Our beloved pet has developed serious issues with her bile ducts and as such, is not getting all she needs from her liver. We know we’re not going to have her company for as long as we’d like. I have always planned on writing a ‘celebrate Sasha’ story and so I decided to write it before she passes….just in case she sneaks onto the Internet to read my blog – this one’s for you Sasha, we love you!
Our cat, Sasha, just turned 13 years old on August 10th. Sasha is a pretty and petite Himalayan. I very clearly remember the day I picked her up as a kitten. My wife and I had been talking about getting another Himalayan. We had a bad experience with our previous one, (link), so we felt that enough grieving time had gone by. So one day while she was working, my son and I drove south to the Loveland, Ohio area where there was a litter ready to be weaned from their mother. The owner first showed me the parents and then we went out back to an in-laws house where the kittens were kept. I’ve been around cats all my life and so I know that cats choose you, you don’t choose a cat.
And so, when I walked in I just made my way to the center of the room and planted myself on my haunches to watch the kittens. And there, off of the couch she came. A cute little kitten walked over to claim us. All the other kittens were playing with each other, but this one chose to interact with me instead. We were looking for a female so I picked her up to check out the sex and that’s when I claimed her. Instantly, I wanted to take this little kitten home, the kitten who chose a stranger over her brothers and sisters. This just had to be a special cat.
My wife’s reaction to their first meeting was precious enough. The kitten was wandering around our first floor Ohio home, no doubt a little confused by her new surroundings. We were anxious all afternoon for Kim’s return from work. When we knew her shift was ending, (my wife was an ER nurse), we anxiously watched the road outside leading to our house. She drove into the garage. Sasha was exploring in the dining room. We decided not to say anything, to just let them find each other. Kim walked into the kitchen where we boys were and that’s when she spotted the tiny meowing kitten walking our way. I’ll never forget the look of joy on my wife’s face as she spotted Sasha for the first time and said, “aw…what is that?” When she bent down to pick her up, she was crying tears of joy, likely recalling the last Himalayan we unexpectedly lost several years earlier.
At the time, I was re-reading a novel called The Phantom, written by Susan Kay. The primary character, (the Phantom), is named Erik and his pet dog’s name was Sasha. Since there is a lot of Persian references in The Phantom and Himalayans are a mix between Siamese and Persian, I suggested the name Sasha and it just instantly seemed to fit her. Instantly, she was Sasha and she was family. (By the way, I’ve read this book three times in my life and recommend it highly, not only for the beautiful wording and characters but for the great take on the Phantom of the Opera story. The book was out of print but in high demand so it received a reprint 15 years later. It’s a dark love story both women and men should enjoy).
Most house cats will pick out one individual in the household as ‘their own’, their favorite person to attach themselves to. Mitchell was Killer’s person. Corey was Squeaky’s person. They will surely spend some time with the others, but there’s usually not a doubt who the cat is mainly attached to. For example, Bandit is so attached to me that we sometimes call her my dog because that’s how she acts. She follows me everywhere in the house, always looking up to me and talking. If you’re not a cat person, let me tell you – cats talk to each other primarily through their body language. They talk to us via their meows. Anytime I talk to Bandit, she will chatter right back.
Sasha has always been unique in this perspective. She has a unique relationship with everyone in the house and spreads herself around to each person in a daily ritual or repeated behaviors. Like most cats, Sasha loves to sleep. Her favorite sleeping spot is on one of our laps. Typically house cats adopt their owners’ schedule so they will spend most of the evening sleeping. Sasha will sometimes sleep all night with Tim, (before he started locking her out of his room), sometimes in her little cushy bed we bought for her and many nights, she and Bandit both will jump up on our bed.
Sasha is a small cat, very light, all fur so we barely even feel her in the bed. Many nights she will walk up onto my chest and meow, signaling to me that she’d like to sleep under the covers with us for awhile. I always oblige her. I guess a lot of readers will think this sounds annoying, but for us, “it’s Sasha” and whatever she wants, she gets. She gives us so much of a great feeling that we go out of our way to accommodate her. Example – she loves for me to carry her around, lifting her high to inspect areas of the house she can’t reach on her own. She just loves that. She also likes to jump up on my shoulders, asking me for a piggyback ride, (which I always accommodate). When it comes time to comb her fur, (long hairs need occasional grooming), she lets me turn her upside down on my lap. She will then stretch out her two front paws. She trusts me completely to comb her without hurting her. The belly is the most vulnerable area for many animals so this is a very strong sign of trust. Like to see another great example of trust? Just watch this video my son made several years ago. He called it cat-dragging.
