and one little ways she crept into our life that is hard. There are unconscious preparations we make (for her or for anyone) we still do: selecting an end of the couch, saying goodnight, or quiet time in the morning. All sorts of moments where we start a thought, then realize that it is moot. Time heals such things, but she will not be forgotten.

We loved Maggie, and I’m sure we always will. She helped instill a love of animals in my family, and was a bit of joy in our lives that we could count on. She was a part of our house, a friend, and member of the family. She never stopped loving us, and it came out in her purr, a cuddle, or a tap. For this, I will forever be thankful.
Perfect Pillow

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Posted 2010-12-01 by Mr. Guilt in cats, Family, felis silvestris catus, Maggie

11 responses to “Goodbye, Maggie

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  1. Maggie was one of my favorite internet cats and I’m truly sorry to hear that she’s gone. Please accept my condolences.

  2. I am so sorry for your loss. I am happy for the wonderful pictures and memories that you have of Maggie and that you had so many years. I know it takes time to grieve. (hugs)

    Freedom Smith
  3. so sorry for your loss.

  4. A wonderful tribute. I had to read it in 3 different sections because I kept bursting into tears at the office.

    I’m so sorry she’s gone.

  5. Oh how sad! I’ve enjoyed the virtual Maggie for 3+ years – she will be missed.

  6. What a nice tribute. She was clearly loved and had a good life. It’s amazing how much human history can happen in a cat’s lifetime.

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