"And, when you want something, the entire Universe conspires in helping you to achieve it." -The Alchemist, by Paulo Coehlo



Monday, August 1, 2016

Astarte 9/1/1999 - 7/29/2016



I wanted to write a more detailed post, but the thoughts and words are failing me right now, so I'm cross-posting from Facebook.  I did add to the end though.

On Friday July 29, we put Astarte to sleep.

She was my "Un-Cat."

I loved her at first sight. She was the most striking calico I had ever seen, with the paint-splatter markings across her face and pupils that narrowed to tiny slits when the light hit them, like a dragon's. Astarte came into our lives, not because she chose me, but because she chose my brother. She was my brother's cat first, but after I saved her from a direct close encounter with one of our dogs with a high prey drive, I became her second.

She was named after the Syrian version of the Mother Goddess, Astarte, a goddess of creation and destruction. Except our Astarte never destroyed: she only created. She was left-handed and preferred to scoop water with her left paw to drinking directly from the bowl. She would chase imaginary bugs crawling up the walls and she lived to make us laugh. She had too-long ears that she would fold over backwards when grooming herself, which invariably made us giggle. I swear she did it on purpose. She genuinely thought that if she flattened herself against a surface, she would change color and become invisible...she would be so indignant if you reached out and touched her anyway!

Her pupils would dilate in an instant if she thought there was an opportunity to play involved.


"What is that??!!" We were watching Spongebob Squarepants...


"Whatchu lookin' at?" - Astarte
She loved shiny objects and would hoard knives and spoons if allowed. She was the guardian of my brother's katana, a job which she took very seriously.

"MY katana! Don't you dare touch it!"
She liked to re-decorate cardboard boxes and turn them into fantastical castles and houses with holes of varying sizes through which she would try to grab the legs of passers-by. Never with her claws though. Never, ever with her claws. My brother kept his old computer box in his bedroom for close to a year because it was her favorite thing to play in. When my mom sent us packages from PR, she would be as excited as if it was Christmas, impatiently waiting for us to pull out the box's contents so she could jump into it.

"If I fits, I sits!" - Astarte
Boxes, shirts and shoelaces were all favorite toys...and they are all featured in this single photo!
Inside a box that she...redecorated?


"This is MY box, mmmkay? You stay out of it, Aengus!" - Astarte
She was a prankster. Shakti, my personal cat, had no sense of humor and Astarte was constantly pranking her, pissing her off, and then running away to hide before Shakti could think of chasing her. You could just about hear her laughing as she made her escape.

"I solemnly swear that I'm up to no good." - Astarte
Pranking Aengus when he was still a kitten.
She was my nap buddy. She loved when we slept face-down so she could curl up in the small of our backs and purr us to sleep.

She was the best nap buddy.
Carlos was the other love of her life.
She had the tiniest meow. She would open her mouth so big to make such a small sound. "Gau!" she said. She had one orange spot on the back of one black ear that reminded me of Pikachu. I used to say she had one Pokemon ear, and since the sound she made was "Gau," it became her nickname. Just like Pokemons used to be named for the sounds they made.



She was my companion when I was studying French in college, and I started calling her "Gateau" which sounds like "Gato" ("cat" in Spanish) but actually means "cake." It stuck because she was so very sweet. Throughout her entire life, those of us that loved her called her "Gateau." She responded to it just like she did to "Gau" and "Astarte." She always answered when you called her by any of her three names.

When I was going to move to the US, I told my brother I was going to bring Astarte with me. I loved my cat, Shakti, but Astarte was my secret favorite. My brother said, "Hell no!" but a year later he moved to the States himself and she stayed behind with my mom.

Three years later, I asked, with my brother's permission, to have Astarte brought to me from PR. She had never been on a plane before but she travelled so quietly that everyone sitting near my mom complimented her.

And so began her life with Carlos and me. My little Puerto Rican Shorthair lived with us in 5 apartments and 3 states. For the move north from Florida, she rode loose in the car, alternating between curling up in our laps or the passenger side floor, with a litter box behind the passenger seat. 1100 miles and 17 hours she travelled, in my car. She weathered hurricanes, tropical storms, snow storms and one blizzard.

