They say that sometimes you adopt a cat, and sometimes a cat adopts you. When it comes to Billie, the latter is without a doubt true. In a room full of cats vying for our attention, Billie had a way of getting ours right away (cutest cat in the room, right here, guys; no need to look at those other clowns!). Within a week, she was with us in her new home.|
My wife adopted Billie when Billie was already eight and a half years old. Now please know that she was a young eight and a half; if I gave you the impression she was old when we adopted her, she would scratch me in my dreams for months. I remember the first time she went to the kitchen for dinner, her short legs churning so fast she could have made butter from cream. I couldn't believe how fast she moved, or that she was already eight and a half. I also couldn't believe how quickly she adapted to her new home. It was as if she had lived there for years. Right away she made one thing crystal clear: this was her home. There were other creatures and people in the home, but the house was hers.
From the beginning, she let us know there was no cat like her, and that the matter wasn't even remotely close. Her personality defies words; you would just have to have been around her to understand her. She was a beautiful cat--either black with white clouds or the other way around, depending on how you looked at her--but cross her and, oh boy, there would be hell to pay. She was afraid of nothing: nothing! We once had a stray dog inside. The dog weighed about seventy pounds. We had Billie back in her room while we were looking at the stray's tag for his owner's phone number. Billie, all nine pounds of her, managed to pry open the door, run up the hall, and swat the big dog on the nose. This was her house, and it always would be. If a bull came inside, the bull would have gotten the same treatment.
Billie could be as adventurous as she was fearless. She would get in anything that was open. She once climbed in the hamper ... and took a nap there. But when I went to take her picture, she woke and looked up at the camera to make sure I got her good side on film. If a box was open, she was going to investigate it. If there was a new pillow on the floor, she was going to lay on it. If paper was on the bed, she was going to crinkle it. It was her house, remember, and that meant everything inside was by definition hers, too.
At one point, Billie had to contend with four people in her house, one frog, two dogs (Sam and Peter), and another cat (Simon). I think it was around then that she just said the heck with it and spent most of her time on my office chair. If I was writing or teleworking, she would lay on the armrest; otherwise, she would lay on the cushion. In either case, the rule was that she was to be petted no less than once per hour. If I was already on the chair and she joined me, she would make one of her "entrances." She would climb the footrest, and then start her patented five second long, loud enough for the neighbors to hear meow. After five seconds the meow would turn into a kind of absurdly happy chirp, because she knew she was about to get some serious petting or brushing. For the next thirteen years, she would be my constant armchair companion. As I write this today, I simply cannot believe she isn't here beside me.
(But maybe she is. It wouldn't be the first or even the hundredth time she surprised me.)
Over the years, Billie has been called by a few monikers. Little. Little girl. Little head. Miss Bill. Boo-boo. I don't know how any of these names were formed, only that she had a say in each of them. I only came to call her boo-boo, the strangest of the names in my opinion, in the past four months. She seemed to like that one, maybe that I to this day don't know why I started calling her that. Maybe that one was completely her idea.
Billie (sorry, girl; I have to call you by your proper name here) had a strange ability. Whenever I was talking loudly or seemed at all upset, she would immediately brush up against me and start meowing to calm me down. What kind of creature does that? Amazing. I think sometimes she was an angel wrapped in a cat's body.
For most of her life, Billie was in good health. She was a little chunky (sorry, girl) for a few years, but her health was always solid. It was only in the last days of her life that she started having problems. Her kidneys were failing and she was having trouble eating and drinking. At the emergency vet on Friday, I was told her kidney's had essentially completely failed, her numbers so high the machine didn't return a number for them but instead the word MAX. I think now, looking back on things, she was keeping her pain to herself the past few months, but that it was there. In December, we lost our other amazing cat, Simon, and then, just eleven days ago, I lost my father. I really believe she was waiting for me to experience my other pain, especially waiting for me to get back from where I was staying while my father was dying, before she let go. She wanted one more time to calm me, to be there by my side.
I'm grateful we had thirteen years to get to know her. When we adopted her, I remember thinking that, at her age, we'd be lucky to have five years with her. I'm so glad we had so many more years with her than that.
Billie, you are the sweetest, most loving, loyal soul, and every moment with you was a joy. You're free now, little angel, to spread your wings in a new home. Come by and visit me in my dreams from time to time to let me know you're okay, and send me a sign if you can (I think you already have; I found, out of nowhere today, a penny with your birth year on it, and I literally never find coins).
You were and always will be amazing.