Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brandi: A Very Odd Cat

I once had a huge calico cat with topaz eyes. When we adopted Brandi at six weeks, she was wary of everyone and would have nothing to do with anyone but Suzanne and me.

A few years later, Harry joined our family. A Chow/German Shepherd mix, he was two months old and thrilled to have a playmate. But Brandi put an end to that with a hiss and a slap of her paw. Later, as a dumbfounded Harry looked on, she sat bathing herself, shooting daggers at him each time he moved: Back off, you little toot or I’ll do it again!

Though Harry grew into a gigantic, formidable dog, the two lived in harmony the rest of her life.

Brandi had no use for small creatures. When Chase was a baby, she sat on the arm of a nearby chair, a look of disbelief on her face: What the heck is that?
Each time he visited, her big tail ballooned to twice its size and she scurried away. Then she fluctuated between hovering and recoiling, flinching each time Chase moved. When he began crawling she became even more alarmed, skulking here and there, hiding under furniture, peering around doorways.

As time went on, though, and with much work on Chase’s part (he loves animals), Brandi came around. But she was still a little guarded; lowering her head when he petted her and not completely relaxing until he was around six years old.

After much scrutiny, Brandi allowed a few more people into her circle: Gina and her husband and two daughters, Pitty Pat, Mother and Daddy. But she hid when anyone else came calling. And after our guests departed, she strolled back into the living room, ears back, looking up at me: About time they left!

Brandi hated the outdoors. When I tried to coax her out, she balked. A few times I picked her up and carried her out, but as soon as I set her down, she sprinted back to the door, looking around with apprehension: No telling what’s out there!

She was very picky. She only drank water (didn’t much care for milk), ate Purina Cat Chow, and tuna (water-packed). If I offered her anything else, she gave me a dirty look, flicked her tail and sauntered away.

She was brought to her knees a few times, though, by several catastrophic events in her long life. It’s a wonder she survived some of them.

One incident occurred when I went to Michigan for a visit.

I had left her alone many times before, with everything she needed: two big bowls of water, two big bowls of Purina Cat Chow. Litter. If I planned to be away longer than a day or two, I had someone check on her. And she always did just fine.

But after I had been in Michigan nine days, I suddenly realized I had forgotten.

I called Gina.

When she called back, Gina’s voice didn’t sound quite right. “First of all, Brenda,” she said, “Brandi is fine….she’s just fine. Now.”

My heart dropped. “What happened?”

When they got there, Gina said, Brandi was nowhere to be found. Her food and water had not been touched; her litter was unused. And from the bedroom, they could hear a faint meow.

“I was afraid to open the door,” Gina said, “I just knew she’d be nothing but skin and bones. And maybe dying.”

But when Gina peeked in, there Brandi stood, looking up at her. And none worse for the wear. “She was really glad to see us,” Gina said, “She couldn’t get enough petting!”

As it turned out, before I left for Michigan I had gone to my bedroom and grabbed a sweater, and rushed back out to the car. Apparently, Brandi had followed me and I had closed the door, not knowing she was there.

Brandi acted less haughty for several days thereafter and seemed much more appreciative when I fed her. Before long, though, she was back to her old self.

Another incident occurred when Brandi spent time in the country with Mother and Daddy. She somehow got out one night and Daddy found her on the deck the next morning, her throat almost slit in half. We determined she had gotten into a fight with a Coon or a Possum. Maybe both, knowing Brandi!

After a trip to Lone Oak Animal Clinic, she soon recovered.

Since she hated the outdoors, I never figured out why she sneaked out that night. Maybe she considered the deck just another room. Or maybe she saw a Coon and went after him. Or maybe she just stepped out to get a breath of fresh air.

As Brandi grew older, I began worrying about the inevitable. “She’s 10 years old,” I said to Suzanne, “What if she dies?”

I said the same thing the next year, the next. And the next.

And then one day I didn’t have to coax her to get into my lap. She just climbed up there and laid her big furry head on my knees. Which was unusual for her.

“What’s the matter, Brandi?”

She looked up at me and meowed, topaz eyes sad.

She was still eating well at that time, though, and acting normal. So I put it out of my mind.

A few days later, she walked up to me and meowed, and when I invited her onto my lap, she was unable to jump.

“It’s her kidneys. That’s what gets most cats when they get to be as old as Brandi,” my veterinarian said.

“What can you do for her?”

“I’m sorry,” he said, “We should probably put her down.”

I refused and took her home, where she spent the next few days on my bed. She was getting worse, and I knew I would soon have to make a decision.

Suzanne and Chase came over the last night we had with her, and we all sat on the bed, holding her, petting her, and talking to her. Tears were shed.

The next morning at the Lone Oak Animal Clinic, I held her paw as she quietly slipped away. She was 17 years old.


Sandra Ree said...

17 years! That's a long time to own a cat much less a dog. Love the picture of you and Brandi. Your ending brought tears to my eyes. Wonderful story Brenda.

Rhonda said...

Brandi was certainly a very special pet, I've already started thinking about our two dogs, Bandit a blue heeler and Lucky a mutt that is a lab mix, getting up in age. We love them dearly and we will be devistated when they go. Nice picture of you and Brandi.

Suzanne said...

LOVED this post (of course).

mlh said...

Very nice post, Brenda. My cat Rabbit lived to be 14 before he passed away. It was kidney failure too.

Anonymous said...

Loved this post.

Suz said...

Loved this post - and you and Brandi were quite the pair of glam dolls in that picture!

Seems like Brandi was another example of the general rule that dogs have owners and cats have staff. :-)

All words and pictures © 2008 Brenda G. Wooley