Thursday, August 27, 2015

Alice Adams... Saying Goodbye

Thirteen years ago, this summer, I adopted a little kitten who had been orphaned and left covered in mud and fleas by a BFI bin somewhere near Commercial Drive. She was only a few weeks old when she was found. VOKRA rescued her and put her in a foster home where she, tiny tot that she was, lived with another cat and a huge doberman pinscher for a couple weeks. That's where I met her. I loved her instantly.
Right from the very start, Alice was attuned to me. She was small enough to sit on a Mad Gab box and was easily lost in the huge expanse of my double sized bed. Every day, she curled up on all fours on the bath mat for a little alone time by herself but, at bedtime, she would claw her way up the bed and snuggle in between my arm and my body while I read. We would both fall asleep like that. When she was little, I would wake up many times through the night to the sound of her purring loudly in my ear. 
I got her and my other cat, Johnny, two years after my Mom died. Johnny was mostly standoffish but Alice was my emotional compass in a way. In those early years, if I was hit by a sudden wave of grief over the loss of my Mom, I would tuck in for a nap to sleep away the sadness and Alice would stop what she was doing, jump up on the bed and snuggle right into me, comforting me with her kisses and motor-like purring. This never changed over the years. If I was sick or sad or had a migraine, she would find me and snuggle me to help me feel better. 
Alice was loving but she was also territorial. When Bryce first moved in, she was PISSED. She would scowl at him, thinking "Who the hell is this asshole sleeping on my side of the bed??" But in very short order, Bryce won her over and the two of them became thick as thieves. 
Then came the babies. When our first son was born and would cry to be fed, Alice would chase after us as we were preparing to feed him and bite our heels non-stop until we picked him up and fed him already. When our second son was born and too many people came to visit, she would pee in a plant to advise us when it was time to send them home. 
As the boys got older, she became their cat too and took part (somewhat lazily/reluctantly/irritably) in their dress up games of swashbuckling pirates or 'who can get Alice to wear this hat the longest'. 
But before I had kids, Alice was my baby. I admit with no small measure of sheepishness that I was THAT cat lady who packed my young felines into a cat carrier to take them on an airplane to Winnipeg for the weekend (or just across town in the middle of the week to have dinner at my friend's place). After I had kids, as many parents with pets that pre-date their children's arrival will tell you, things changed. Alice took her new place at the foot of the bed rather than between our pillows at the top. She fell further down the list of priorities with my growing list of responsibilities that required my focus and attention. She scratched EVERY wall surface she could get her paws on for no good reason that we could ever decipher. (Other than maybe she wanted our attention.)
A couple times - once in our small suite when I felt overwhelmed in the parenting of a toddler and an infant, or years later when Alice was pooing all over the place and I didn't know why - I considered finding her a new home. I wondered if maybe a nice grandma or grandpa somewhere could give her a more attentive space and make her the apple of their eye. But on those two occasions, when I actually took steps to inquire about placing her somewhere else, I cried both times and couldn't pursue it any further. I imagined how awful she would feel if she wasn't in "her" home with her own family and the hectic pace that came with us. 
Then, over time, something lovely happened. Somehow, things calmed down around my place and Alice became the apple of my eye again. She became my baby once more. And this is how she remained for the rest of her life: My Beautiful Little Sweetheart. 
Tonight, after consulting with a new vet, a specialist and the original vet that did her x-rays, it became clear that Alice had terminal cancer after all. And so, we had to let her go. 
It's astonishing how painful it is to lose her; how quickly the last thirteen years seem to have passed; and, even though there are four people who still live here, how empty the house feels without her in it. 
In many ways, I became an adult with Alice Adams by my side. I weathered the stormy early years of grieving my Mom, became a Mom myself, got married and, in a variety of different ways, I (mostly) grew up - all with this adorable fur ball along for the ride. 
It is amazing to me how lovingly ingrained in my life experience Alice has become. I'm not sure I had any idea it would be this way that moment thirteen years ago when I first laid eyes on her as she darted fearlessly underneath and between the statuesque legs of the doberman pinscher who towered above her. To me, she has been more than a pet. She has been my family.
It's hard to believe she's gone.
But for all the anguish we feel tonight as we take her blue blankie off the bed because she is no longer here to sleep on it, or as we clean her food tray and empty her litter box one last time, I am very much aware that the pain is proportional to the love. Not just the love we felt for her over the years but the monumental and unconditional love she felt for us.
So before I lay me down to sleep:
Alice Adams, my sweet, I thank you for everything. For your love, your snuggles, your companionship and your patience - not only in waiting for me to rediscover you as my fur ball baby in the throws of newly parenting my human babies but also in these last few days as we made daily (sometimes several times daily) calls to vets and specialists to see if there was anything we could possibly do to give you a few more healthy years with us. In true Alice Adams fashion, when it was time to say good bye before the stressful ride to the vet, you gave me one last curly cue snuggle on your blankie, along with the ever present purring that has accompanied me like the sweetest music these last thirteen years.
To some, this may seem overly sentimental. But I appreciate the opportunity to share this post all the same. 
Pets are our babies. 
Tonight, my oldest baby is traveling light.

Your pal,

The Happiness Detective

Baby Alice in her new home.

Smaller than a bread box.
Baby on a bed.

Big girl on her blankie.

Yes, yes I drove my cats across town to dinner at a friend's place. SUCK IT.

Alice and Johnny forever.
After Johnny died, Alice become very depressed. It wasn't until Bryce's dad, Ted, came to stay with us that she began to feel better. She curled up beside him in this position and remained that way for most of his visit.

Always in my arms.
Yet another snuggle. (Also Bryce's shit eating grin cracks me up.)

Thick as thieves.

Aye matey!
Cowboy Cat.
A boy and his cat.
Alice whispers her Christmas list in Zach's ear. He promises to deliver it to Santa.

Le. Sigh.

Christmas Queen of Sheba.

Sunny days.
One last kiss...

One last curly cue...

Alice Adams... Traveling light.

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