Callisto came to me on a chilly Texas night in 1998, and left me the same way in 2015.
Those who have followed previous incarnations of my blog are familiar with Callisto – Callie for short – my cranky, unpredictable, loudmouthed silver tabby cat. She was fat and hostile most of her life, the kind of cat who would scream at you to feed her wet food and would then turn around to slash your hamstrings when you bent down to put her plate on the floor.
Obviously, I adored her.
She was a sickly abandoned kitten when my then-partner Shawn brought her to my newly rented first apartment. “You said when you got your own place that you wanted a cat,” he explained as he dropped a plastic cat carrier into my upturned palms. “So I found you one.”
She had been abandoned under an empty house next door to one of Shawn’s coworkers. It was clear she was sick and too young to be alone, so the coworker had tried to take her in. His own cat, however, was having none of it. And so a tiny ball of sneezy gray-striped silver fur ended up in my hands, blinking up at me and expecting food.
From the first night she – though I didn’t know then that she was a she – curled up under my hair and stuck her nose into my ear and she purred and purred and purred. The apartment, we would discover, had faulty heating, and so my neck became her rather permanent home over the winter.
She was aggressive and hostile during the day, though. So much so that I named her Genghis Khan, for she drew blood and destroyed things and it seemed apt. When a vet visit revealed her to be a girl, I immediately renamed her Callisto, because I was a Xena fan and the show’s Callisto was batshit, blood-drawingly crazy and destructive, and, well. So was mine.
When she was six months old, I had her spayed, and she turned into a furballoon.
So now she was unpredictably hostile, sharp-clawed, and shaped like a hassock. A state in which she spent much of her life despite my best efforts. Her veterinary file had “SEDATION REQUIRED” printed in it, in large red letters. This happened after I took her in for a checkup and she bit the vet assistant through the heavy-duty large animal gloves they were wearing to try and handle her as she hissed and spit.
My cat: the roly-poliest of bitches.
Then in late 2013, she started to lose weight. A lot of weight, fairly quickly, and she was congested. Concerned, I took her to the vet, who duly put her under and checked her out. Verdict: She had some sort of infection in her paw that she had been hiding from me, and also an upper respiratory infection. They sent me home with a load of antibiotics that she took with grace that was slightly less ill than usual, and she perked up in reasonably short order.
Then in August of 2014, she started to drag again. Lost more weight. I took her in again, and this time they didn’t even have to sedate her. She was sick, and more antibiotics were needed, and taken. The vet said next time, we would check her kidneys.
This past Thursday, I took her in again. She was congested, wobbling, not eating, and had lost more weight by now than she had to spare. I took her in and expected to have to pay for a kidney panel and more antibiotics.
Instead I got the call that said she had an abdominal tumor, and at sixteen she was too old to handle an operation, so I was sent home with a tiny, tired cat and several cans of ultra-soft kitty food. “Make her comfortable,” I was told. “We have time to make a decision.”
But we didn’t.
Saturday came, and Callie was wobbling, and wobbling, and eating spare mouthfuls of the food, and then she couldn’t walk well at all so I wrapped her in blankets and set her by the window to watch the world in the sunshine, and I decided with an aching heart that I would bring her in when the vet opened again on Monday, and we would put her to sleep.
She had other ideas.
I took that photo about two hours before she passed away at 9:45 PM on Valentine’s Day, after we had spent hours with her cuddling up to my neck, so like her kitten days.
Her fur was so, so soft.
Her departure was not an ideal experience, but Callie had lived her life getting underfoot and yelling at me and biting and clawing me, so I guess there is a part of me that isn’t surprised she chose the worst time to go, on a night when no one could come be with me as I cried and cried and cried.
She was contrary to the end, that cat.
I loved her to pieces, and I miss her terribly.