|Cinnamon in our camper in Wyoming, July 12, 2009|
Many of you who read my book remember Cinnamon, our spicy feline who came to live with us as a kitten and became Maggie's best friend. At 17 years of age, Cinnamon shared a huge span of our 20 years of life together in this house. She was here through conflicts, career changes, personal growth/changes, surgeries, dog losses, family visits, family heart breaks, parent losses, foster dogs, new dogs; through our laughter and tears ... It is with great sadness that I tell you that Cinnamon passed on August 26, 2010. My photos of Cinnamon here aren't an exact match to what I'm writing about, but I wanted to share the beauty and joy of her as I write this very difficult post.
|April 8, 2010 in our yard -- Cinnamon's domain|
As a kitten and young cat, she was a pistol, and earned the name "Little Buggs," short for "Little Bugger." Anyone who stayed in our basement bedroom felt her wrath when they pet her ... my nephew, who lived with us on 2 occasions, my parents when they visited, and others. After all, this was her room, right? Along with every other room in the house! She thought nothing of swatting anyone who touched her below her head. She rolled on her back seemingly to invite a belly rub, but grabbed anyone's hands with her teeth (play, right?) and kicked with her back feet.
|The beginning: May or June, 1993, on Tom's lap|
But with age (and treatment for hyperthyroidism many years ago) she calmed and allowed more touch. Our bond grew; trust deepened. Cinnamon came to be the steady force of peace and simply "being" in our home, a gentle, quiet presence who purred when I simply walked into the room she was in. Her entrance was subtle; her presence powerful.
|Queen Cinnamon on bed in South Padre rental condo, 12-07-07|
I looked at her in June and remarked to Tom, my husband, "She just doesn't look 17 -- she still has that curious kitty face she's always had." He agreed. I had noticed, however, that during the early summer she began eating a bit less, and drinking more. Knowing how common kidney disease is in elderly cats, I found myself silently saying to her while petting her at her food bowl, "please, just one more camping trip, Baby Soul, just one more time so we can cuddle together.
|Serving the Queen on "her" bed in camper, 7-26-06|
We had taken Cinnamon in our camper with us since she was 12 years old, and she seemed to thrive on it. In fact, we all did. The 4 of us (including our black lab, Maddie) were always in sight in such a small space. And Cinnamon crawled under my sleeping bag every morning at first light, lay close, and purred. Oh, how I loved this because my Cinnamon was not a cuddle cat at home in any way, shape, or form. Be in the same room and close, yes, but "do not pick me up or place me in your lab, please!" As we prepared for our upcoming mountain camping trip in early July, I resolved that if her increased drinking and decreased eating continued or worsened, I would get obtain lab work. Her weight was unchanged, so I wasn't too concerned about her eating.
|7-6-09 Cinnamon gets brave at gas station in Pinedale, Wyoming. "I can do it if Maddie can."|
My angel gave us that one more time. The first week of our trip was beautiful, camping and hiking in Lake City, CO. Cinnamon was herself, except for one thing. Each morning she came to my sleeping bag and seemed to want under, like always, yet she was restless and didn't come under it; or if she did, didn't stay. Once I sat up with my tea, she'd finally come under my bag and cuddle next to or inside my legs -- purring to the nines. I wasn't sure what to make of this, but at the time didn't make much of it. Then she began leaving her wet food at night.
|"Prrrrr -- ah, good, Tom I love your foot ear rubs! Just a little further up..." In camper, 7-21-07|
We went on to the next town, Montrose, where her eating definitely diminished. I called the vet and made the appointment. I have written about the results and Cinnamon's ups and downs on our trip in my previous blog posts, which you can refer to. After that trip to the vet, Cinnamon's behavior radically changed. She didn't want to interact with us, and ate nothing but a small portion of dry food at night. I was devastated. The many endearing things she did flooded my mind, and I had that awful realization that I may have experienced them for the last time.
|Cinnamon fearlessly peers off 7th floor in South Padre Island, 11-17-07|
I thought of the way she always bit my head and chewed on my hair when I lay on the living room floor doing yoga stretches at night. She lay right where I needed to stretch, sink her teeth into my head and pull my hair, and then licked the cream off my face with her sandpaper tongue. It used to irritate me, but what I wouldn't give to have her do it again, just one more time ...
