We said goodbye to our kitty Dust the other day. She was the equivalent of an 88-year-old and had the best life we could offer her. But we’re still sad. When you’ve had anything in your life for 18 years, it leaves a void when it’s gone. I’ve been struggling with how to talk about her because, like all pets, she was such a character.
The first summer we lived in NY, a co-worker showed up at my job with this fluffy British torte, a black calico, who’d appeared on her porch that morning. Penny already had too many pets and asked if I wanted the kitten. If not, she’d have to take it to the shelter. Some other people were interested, but the kitten wanted to stay with me. No matter who held her, she’d break free and crawl up my pant leg. My hubby was off for the week, so I called him to pick her up. Penny even gave us money to buy a litter box, some food, and to get her spayed.
We took her home, and she started doing something she continued to do her entire life. She got into tiny spaces and fell asleep. She was curious and liked to sleep in quiet little spots. When we called her, she would come out with dust bunnies in her whiskers, so we named her Dust. Never Dusty. And she answered to it immediately.
Dust had the shiniest medium-length fur, not short like most tortes and not as long as our other kitty Pan. We battled the fleas in her gorgeous coat when we brought her home. She was too young for the flea treatments, so we gave her baths and combed her fur with a tiny comb. We sprayed the apartment we lived in at the time with lavender, fleas hate lavender, and put out bowls of soapy water, which the fleas jumped into but couldn’t get out again. All the effort paid off—no more fleas.
Then the second week she was with us, all her energy disappeared, and her ears and nose lost their color, so we took her to the vet. They kept her for a week. The fleas gave her tiny body a parasite. She wouldn’t eat, so the vets let us visit after they closed for the day. As soon as she saw us, she perked up and started eating. They warned us that all the meds they gave her would damage her vocal cords, kidneys, and teeth. They said she might not have as long of a life span.
She had this gravelly husky voice that sounded like a five-pack-a-day jazz singer. It was wonderful. We’d come home to long stories about the day. Her meows had inflections and ranged up and down and short and long lengths. She would eventually stop and look at us, waiting. We learned to respond to her with things like “Oh wow, tell me more” or “Then what happened?” and she would continue. That was her regular everyday back and forth. But she also tattled on herself.
Dust was a typical active kitty. She not only got into anything that had a space, a box, a bag, an open cabinet, the tops of cabinets, behind the tub when we first moved into our house, closets, Christmas gifts, anything. She also loved going up and down on levels. She played that favorite of kitty games of what happens when I tap this? Then things would fall and sometimes break. When anything happened, if we were home or not, as soon as she saw us, she had a specific meow that let us know something was amiss. I lost the cutest little pumpkin dish to one of her kitty experiments. The second summer we had her, a co-worker gave me a potted lemon grass. I put it someplace I thought would be safe and would have light, but she ate the whole thing. Not just nibbled some blades, but the entire 12” pot while we were at work. I called the vet, and they said she’d puke it up and that lemon grass was safe. And boy, did she ever puke it up.
She loved toys. Everything was a toy. Pulls off of cider jugs, the plastic rings around ice cream containers, balled-up paper, flat paper, the paper that you’re trying to wrap gifts with, ribbons you’re trying to decorate gifts with, sweatshirt ties, skirts, buttons, glasses, the cat water fountain, computers, phones, books, rocks, bugs. I had to check my shoes all the time because she would leave her toys in them.
Years ago, we had our chimney repointed, and the guy found bats living in it. Not a surprise. He told us he was pretty sure he got all of them. Nope. I spotted the bat first, and my hubby grabbed a tennis racket and a box to try and catch it. Dust found it, batted it out of the air, and pinned it down. The bat didn’t survive. We had it tested, and it didn’t have rabies. (Plus, kitty vaccines). She was so proud. She’d sit in windows to guard the house against skunks, turkeys, neighborhood cats, small birds, large birds, foxes, humans, whatever. She would meow loudly at them, smack the screen, and chatter. She would give us long, loud lectures from the window when we returned home. It was our favorite greeting.
She went to Maine with us and traveled well once we learned two important things. Don’t let her out of the case as many people do. She always went to the peddles under my hubby’s feet. And two, make the car cold. We blast the ac when we travel with our cats, which knocks them out. If it gets too warm, they tell us. We’re freezing too, but it makes the 7+ hour drive to Maine much easier.
Dust also rolled with the punches. When we moved into our house nine years ago, she hopped out of her carrying case, immediately went around exploring, and settled right in—a complete opposite to our other kitty Pan who doesn’t do well with change. Dust explored and rubbed her face on every nook and cranny.
She was also a fantastic lap cat. She loved being carried and followed us around, our little shadow. She would sit on either of our laps. But at night, she would curl up in the crook of my hubby’s arm as he read or watched videos on his Kindle. She’d sleep with me sometimes, but our other kitty claimed me when she joined the family. So, Dust would snuggle up with him and sometimes stay the whole night next to his warmth and protection. If it was cold, she’d climb under the covers between us and hunker down.
This is all a way to say that we miss her. It was her kidneys that failed in the end. Dust made it almost twice as long as the vets expected after everything her body went through as a kitten. We will miss her voice, her black lips, her little blond goatee, her harlequin face, her always wet paws, her smacking my sleeping hubby when his curly hair got caught in her claws as she brushed it, her stroking my hair while I tried to sleep, her being in the middle of everything, her fear of the vacuum, her affection, and her storytelling. We just miss her. But it was time to say goodbye with all the love we could.