Saturday, May 9, 2009


On Thursday, I took Annie and Alex - my two cats - to the vet. Their reactions were predictable. Alex freaked out in the car, meowing the entire time and periodically sounding like a little cougar (that's when his voice gets all gutteral). Annie sat very mellow on the seat next to me, loving the trip. (She's the one who has taken two cross-country road trips with me, once in 2001 and once this past year.)

Once we got to the vet's office, however, it was a complete turnaround. Alex doesn't mind all the vet's poking and prodding. Annie is sure they all are spies. Which they are, I guess, since they are trying to get information. But only for her own good! After her first bout of "treatment," she rushed into the cat box and shared it with Alex - quite unusual, since he beats up on her. And he was tolerant of her presence, also quite unusual. (Later, after he got out of the box, and then considered rejoining her, she hissed. He decided, hmm... looks like she needs her space, and left her alone.)

I call her Annie, but I think her real name is much more regal. Like, Annabelle Lee. Or Anastasia. I feel a little privileged, that I'm allowed to call her Annie anyway. And when I call to her (if she's outside), I'll triple it: "Annie, Annie, Annie," saying it fast. And still she comes when I call. Well, when she wants to, she comes. Here's a picture of her. She loves to sit on the couch by the window like that, and watch the world go by.

Annie's about 13 years old. We don't really know, we've had to guess. I got her as a young adult in 1998. She just had had a litter of kittens, and someone (her owner, most likely) placed her on Wellesley - a busy road in Spokane - with that litter of kittens. Left them to die? The pet rescue people ultimately found her and placed her in a temporary home with the kittens so she could raise them. It must have been chaotic, because the home had a bunch of dogs. That's where she got the name Annie. Once I got her, I decided she didn't need a third name in this lifetime, and left it at that. Besides, she truly is an Annie. (Short for something regal.)

She didn't like men for a long time. I figured whoever put her out in the middle of Wellesley likely was male - likely was the one in the household who would kick her when no one was looking. Over the years, she has learned to trust men. She loves my neighbor, for instance. But it took a few years before she changed her mind about them.

When we went to the vet on Thursday, they suggested getting a wellness check on her, given her age. I also wanted to get her teeth cleaned. I told them things I'd noticed - she seems to have a little arthritis; I can't just pick her up anymore, I have to let her get ready before I pick her up or she cries a little; and, just recently, she seems to have let up a little on grooming, at least around her neck and head. This one, to me, is a biggie. Annie is just a little on the fussy side. To see her fur get a little slick in places was a big surprise.

I do tell her she's not allowed to die. She's my angel cat, she circles the computer when I write, she literally "holds the space" while I work... She is very sweet, so aware of everyone else - is even nice to Alex all the time, even though he's mean to her. And I do think she's very smart. For instance, we'll be playing and she tries to grab my hand with her claws out and I tell her, "Annie, no claws," and she retracts her claws and still plays. She likes stuffed animals - will clean them, trot them around the house in her mouth... Once she got into a habit of taking one stuffed animal - a rooster that could sit upright - and she would leave him, sitting upright, facing the front door, so that when I would come home from work, there he was - sitting, staring up at me. After about the third or fourth time, I told her that she had to stop doing it - it was too creepy. She stopped.

She does this funny pen trick too - in the middle of the night, she goes through the house, finds a pen lying around (I kind of leave them for her, now that I know she likes to do this) and then she brings it into the bedroom, talking with it in her mouth, and then - pah - she spits it out on the floor next to the bed. Like - get up and write! Time to write! I grumble, say "thanks...." and go back to sleep.

Here's another game she likes to play. It's called "sit in the paper bag." At least, that's what I call it. She loves it especially when Alex is stalking her (his favorite game) because he can't figure out how to go after her when she is in a paper bag. Also, I love it because she is just so adorable there. The photo isn't a great one - but I think you get the idea. I love that you can see Alex in the background, behind the stereo speaker (which was the chaos of my house when I was writing the screenplay a couple weeks ago).

People say we're very connected, which I think is true. Last year, when I was at spring training in AZ for book signings, Annie escaped from my friend's apartment in Coeur d'Alene (Idaho) where she was staying. He looked everywhere for her but couldn't find her, and finally called after a day or so to tell me she was missing. My neighbor - Annie's friend - went over to call for her. I thought if she heard his voice, it might remind her of home... but no luck. I was frantic that she would try to walk the 30 or so miles home. So I flew home. Yes, I flew back to Spokane to go look for my cat. Which is what she wanted, of course - she wanted me home. It was time for me to come home, is what she thought. So she created a reason for me to come home. On the flight, I kept sending her images of my friend's apartment, his front door, sent her the sense of meeting me there... not words but senses... kept urging her to "stay put, stay there." ... I arrived in Spokane around midnight, rented a car (mine was down in Phoenix), drove to Coeur d'Alene, got to the apartment complex, parked, got out of my car, softly started saying, "Annie, Annie..." (trying not to wake up people)... And voila. There she was. In the middle of the parking lot. Looking at me like, yes? Did you need something? Stupid cat. But not stupid at all. She got me back in Spokane like she wanted, didn't she? (only to have me leave the next day, back to Phoenix for more book events - but still, I think she was satisfied). It took 15 seconds - maybe 30 - between the time I got out of the car and the time she appeared right there in front of me. I swept her up in my arms. She let me. I told her never to do that again. She blinked. (You two are connected, one of my friends said, when I recounted the story.)

So, on Thursday, when the vet said we have to think about things like kidney failure, I worried. I couldn't help it. And when the receptionist told me on Friday that Annie's blood tests were back but the technician would have to talk to me personally - I paced, for 15 minutes. I looked at Annie - are you sick? I asked her. She blinked, calmly, serenely... I couldn't stand the suspense another moment. I called back the vet's office and said, isn't the technician free yet?

And then, it was good news. She was just fine. Everything in the middle ranges. Of course in the middle. It's Annie. That's how centered she is. Anastasia Belle Lee would be nothing but balanced.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful, funny story. I do hope Annie is in full health.
My cats, were like yours. Alas they're gone. Gravy and Petunia. I grieve.

MarmiteToasty said...

So glad your cat is ok.......... one of mine got run over by a car a few weeks ago and I had to have him put to sleep....


Beth Bollinger said...

Thanks, from both of you... It breaks my heart, to hear of anyone losing one of these guys. Marmie, too - so recently... Your few words made my heart hurt. I do believe I will have the courage to put my two to sleep when it's their time. But it won't come easy. The link, BTW, is to a video of "Annie's Song" by John Denver, with lovely photos. Sweet song - thanks.

Kat212 said...

Aww, Cute Cat. My Cat Pete is anicent by cat standards, He is pretty much blind now and also has recently started losing a lot of his hair but it doesn't seem to bother him much at all. I have tried taking him to the vets but he's having none of it so I guess he just wants to live out his days in peace but I know the end is near.