Then one night in the camper I was stretching on the bed. I felt her familiar rub on my head, and yes, there was the bite and pull. My eyes teared with hope and recognition of what she was giving me. Yes, she gave what I loved one more time, as if she, too, were saying good-bye to each of our special interactions.
|Cinnamon loved biting my head and licking my face as I stretched, 12-22-06|
"Please make it home with us," I silently begged her. "Make it through Brad's (my nephew) wedding." She obliged. I so hoped arriving home would change things, but when we got home, Cinnamon was so not herself. After the first few nights, the only food she ate was from our hands. Over the course of the next several weeks, I found myself thinking of so many precious things she always did -- sweet behaviors that I was already mourning. I silently wished she would do them again, at least just one more time: meow outside the bathroom door after my shower and come in to rub on my legs, and lay against them as I dressed; come lay with us in the living room as we stretched before bed; hang out and sleep close to me on the living room floor when I slept out there on a pad (a snoring husband or difficulty sleeping sends me sleeping elsewhere); come to the screen door when I was outside and ask to come out ...
|"I will ALWAYS love black dogs!" (Cinnamon and Maddie on "Maggie's" bed, 4-23-08)|
I knew our days were numbered, and my heart was so heavy. I treasured the touch of her nose and tongue on my fingers when she took her food from me, and backed off when Cinnamon turned her back with her clear signal of, "get that food out of here."
|Oops, busted...hogging middle of dog bed -- AGAIN. "But ALL beds in this house are MINE." 6-29-08|
I catered to her, bringing her water to her new day hang out at the top of the stairs to my office, where she could observe every move we made, but be far enough away; carried her outside to lay in her favorite spots when I/we were out there; fed her pieces of grass when she couldn't find one that suited her; gave her Bach Flower Remedies; had a vet come to the house to do acupuncture. Had we not been hand feeding Cinnamon, she'd have been gone weeks earlier. Each time I lifted her, she felt lighter. Yet she purred every time we came near. Each night I awakened several times and opened my eyes to her sitting at the bedroom screen door, watching what she loved the most: the outdoor world. I lay awake watching her, drinking in my last nights with her, wanting to burn this image of her in the doorway forever.
|Cinnamon "terrorizing" mellow Maggie in her young years|
One night after my shower, I opened the bathroom door. Cinnamon walked in and looked as though she were trying to remember something. She walked into the bathroom for the first time since we returned home, and sat against my legs, ever so briefly. My heart was full as I luxuriated in the softness of her fur -- just one more time. Then she was out of there. I felt like she had honored my unspoken wish, and again was saying her own good-bye to this particular special moment we so often shared. What a validation of our spiritual connection, and her ability to tune in and respond to those bonding moments I missed most, and find a way to give them one last time.
|2-8-10 in Padre, crossing paws as Maggie used to do|
After many nights of keeping her distance, Cinnamon did lay with us in the living room during our stretching, as long as we didn't try to feed her, for the last few nights of her life. What amazed me is that rather than remove herself totally from us as so many animals do before they leave this world, she still wanted to be a part of us, and just made sure we knew exactly how she needed her distance.
|Cinnamon and Maddie, back seat, from Lake City to Montrose, 7-11-10|
A very special "just one more time" came Tuesday evening, August 24. Cinnamon always wanted outside with me as I watered the front flowers. But she had not come down to the foyer in days. It was later than usual when I watered, and already dark. I kept looking back at the screen door, hoping to see what I knew I wouldn't: Cinnamon sitting at the screen door, meowing to come out, or kneading her claws in the screen. But after several minutes I did a double take -- there she was, claws in the screen, looking at me, waiting. I was delighted! I NEVER let her out at night, but I figured she couldn't run from me, and I'd hover over her every move. I opened the door and out she trotted; down the steps, then the driveway, and into the street (we are on a quiet cul-de-sac with virtually no cars)! She hadn't done this in years! I lifted her light body and placed her back at the end of our driveway. Lo and behold, she leaped forward in a sudden move. There was a baby toad that her little paw found -- just one more time. Of course I didn't let her hurt the toad, but I will always treaure that 2 nights before she left this world, she surveyed her "domain" one last time, and got in one last "hunt." And we got to share one last moment doing what we always did together -- hanging out outdoors, what we both love the most. I think I owe this to her acupuncture treatment on Monday, bringing out her last bit of "chi" (energy), the last of her life force.
|7-31-10 in camper in Montrose, CO|
On Wednesday my Cinnamon barely ate. I knew she was going downhill. I slept out in the living room on the floor again, hoping she'd sleep near me. Since we returned home when I tried this, she did not. But when I awakened, there she was, just a couple feet from my head -- and we shared our last night together, just one more time.
|The last time Cinnamon exercised her claws on camper couch, 7-28-10|
Cinnamon, I love and miss you more than my words can begin to express. Thank you, my girl, for all the wonderful years you gave us. I will always, always love you ...
|1-26-10, South Padre, relaxing on couch|