Long loved the Queen

Mimi's last day
Mimi’s last day

We knew it couldn’t last forever. The Gypsy Carpenters are sad to share the news that our original feline companion has passed on to the great unknown. Our decision to leave jobs and house behind and try life as itinerant carpenters and musicians included Mimi as an after thought. That was nine years ago. Mimi was ten. Long in the tooth even then. No cat was going to get in the way of our great dream. We’d figure something out. Somebody, somewhere would want to take her for us. And that was true. Lots of people loved Mimi and another home could have been found but it never happened. Mimi surprised us all and adapted to life on the road as though she wondered what took us so long.

Nineteen years ago Becky Holmes and I plucked her from a litter of barn kittens. My recollection is that every cat in that barn was dead within the year. Predation, mostly. Mimi was a scrapper from the day she was born. At five weeks she was already supplementing mother’s milk with her own prey.  It took a year of living in my home for her to stop hiding full time. That feral part of her personality never left. Not one kiss in nineteen years. No belly rubs allowed. No holding. Mimi sat on me when she wanted and then I could scratch her ears. Burt called her a spook. She had nothing to say to him. Or Elvis. This was why we though she’d be happier in a new home.

But then life in the gNash changed her profoundly. Forced into close contact with Burt, Elvis, and me she learned to get along and engage. She wanted to sit with us and asked for attention. We had morning wrestling matches and Mimi kept the mice away. If the water bowl was empty Mimi knew how to get it filled while Elvis suffered in silence.

The last three years I’ve wondered daily how much time left we had together. She was restless and occasionally suffered seizures. This last year it became clear twenty was not within reach.  She was losing weight and starting to act funny. I worried constantly that she would decline rapidly and suffer because we were in some remote place without veterinary care. I wondered if I should pre-emptively euthanize her. I wanted to do best by her and feared I was really motivated by my own needs. Sometimes I wondered if I could smoother her if needed.

Last month Mimi was in respiratory distress. We took her to a vet and assumed it was the end. The vet gave her a magic shot and for a few weeks we had the old Mimi back. She was eating and exploring and resting normally. Then one day it all turned terrible.  She wasn’t herself. She couldn’t eat, the weight was melting away daily and, finally, her breathing was labored. We made special meals and tried offering food at all hours. It was no use. I consulted Becky, and Sue, and Magi and we all agreed Mimi was ready. Burt and I took her in and had her put to sleep. I sobbed. Burt cried, too. But it was the right time and the right day. As Becky said, “It’s better to do it on a good day.” Meaning Mimi could go while she still had some energy to walk about and look at things. And that was the last thing she did before we carried her to the vet. The picture above is Mimi sitting outside and enjoying the Montana sun just a couple of hours before she died.

SOmething horribly hilarious happened at the vet. I’ve been waiting to write this because I needed time to catch it. Mimi had just died and Burt went to pay our bill while I held Mimi in a box. I was wearing sunglasses. The receptionist greeted Burt with, “That wasn’t so bad, was it?” Burt stoically ignored the inane pleasantry. I stayed calm. Then she made another sunny inquiry and Burt says, “I have a dead cat.” Plain as day. New picture in the dictionary for awkward. It took a moment for the woman’s face to collapse. I watched the slow motion change of expression from smile to WTF-did-I just-do to OMG-I-really-fucked-up to sorrow. She was devastated. Now Burt and I were trying to cheer her up. We knew she didn’t know. She was just trying to be nice. She handed me tissues and I gave them back to her. I reassured her that we were not offended. Finally I said, “You are right. It wasn’t that bad after all. It was time.” And it was true.

Here’s what I said that day on Facebook: There will never be a cat as trailer ready as Mimi. Tiny, tidy, quiet, and an excellent mouser. She tolerated two dogs and two clumsy humans. Queen of the Nash.

I am grateful to so many that helped care for Mimi over the years. Just this year we had Dodie, my dad, SaraGay, Burt’s dad, Janet, Barbara and Sue all step in and keep her safe while we traveled the world. In years past Magi and John and Burt and others have lent a hand. I am also please beyond knowing that she went at a time where we could provide for her and that we are able to bury her in Montana. Montana will always be home.

