HOME PLACE - Confetti the cat goes home for the holidays -- and Daddy -- for good

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Just as a heads up, this is not a fun, Christmassy missive. I didn't bother to apply mascara today, knowing I was going to be writing it. No point in making matters worse with black streaks.

I can't figure out how to segue this with any grace at all, and that's hanging me up, so here goes -- the cat is dead.

That's the end of the story, so let me start at the beginning.

My husband and I moved back to the Home Place in 1994, as most of you know. It was the house my grandparents built and we were determined to keep it in the family. Well, my husband was -- I thought the situation called for a bulldozer, personally.

We brought no pets with us. As veteran renters, we had parented cats, but had none upon our arrival in Oregon's midsummer heat.

Which was good, because we dived into cleaning and renovation with such fervor, we barely had time to feed our children and make sure the washing machine got started once a day.

Nine months after we landed, I had mixed all the paint we could afford and smooshed spackle into the majority of holes Nana's nails had left in every surface of the house. We were ready for bigger projects and a little more cash flow.

I got a job two evenings a week teaching English as a second language at Blue Mountain Community College. As a side note, that gig turned into two years of the best job ever.

I met some lifelong friends there. And I met Confetti.

The bobtail calico cat was there in the school's parking lot one evening as I headed in. Petite and fuzzy, she was the picture of purring charm as she twined about my legs, meowing prettily.

I picked her up for a hug and noticed a collar with a bell. "Someone is waiting for this little girl at home," I thought and went inside the building.

Fours hours later, she was still there. The early spring night was winter-kissed and I could no more have driven off without her than leave a baby on the sidewalk.

This kitty, not yet named, wound herself around my head, making me strain my neck to see the street. Her purring threatened to deafen me.

When I got home at 10 p.m., I carried the new bundle into my sleeping husband. As he jerked awake, the little cat got right under his chin, unfazed by his startled reaction. She spent the night right there, waiting until morning to sample the tuna I had opened in lieu of real cat food.

I knew she was someone's cat -- the collar, the social skills, the pure delight from nose to wagging bob. We instantly loved her, but we did the right thing. I called the Humane Society, offering up a description of the guest. When I was asked if she had more light or dark in her calico coat, I looked at the kitty snuggled on my lap and answered, "She's both. She looks like confetti."

Too, I placed a "found" ad in the paper, then waited for the inevitable phone call. My heart broke with each ring, but no one called and asked to speak to the cat. Amazing to us that this obviously loved animal wasn't, apparently, being looked for very hard.

A little of the enchantment rubbed off when she went into what the vet said must be her first heat just days later. We spent about four gallons' worth of paint money and had Confetti neutered, figuring that action made us every bit her parents.

Our new home had a new pet and it was good.

That cat became the star of the neighborhood. Almost every summer morning, Confetti gifted some lucky neighbor the head or body of a rodent, but never both. Right on the doormat. The day we found the gopher (All in one piece. She was a cat, after all, not a lion) that had been pocking our yard, we knew Confetti deserved every wonderful thing we could do for her.

She lived what my friend Beth called "a real cat's life." Confetti hunted and climbed, staying outside as long as she could in the summer. Our concrete patio became her heated bed on those evenings as our kitty stretched out every centimeter of her little frame.

She visited the neighbors, talking to them as they trimmed roses or swept a porch. David's barbecuing became a time for those two to catch up on news and bites of chicken. By the time she was 3, Confetti and David were inseparable.

And, we like to believe, it's that way once again.

It's been coming for a long time. Our aging girl was suffering the twin indignities of painful arthritis and kitty dementia. She stopped meowing only while she slept. She ate well (anything she wanted was the new menu order) some days and not at all on others.

It was clear to see this amazing cat was getting ready to be amazing elsewhere.

But this past summer and fall she basked again in the heat of our yard. She inched her way around to nap in the shade of her favorite trees. Confetti could still deliver a slap to the Cap'n when she was of mind to. The mice were now safe, however.

The girls brushed her velvety fur and held her while they watched TV. She purred as loudly as ever. I found myself thinking if we could make it to warmer days, Confetti would once again have a lovely summer.

After all, she was the last animal that was truly just David's -- I could beg her to stay with us a little longer, yes?

No. I could not ask Confetti to live with her pain just to prevent more of my own.

I called our vet, blubbering through the conversation. Picking my kids up, I told them this was to be Confetti's last night here, that it was time to send her to Dad and Uncle Dwight.

We made sure our girl had a very good night. Paying no mind to her lost litter-box abilities, we let her sleep on the blanket and bed of her choosing. She was allowed the heavy whipping cream she loved but could not digest well. She was brushed and smoothed and kissed and cuddled. She Skyped with a distant sister, looking right into the screen.

On Wednesday my youngest daughters learned the true price of pet ownership. They never flinched from the job of going with me to the veterinarian's office. Eyes red, their voices catching on sobs, they told Confetti what a wonderful girl she was and that Daddy was waiting for her.

I've never been more proud of them.

We drove home with our silent bundle in the pink fuzzy blanket and laid Confetti to rest under the biggest tree in the yard. My children wanted to take the shovel from my hands and finish the job, but I couldn't separate myself from the final task for my little kitty.

That is the end of my story for now. On Thursday, I got an e-mail about the fourth annual "Home for the Holidays" adoption event at Blue Mountain Humane Society. I immediately replied and asked to be added to some sort of do-not-adopt-to list. I know what an easy prescription this would seem like for my pain.

But maybe your Confetti is waiting for you there. I know this column has been hard to read, but the story itself was easy to begin. I just picked up a kitty who needed a home. And she loved us for it.

Sheila Hagar can be reached at sheilahagar@wwub.com or at blogs.ublabs.org/fromthestorageroom or by calling 509-526-8322. -three BOX: Blue Mountain Humane Society, 7 E. George St., will sponsor "Home for the Holidays" on Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Adoption prices will start at $10 for cats over four months old, $25 for kittens under four months, $25 for medium and large dogs and $50 for small dogs and puppies under the age of six months. Highly desirable or pure breed dogs will be $125. As an added value, for the last hour of the event, all cats over the age of four months will be free of charge.

All adoptable pets are spayed or neutered, micro-chipped and current on vaccinations, have a complimentary vet check at the clinic of the adopter's choice and 30 days of free veterinary insurance. Cats must leave the shelter in a carrier so adopters are encouraged to come prepared. Cardboard carriers will be available for $7.50 plus tax. For more information call 529-5188 or visit www.bluemountainhumane.org.

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