Smokey's Memorial
In Memory of Smokey
aka
Little Black Kitty

(1991 - 2000)

smokey picNo one knows when or where she was born, such is the early life of a stray. One day in January 1992 I found her huddled in the corner at top of the stairs that lead to my apartment, so dehydrated & sick looking, I didn't want her near my cats because I had just lost one to a blood disease contracted from a stray that I had let in my apartment, but I couldn't leave her there looking so pathetic, certain that she would die or be killed by a dog or larger cat. Her first night as part of my life was spent on the balacony where she would have as little contact with my 3 other cats as possible and the next morning I took her to the vet, expecting to be told that she was dying, expecting to be told to have her put to sleep. She looked terrible. The vets make you give animals names right away. I hadn't thought of one because I didn't know if I was taking her to her death or keeping her. When they asked her name, I thought for a second, looked at her brown-ish black fur with flecks of white & decided her name would be Smokey, a name I would never call her. To me, she would always be my Little Black Kitty.

Yes, I kept her. Except for being dehydrated & malnurished, the vet said she was fine. After a few weeks of being fed & loved she was a bundle of energy that loved to taunt my other cats into chasing her and loved to be places where she knew she shouldn't be, such as the top of the refirgerator, her favorite place to watch me. Most cats are good at catching little things and Smokey was the best fly catcher I ever had.

Once when she was still a kitten, she got out onto the balcony in the middle of a really bad hail storm. I didn't realize that she was out there until the worst of the storm has past. That's when I learned that she was a storm cat, a cat that loved to be outside when it was raining. Unlike Puff, who hides at the sound of thunder, Smokey always wanted to outside during thunderstorms. I had to watch her really closely, because it bothered me that she wanted to be out there, but she didn't mind getting soaked.

Cats are different than dogs when it comes to heirarchy & deciding who is Top Cat. There is no such thing as an "Alpha Cat". If Smokey had a role in the household, she was the one who defied all the power struggles. She chased the 2 big tom cats, and pulled their tales when they weren't looking. Only Smokey could wrestle with Puff, my Siamese, who always played dirty when one of the boys challenged her, but my Little Black Kitty wasn't intimidated by Puff & her pure-bred self righteousness. Smokey, Nosey & Whisper would curl up and sleep together as if they were all from the same litter, even though Smokey was not their sister.

She was a happy cat who loved to be held and almost always slept with me.

As everyone started getting older, she was still the troublemaker, Nosey's partner in crime & fellow bird watcher.

When Nosey & his brother Whisper turned 10, I realized that I had 4 middle aged cats in my home. Because Puff & Smokey were both strays, I don't know their exact ages, just that they are approximately 2 years younger then my 2 tabby boys. They weren't elderly. A cat might live well beyond 15, but I knew the chances of all 4 of them being alive in 5 more years were not good.

Although I knew my cats were in their final years, I wasn't prepared to lose the youngest one 1st. When Smokey got sick a  couple of weeks before Easter, I thought about taking her to the vet. Then she seemed fine for about a week. But it wouldn't last. I noticed she wasn't eating and was obsessd with water. Something was very wrong. She had been like this the year before and the vet gave her a shot & gave me some medicine to give her. That had worked. She had been fine for a year and that's what I expected when I took her to the vet. This time the vet was suspiscious. The weight loss had been severe - 2 lbs in a month. A blood test revealed what was going on - acute kidney failure. I had expected to take smokey home that day, instead I was faced with deciding whenther to have her put to sleep right then & there or give her another chance to have a few more months of life. A IV might get her kidneys to start working, or it might do nothing. I decided to give her the one last chance. After more than 48 hours on an IV, the level of toxins in her blood had not changed. She was dying and was probably going to die soon. When I decided to have her put to sleep, I was mostly afraid that she would react to seeing me and I'd change my mind, prolong her suffering, but that didn't happen. The last time I saw my Little Black Kitty alive, she was listless and weak, barely able to recognize me. That was Good Friday.

Ending her suffering was not difficult, but coming home to a home where 4 cats had lived, finding only 3 put me into a profound sadness. As soon as I thought I could handle this grief just fine, I saw Nosey looking around doors & under my bed. I knew he was looking for her and I cried even more. That was Easter Sunday.

The loss of a pet is something that many of us endure alone. Especially when that pet is a cat. For some reason that relationship between cat & human is seens as lesser than that of dog & human. Well, I loved my dog just as much as I loved Smokey, but no one understands the relationship that you have with a cat except for you because that relationship is based on the individual personality of the cat. Only if you knew her as I did would you understand, and that's not possible.

Yes, I've stopped crying, but I haven't stopped missing her.

This is a crazy thing that we do to ourselves. Most dogs & cats that we bring into our lives will not out live us. If we are lucky, they will be happy & healthy for about 10 - 15 yrs. Knowing that we will have to say goodbye to them, maybe before we are prepared to do so, is the great paradox of owning pets. I wouldn't give up the sadness for the 8 1/2 years the Smokey was part of my life.

Without the sadness, there is no joy.