Everyone who has ever come in contact with Sasha has seemed to fall in love with her. At least 20 different people have threatened to take her home, away from us. She is the true embodiment of what anyone would call a ‘people cat’. Oh sure, she loves her daily chase with Bandit and the other two cats before Bandit, (Killer and Squeaky), but given the choice, Sasha always, always chooses to spend her time with people. When visitors come to the house, most cats will take to finding an out of the way hiding place, choosing to stay tucked away until the strangers leave….but not Sasha.
Male or female, young or old, one or many, Sasha always chooses to socialize with the visitors, often wanting to sit on the strangers’ laps. People just cannot get over not only her outer beauty, (as a Himalayan), but her inner beauty. Not unlike people, a beautiful cat is determined by its personality. Sasha has never once bitten or intentionally scratched anyone. Show me another cat not afraid of a vacuum cleaner. Sure, she hates the noise, but she trusts us. She doesn’t go flying up the steps when she hears it being pulled out of the closet, (unlike Bandit). One cute little thing she does is that after sitting comfortably with a person, she will then “put out the paw”. We call it putting out the paw – she reaches out one arm and then rests that paw on our hand or an object.
Even these days as we are having to force feed her medicine, (which she just barely tolerates), she doesn’t try to get out of my arms; never once uses her claws. She gently cups a front paw around my hand and gives me a look as my wife issues the medicine or special high calorie gel. Everyday I am being reminded by my sick pet just how special she has been to me and our family. Each day she continues to choose sitting on my lap over her favorite blanket or sitting in the sunshine or eating. It’s breaking my heart and filling me with feelings of love all at the same time. We think she’s headed towards the final days/weeks of her life and it’s just so painful, very hard to focus on how lucky we have been to have her in our lives for the past 13 years. We’ve had a number of pets in our married life, but none so special to me and Kim as Sasha.
These days, I sit her on an out of the way counter to coax her to eat the only cat food she seems to now prefer, turning her bowl, adding water, petting her – basically looking for anything to get her to eat more on her own. As I’m doing work on the computer, she chooses being on my lap over resting in her comfy bed. At dinnertime, she likes to jump on one of the chairs and sit with the family. In the evening, she will spend time on my lap first and then after an hour she will migrate over to Kim’s lap for the rest of the evening. When it’s bedtime, I make her a couch tent. Cats love the security of couch tents so we are making her one every night now in her final days.
Yes, Sasha turned 13 on August 10th, normal as ever and by the end of September she was showing signs of a deteriorating health. Sasha now is very thin, much like a person in the very last days of life. The skin under the fur is yellow, her right iris a bit larger, she loses weight every week and month. Skin and bones, she wants nothing more than to sit on my lap all day. I talk to her even more than usual and I tell myself that she loves it. Soon, we will end her life. We are keeping her alive now for us, not for her. This is not life.
My intention with my blog story site has always been to share stories about growing up and different episodes of my life. We’ve had pets we all loved and had special feelings for but before Sasha, (at least speaking for myself), I never really understood other pet owners and how they could treat their pets so much like “family”. I guess I’m still growing up because now I get it; Sasha is family. It’s been a long time since I’ve shed so many tears, we were lucky to have found her.
On the Monday before this story was published, my wife had to take Sasha in to be put down. I was out of town and it was killing me not to be there, absolutely killing me. I know, I know what many of you might be thinking – she was just a cat. Yes, Sasha was a cat. How do we measure the level of love, the amount of love we have for someone or for a pet? Is it measured by what actions we take afterwards, such as how much money we spent for a cremation? Is it measured by the lengths we go to in our attempts to keep our loved ones and our pets alive? Perhaps it is measured by the number of tears we shed for the death. Perhaps it is measured by how deep we feel those pangs go into the pit of our stomach. Then again, maybe it’s measured by the number of times we allow the memories of those we lost to come into our daily lives, years after our loss. We all would like to think that somehow, death for ourselves and our loved ones will never come; it only comes to others. It’s just a lie we tell ourselves. Death comes.
Love is a purring, soft and fuzzy cat on my shoulder, asking for a piggyback ride. Try as we may, there will never be another Sasha.