I'm working without a camera this week, so I'm looking through my albums for photos to use. It's been a while since I profiled one of my pets, so I thought you might like to meet one today.
Dixie is my only female cat. (I tend to prefer female dogs and male cats for some reason.) It is hard to find anything special to say about her, as she isn't funny and bad like Joey nor does she have an outgoing personality like Louie. She is just always there, quiet and shy, undemanding, a background hum in the music of my household.
Like most of my cats, Dixie came to me from a veterinary hospital. I was working as a relief veterinarian, subbing for a two woman practice where both vets were on maternity leave at the same time. The staff had a litter of three orphaned kittens they were hand-raising. Usually, I am a sucker for baby kittens. However, the week I was there, they were in their "ugly" phase. Now, you might think that baby kittens can't possibly be ugly, but let me tell you, there is a point with hand-raised kittens when they are being weaned where they are a little skinny, their ears are too big for their bodies, they perpetually have food in their hair, and they look like little ghouls. I left that week sans kitten.
But, two weeks later, I was back. And, those little monsters are turned into the sleekest, cutest, most adorable babies you ever would want to see. I picked out a female tortie-tabby (tortiseshell coloring, tabby pattern) and waited to see if anyone else would adopt her. By the end of the week, "Dixie," named for the practice where I found her, had joined my family.
Because she is the smallest and least food aggressive, the boys tend to shove her out of the way at meal times. But, since she would rather stay in, when the boys go outside, I spoil her with extra treats.
One day, I offered her a sip of milk, which I do regularly for Lou, who enjoys it. Little did I know Dixie was lactose intolerant! Gag, gag, puke, puke, retch, retch - the show went on forEVER! Oh, yes - I seem to remember some veterinarian saying not to give milk to cats. And that was - ME! Needless to say, no more milk for Dixie, even though she seems to have forgotten all about it and still asks for a sip, in her quiet and polite way.
Oh, there is one special thing about her. I can always count on Dixie to sleep in my bed with me every night. True to her nature, she doesn't demand a lot of space, like the dogs do, nor does she try to smother me in my sleep, like so many other cats have done in the past. Without being intrusive, she is always there for me.
Manny, short for "Katmandu," was a very special cat who was also there for me when I needed him. He is no longer with me, but recent events have made me think about him again.
In the spring of 2000, I was feeling pretty blue. A special relationship that I thought was going somewhere ended abruptly, and I was in the dumps. I needed something to cheer me up, something to lavish my attention on, something to distract me. I needed a kitten.
I went to one of my best friends, a veterinarian who always seemed to have kittens to adopt. Sure enough, she had several for me to choose from. I asked her oldest son Ben, who was about 9 at the time, to help me pick from among the black ones. (I have a special spot in my heart for black cats.)
Ben picked each kitten up and held it to his ear. I was about to ask what he was doing when he handed me his selection, saying "This one has good heart-warmth." I wasn't about to question what he meant, but accepted Ben's choice. I named the kitten Katmandu, for the Bob Seeger song, and shortened it to Manny for every day use.
Manny was still small, only 5 weeks old and really too young to be be away from his mother when I adopted him, so I carried my "little man" around inside my T-shirt whenever I was home, keeping him close to my heart. I have raised other young kittens this way (including Joey) and I believe it helps with the bonding process. It certainly helped me.
Although Louie was a good role model and surrogate "uncle," Manny decided he was more dog than cat. He "nursed" on Grace till he was 8 months old, closing his eyes in rapture and sucking the hair on her belly while kneading with his paws. After her first shocked expression, she decided to stand in as his adoptive "mom," giving him tongue baths and keeping a watchful eye on him. If he wandered too far away, Grace would bring him right back.
Later, Manny could usually be found hanging with the dogs. Sometimes all three of them, a Rott, a Lab mix and a black cat would be piled up in one dog crate. It was hard to see where one animal stopped and the next one started.
Whatever "heart-warmth" means, Manny had it in spades. He was one of the most loving cats I ever had, great for cuddling with and hugging, and always ready to absorb my tears. He continued being a good buddy until the summer of 2005, when he suddenly and inexplicably developed severe grand mal seizures.
I worked him up, I consulted with an internist friend of mine, but all the standard tests were negative. He didn't respond to basic treatments, and I was carrying him around everywhere with an IV catheter in place, ready to administer Valium at the next seizure. It was no life for either of us. My options were to submit him to a battery of intensive (and expensive) tests, or to let him go. So, I took him into the office on a Sunday afternoon, when we could be alone together, and administered one final injection in his IV catheter. I gave him the only thing I had left to give. I gave him peace. He gave me so much more.