I met Isis when she was 8 weeks old. Her brother was bouncing all over the place, like he was chasing ghosts, but she was more relaxed.
I tried to get their attention, and her rambunctious brother ignored me, but Isis came up and looked at me with eyes as blue as the water off Moonstone Beach, and I was smitten.
With a kitten.
I hadn’t been around feline folk as a child. My mom and grandmother both loved cats, but both were allergic to such an extent that they couldn’t be in the same house with them, much less the same room.
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I didn’t inherit that allergy, thankfully, so I took Isis home to live with me. Since then, I’ve been on the receiving end of head-butts by the thousands and earfuls of purrs in stereo sound.
Isis and I went through a lot of changes together. When she was young, she would pounce on my feet as I moved them around under the covers and jump up onto the windowsill to chatter her teeth menacingly at the birds outside. As she got older, she stayed closer to ground level and stopped pouncing on my feet; instead, she padded up from the foot of the bed like a miniature white tiger on the prowl. Then she curled up next to me (or on top of me) as I slept, sometimes kneading at my arm gently with her paws.
Maybe this was because she’d been abandoned by her mother as a kitten. When I adopted her from the pet store, they told me she’d been found away from her mom, and I think she probably adopted me as much as I adopted her. But whatever the reason for her uncommon affection, my wife, Samaire, recently called her the most loving cat she’d ever known.
I have to agree.
As Isis shared her purrs and fur with me, I experienced changes of my own: When I went through a divorce and was laid off from my job of 14 years, she was there to comfort me. She was my best friend for the first three years of her life, and she was there when I met the love of my life, Samaire; she’s been no less a friend since then.
Unlike most cats I’ve known, she almost always came when I called her and actually liked to have her belly rubbed. And the place behind her ears. And her chin. And just about everywhere else. She had the common tabby markings, but she was anything but common underneath.
Shortly after we moved to Cambria about a month ago, Isis started spending more time upstairs. We didn’t think much of it at first: It’s warmer up there, and our bedroom at our old place in Arroyo Grande had been on the second floor. We figured she was just used hanging out upstairs and retreated there to stay warm.
But when she stopped eating as much, we started to worry. If there’s one thing Isis always had, it was an appetite, and it was hard to tell sometimes where her soft fur ended and her not-so-little belly began.
We tried to make the food more accessible to her, but when that didn’t help, we took her in to the vet. After an ominous blood test and four days on intravenous fluids, he gave us the bad news: Isis was in severe kidney failure, and she wasn’t going to get better.
We took her home and, for the next three days, we fed her baby food by hand and gave her subcutaneous fluids. I was going to do that for as long as it took. I wanted her so badly to get better. There were positive signs: She’d still head-butt me every now and then, and she’d scramble up onto the bed to sleep with us at night.
But last Monday night, she seemed pretty tired, so I let her stay out in the living room on a special velvet cushion I’d put down by my computer so we could keep each other company while I worked there. But around midnight, I had second thoughts and got up to bring her into the room. There she was, sitting right outside our bedroom door, waiting for me.
I placed her at the foot of the bed and, sometime during the night, she came up to lie down beside me like she always did. When I woke up at 6 a.m., she was there, but her breathing was labored and she wasn’t purring anymore.
Samaire woke up, too, and we stroked her and told her how much we loved her until, a few minutes later, she laid her head down and she left us. I like to think she woke us up to say goodbye, and I can barely contain the tears even now as I write about it.
Isis came to me at 8 weeks old and left me at only 8 years. I like to think she’s found my mom and grandmother on the other side of this life, where allergies are a thing of the past and cats really do have nine lives. I know all three of them are in the best of company, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stop missing any of them.
I know I always will.
Looking for a furry friend?
The Homeless Animal Rescue Team, a no-kill cat shelter in Cambria has a special adoption fee this month of $11 for all cats 7 months of age or older. The shelter is at 2638 Main St. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 927-7377.
Other pet shelters on the Central Coast:
▪ Woods Humane Society is at 875 Oklahoma St. off Highway 1 between San Luis Obispo and Morro Bay (take the Kansas Avenue exit). It’s open from noon to 6 p.m., seven days a week. Email: email@example.com. Phone: 543-9316.
▪ The North County Humane Society at 2300 Ramona Road in Atascadero is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesdays, with shelter cat visiting every day until 4:30 p.m. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 466-5403.
▪ Santa Maria Valley Humane Society is at 1687 W. Stowell Road in Santa Maria. Email: email@example.com. The adoption center is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. Phone: 349-3435.
Editor’s note: You may not find Isis there, but you just might find someone just as special to share your life and heart.