February [Stories] 28

Awh, we’ve made it to the end of February. Seems like just yesterday I started my first story post. But don’t you worry, I saved one of my favorite memories for last. Get your tissues if you’re sensitive. I’m going to tell you a tale of my best friend.

I hadn’t lived in Pennsylvania long, but there I was in the back yard, gathering all the walnuts I could find and putting them into a large tub. Why you may ask? Because I was told upon my completion, my parents would give me the okay to get a cat. I was scared they may go back on their word, but I cleaned every single walnut from the yard.

They kept their word, and off to the local humane society we went. My older sister and I were both allowed to pick out a cat. This was a big deal to me, I was basically picking my companion for the long term future. I was only 9, these were real life decisions that would put you in a panic. But my excitement outweighed the nerves.

We walked into the caged area and my sister pretty much immediately picked hers out. A black and white cat she came to call Willow. I walked up to a cage of kittens, and they were all quite noisy, trying to get my attention. They too were a combination of black and white, some tabbies, some just regular. But in the back of the cage was one that didn’t make a peep, and seemed like it’d given up on getting attention. A little grey kitten, who I turned to my parents and said, “That one.”

Just like that, I had decided. When I looked at it in the cage, I felt as though it looked back into me also. It was instant that I knew she was the cat for me. We took the two new additions to the family home in a laundry basket full of blankets. Their loud meows filled the van as we went down the gravel driveway.

Young Duchess

I named her Duchess. I had no real reason, I just liked the name. We got home and I immediately took her to my room to play. I tied some string to the end of a stick and dangled it about, she loved chasing it. I made her a little bed to lay in when she got tired, but she didn’t really go for it. My younger brother was there too, and young Duchess had a blast.

Unfortunately, the cats were not fully litter trained, so when it came time for bed, I had to surrender Duchess to a gated off section of the downstairs. I was sad, but understood. Willow too was taken downstairs. I slept on an air mattress that night, because I let my brother have the bed. I fell asleep quick, because I too was exhausted from the day.

When I woke up, I felt something between my legs. I looked down slowly, and there was Duchess. She had escaped her prison in the night, and ran upstairs, into my room, and laid with me. I was moved. This little kitten had bonded with me, and I was reassured I had made the right choice. Willow did not escape, by the way.

From that day on, I had my best friend. I told her every secret, every truth I had. She listened to my bad days, and my good ones. I always counted on her comfort. When I’d watch TV, she would always sit with me, not just demanding cuddles, but wanted to just be with me while I sat.

Duchess during dinner

It became obvious quite quickly that Duchess was extra intelligent. I know most people say that about their pets, but I’m not just saying it. Like when she was a kitten, and remembered how to navigate to my room after only seeing it once, she was always watching. If she wasn’t watching me, she was watching other family members. You could always count on Duchess to find a nice vantage point, and just watch what you were up to.

She loved to sit in that high-chair. It was the perfect height to enjoy watching dinner time chit-chat. She wasn’t much of a people food cat. Though she did have a weakness for doritos. It didn’t matter how much time passed, she always enjoyed being around me, even if we weren’t playing. No matter where I’d go, she would follow. Inside or out.

She didn’t play with many toys, but she loved her brush. If she saw me pull it out of the drawer, she would be there immediately demanding to be brushed. She wasn’t vocal unless she really wanted something. She was good at communicating what she wanted.

Following me around

Theres going to be a bunch of pictures, I’m not sorry though. Duchess continued to be there for me, no matter what. When I became a teen, she still laid with me during my school frustrations. Always waiting for me to get off the bus. She listened to my woes without judgement, and never once complained. She was very well behaved cat, enjoying her time outside, but never really wrecking anything or chewing where she shouldn’t.

“Love waking up to find this.” 2011

There was one thing that I could always count on no matter what, when I’d wake up, Duchess was right there between my legs like the first time. Eventually she did shift to the side of me though, probably to avoid me rolling and launching her in her sleep. But that was only for the last few years.

College times came, and although I was gone longer, she was always happy to greet me. At this point I was living on my own, and she was my full responsibility. She was happy though. She was most definitely getting old though. She didn’t care about catching birds so much, and enjoyed her time lounging around.

Duchess was there when I got Kita. She had no fear of the dog, and put Kita in her place more than once. Kita knew not to mess with her, and they roamed the house as equals, even if in reality Duchess ruled the roost. The first time Kita met Duchess she jumped at her to play, and Duchess right hooked her right off the bed. Its a shame Raven and Banshee couldn’t have gotten the same lesson.

Finding the warmest spot in the room

Alas, nothing can ever last forever. Duchess was no exception to the rule of time. She never had perfect health, but she started to get sick more often. She lost weight, and even though she still acted the same, I knew that my time with her would be limited moving forward.

I was 23 years old, and had spent more of my life with her, that without her. Honestly, I wish I had paid her more attention in her last couple years. I had been trying so hard to make it out there in the big world that I didn’t have much extra time.

But then, the day came where I went home from a long day at work, and Duchess was not around. I looked around for her, and found her laying on the couch. She got up to greet me, but fell over. She had been to the vet a couple weeks prior because she had a respiratory infection. She seemed weak, and dehydrated. I did my best for her that night, but she didn’t improve. I knew what was happening, but since it all happened so soon, I barely felt I had a chance to say goodbye.

I made the call the next day. I wouldn’t let her suffer. Not one minute.

Taking her out in the sun one last time

She was very tired, and weak. She was having kidney failure, and there was nothing that could be done. She had stood by me for a couple months shy of 15 years. It was the hardest time in my life. I had lost family members before, but nothing compared to losing your closest companion. I felt bad that I couldn’t do more for her, or give her a proper goodbye.

Duchess hated car rides, once she realized she was in the car on the way to the vet that day, she started meowing. Voicing her dissatisfaction of being in the car. It felt full circle. Bringing her into my life she was meowing loudly, and now, on the saddest car ride ever, she was did the same. The vet looked at her, and agreed there was nothing to be done, and it was time to say goodbye.

The final picture of my best friend

I thought about everything she did for me, as she laid there. I was truly grateful, to have such a best friend. It’s coming up on 5 years since you passed. I still miss you every day.

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