Today I’m going to tell you the story of another cat who graced my life. I adopted Siouxsie Mew and her sister Sinéad O’Kitty when they were just six weeks old. I didn’t know back then that kittens should stay with their mothers for at least eight weeks, and preferably 12, before they’re weaned. Nonetheless, with some adaptations, they grew up big and strong. The ladies were a great pair, and they were the inspiration behind my other blog, Paws and Effect, a cat advice blog “by cats, for people and their cats.” Sinéad escaped from our country home and got “taken” by coyotes when she was just 10 years old, but Siouxsie lived on for many years.
One of the most extraordinary things about Siouxsie, aside from the fact that she made a 3,000-mile road trip from Maine to Seattle with her kitty kin, Thomas and Belladonna, was that she loved coming to work with me.
The first job I got when I moved to Seattle was at a pet health insurance company, working in their call center as a customer care representative. It was my first call center job after many years of doing white-collar professional work, but it was a different kind of call center experience because we all loved pets, and many people brought their pets to work. Taking an occasional “dog break” after a rough call did a lot to reduce the stress.
But there was one extraordinary cat who came to work, and that was my beloved Siouxsie Mew. The vast majority of pets who came to work were dogs, but there were a few brave kitties, and Siouxsie was one of them. Even as a frail 17-year-old cat, she would easily put dogs in their place if they got too close.
About nine months after I was hired as a customer care representative, I applied for and got a position on the company’s hospital support team. We were responsible for answering questions from veterinarians, including taking appeal statements from vets when a customer’s claim was denied. We also processed what were called critical pre-approvals–when a pet was in an urgently life-threatening situation and minutes counted in order to be able to save that pet’s life–as well as standard pre-approvals for surgeries like cranial cruciate ligament repairs and other non-life-threatening issues.
Needless to say, being on the hospital support team could be, and often was, a very stressful job, but the moments when I was able to contribute to a life saved, and the people who were so happy I could help them, were worth it.
My teammates were an awesome crew, too. We were a small team–there were about eight of us, and we rotated shifts so each one of us took turns with the worst shifts (for me, that was the 5 a.m. to 2 p.m. shift–even though I’m a day person, it was awfully hard to roust myself out of bed at 3 a.m. to prepare for my work day) so nobody got stuck with them for more than a month.
Our supervisor was a take-no-bullshit person, and she was always fair. When she evaluated our performance, she did it based on data and actual recorded calls, not cliques or personality quirks. We were a good and cohesive team, and Siouxsie was as much a part of the team as I was.
Siouxsie enjoyed teasing my co-worker Katie’s Chihuahua, even staging a sit-in in poor Charlie’s bed. Siouxsie would get into the bed, and Charlie would look at me, and then look at Katie, being very forlorn. After we both had a laugh, I’d remove Siouxsie from Charlie’s bed and put her back in her favorite heated bed–a great place to ease the creaky bones of an elder kitty.
Siouxsie also enjoyed “helping” me with my freelance work when we were home together. Mostly, that help took the form of sitting on my shoulders as I tried to write the articles I posted on Catster.com.
But inevitably, the time came when the bad days started to outnumber the good ones. She began getting frequent urinary tract infections because her urine was too dilute to kill the bacteria that would get into her urethra as part of the natural course of cat life. Not only that, but her hyperthyroidism, which we’d treated unsuccessfully with I-131 therapy, had caused her to lose weight. At her highest, she weighed almost 13 pounds and my vet threatened to put her on a diet. Toward the end, she barely broke the 7-pound mark.
As the end approached, and I told my co-workers that the next visit might be Siouxsie’s last, they understood just how hard that time was for me. They were incredibly supportive and kind, and they even made me a lovely card in which they expressed their caring and love, not just for Siouxsie but for me, too.
If there’s one thing that’s amazing about working for a pet health insurance company, you’re surrounded by people who love their pets, too, and they get it when it comes to how hard it is to lose a beloved friend.
I remember the day I scheduled Siouxsie’s euthanasia. I called the vet during my break and made the appointment. I must have looked like I was in shock because when I went to the coffee machine to refill my mug, my friend Carmen came up to me and said, “You look sad. Are you okay?”
“I just scheduled Siouxsie’s euthanasia,” I told her. She hugged me and I broke down crying. I was so grateful for her support and love during the hardest time in any cat lover’s life. Carmen also took me to the vet when it was time to say goodbye to Siouxsie, and she took me out for coffee and ice cream and a visit to Sunset Park, one of Seattle’s most beautiful parks, where I reminisced about Siouxsie and how amazing a companion she’d been to me for 19 years.
I told her about how Siouxsie saved my life when I was in such a state of profound depression that I was seriously considering taking my life. Siouxsie wouldn’t let that happen. She and Sinéad planted themselves on my lap and would. Not. Move, unless I had to go to the bathroom. They did this for weeks on end, every time I sat down, they were on top of me.
I told Carmen about how amazing she was during the trip to Seattle. She just took it in stride, and while Thomas and Bella were doing their best to keep me from putting them in their carriers every morning, Siouxsie just stayed on the bed and let me put her in hers without any problems.
I told her about how she’d greeted Belladonna when I first adopted her. Thomas fell in love the moment they met, and Siouxsie was like, “Oh, I suppose.”
I told her about adopting Siouxsie and Sinéad too young, because I didn’t know better, and how I had to put kitten replacement milk in their kibble (I know better than to feed kibble now, too) in order to make a gruel that they could eat with their tiny teeth.
I told her about how I used to take Siouxsie out on leash walks, and how one time Siouxsie and I almost caused a car accident because a driver was so weirded out by seeing a cat on a leash. (Yes, we were in the front yard and nowhere near the road.)
One video I made of Siouxsie walking around in the snow has somehow managed to get more than 600,000 views on YouTube.
I was truly blessed that Siouxsie Mew was part of my life for almost 19 years. She is one of the inspirations behind this blog, too. It was my experience with her, from kittenhood through aging and her inevitable death, that made me realize I have a special place in my heart for those cats who are reaching the end of their lives. She and Thomas are helping me to understand more and more about that ninth life and what it means to make a cat’s final years really excellent and full of love.
Thank you, Siouxsie, for an amazing life together. I’ll always love you.