Near the end
Near the end
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The hand of the Man

 

The man and his hand
The man and his hand

I’ll admit it I got a little tipsy last night. It wasn’t on purpose. We went out for a pizza and a movie and the margartita was enormous and strong. I don’t normally enjoy the sensation of intoxication but it felt right in the moment and I’m fine today. A little tired and still sad but okay. Mimi had a seizure this morning on top of it all. She started having seizures about three years ago. They were rare until this month. So rare that we only observed three in three years. But this month we’ve seen three in a bout 5 weeks. There’s no telling how many we are missing when we are away. After a few minutes of convulsions and drooling she regains her composure and appears normal. La-di-dah, I guess I’ll go eat, I feel fine now that’s over. At 18 years of age it’s hard to take these as a crisis. I presume one day she might give it up mid seizure. She’s had a long and pampered life. She has been a bonny road warrior. It would be a fine and dramatic end to the creature I’ve spent more years living with than any other in the world. But also an enormously sad end. Of course I was relieved she came out of it today. It’s not that I’m ready, it’s that she’s so old I’m trying to accept it as imminent.  Yesterday when I was messily bawling she rolled over and over and rubbed on me trying to cheer me up. The dogs ignored me. People that say cats aren’t connected are idiots.

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Maybe Mimi is Slipping

A lazy, hazy day
A lazy, hazy day

I lived in Atlanta for nearly a decade. It snowed once. It must have been a weekend because I remember we had fun skiing in Piedmont Park. Thanks to a handful of friends still in Atlanta I can feel their pain and be grateful to have left through the wonders of Facebook. Pictures show snow on the beach, or is it ice, at Murrells Inlet, SC.

Alert readers have raised the point that elderly Mimi may be developing kitty dementia. Symptoms include failure to use the litter box, unexplained yowling and agitation. Mimi has none of that. She does of a hygiene issue. She has stopped cleaning the tip of her nose. In the photo you can see a faint brown eyebrow of scum just where her white fur reaches her pink nose. This scum gradually builds over time until enough of an accretion is there that I can flick it off with my thumb nail. Mimi detests this procedure and requires me to take a firm grasp of her neck scruff and pin down her hind weapons with my elbow before I can even touch her nose. I have tried and tried to convince her to take care of her own nose but she ignores my pleas and can’t do the logic of concluding she could avoid the unpleasantness. Sometimes (gasp) I photo edit the food scum out of her pictures. Where is my journalistic integrity? I have a loony theory about her incompetent nose cleaning that goes back to her days as a bad ass free wandering cat of suburbia.

Mimi, all 5 1/2 pounds of her, could not tolerate other cats in her range. Once a vet told me we could tell she was the aggressor because her injuries were always to the face and head and not the retreating end. She has many hidden ear scars and she’s had a drain or two for the resulting infections. Nothing so bad as my black man cat from Atlanta, Chuck. Chuckles was a panther. He took no prisoners. Once he had a drain in his cheek. Because he was a stoic cat that abcess remained undiscovered for a long time because it had begun to drain naturally into his mouth. I digress. Mimi once got in a fist fight where she injured her right thumb claw. No southpaw is Mimi. I can just see her up on her hind legs duking it out with her tiny mitts. Like Chuck she suffered stoically and I didn’t notice her grievous injury until she developed lethargy and a fever. The vet started her on antibiotics but one day of all out war and Mimi had prevailed. No antibiotics were going down her throat. Distressed I rushed her back to the vet and said, “Just amputate that thumb. She doesn’t need it.” The vet agreed. Amputation, cauterization and now a thumbless Mimi recovered in 10 minutes. It was as if nothing had happened but now she is missing the main digit she uses to wash her face. Is it all my fault?

Trailer life has certainly reduced my vet bills and greatly expanded Mimi’s lifespan. Neighborhood cats and birds are happier, too.

Food starting to accumulate on her nose.
Food starting to accumulate on her nose.
The first edition table.
The first edition table.
18 hours a day look like this.
18 hours a day look like this.
These were redone today.
These were redone today. This is the before shot.
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