"You people move too much! But I'm happy as long as I'm out of that goddamn carrier!"
"This ENTIRE bed is mine, yes?" Yes, Astarte, it is. You totally deserve your own bed after 1100 miles in a car! This was at the hotel we stayed at, the first night we arrived in the north.
She was so happy to be out of the car! She ran around the room with her nose to the ground like a Beagle. She made such a fuss over that enormous bed for herself...then proceeded to join Carlos and me on ours after we fell asleep. :) Because Astarte.
She had never seen snow before...and neither had Aengus because he was born in the summer!
This was our first winter in Maryland. 
She loved to be held. She loved laps. If a lap was empty, she would crawl into it, purring. Always purring.

A second after this photo was taken, she turned her head against my chest and closed her eyes, falling asleep right there, being held like this.
"All hail to The Queen of Laps." - Astarte
She was impossible to auscult at home because the second you touched her or spoke to her, she started purring. We called her "Astarte The Purr." If you hurt or didn't feel well, she would cuddle up next to you or on top of you, right where you hurt, to purr you to sleep. Even when she didn't feel well herself, she still tried to take care of us.
The last time she purred for me, only two weeks before her death. I had suffered a catastrophic fall with massive bruising and swelling across my hips, lower back and right thigh, and spent the first 48 hours post-injury flat in bed in an ocean of pain. She knew. She clambered up onto the futon with the little strength she had and carefully settled on top of me, right over where I hurt the most, and purred me to sleep one last time. The swelling and pain had significantly decreased when I woke up. 
Carlos always knew when it was me coming up the stairs to our apartments because she would start purring when she heard my footsteps. When we lived in the townhouse in South Florida, she knew the sounds of our cars and would be at the window next to the front door, standing on her hind feet like a dog excitedly waiting for us to return.
"YOU'RE HERE!!!"
She taught my friends and family who didn't like cats just how cool cats can be. She was always at the door to greet new people and she seemed to sense when they weren't sure about cats: she would go right up to them and say, "I won't hurt you. Let me show you." If allowed, she would curl up in their laps to purr too.

She was a master rug climber. She would hook her claws into the carpet and drag herself along sideways as if she was rock climbing!
"I'm just going to rug climb away from that kitten right there..." - Astarte
It is because of her that I fiercely defend all torties and calicos that walk into the veterinary hospital. Sure, they can be fractious, opinionated patients, but they are especially wonderful souls and they should not be mistreated simply because they have an opinion as patients. I don't like being poked with needles either.

Purring and kneeding on my lap while I talked on the phone with my mom one chilly winter morning in South Florida. 
One time I was having a heated argument with Carlos. I was sitting on the living room floor and my voice was rising in increments. Astarte was distressed. She came up to me and meowed at me, "Gau!" I ignored her. She did it again. I ignored her, I was too involved in the argument. She finally jumped into my lap, stood up on her hind legs like a squirrel, put a paw over my mouth, her face directly in front of mine and howled at me, "GAAAAAUUUUUUUU!" I was shocked. I have never had an animal tell me to shut up. And that was totally what she did! Carlos and I burst out laughing. We laughed and laughed and laughed, until tears were rolling down our faces. "Okay Carlos, you win," I said. Satisfied, Astarte curled up in my lap and fell asleep, purring. She was incredible. Absolutely incredible.

The master snuggler.
Weathering a summer storm. This was classic Astarte.
There was no such thing as to many kisses for this one. When I woke up in the morning and kissed Carlos, she would immediately hop on the bed with a "Gau!": "What about me? I want kisses too!"
Of all the cats we have ever had, she is the only one that miss us for us when we were gone. The others would go, "Oh. You're back" and go about their little daily routines as if nothing had happened. Astarte would be like, "FINALLY MY PEOPLE ARE HERE!" She would be meowing at the door before we could unlock it, going, "Hold me! Pet me! Sit down so I can be with you!" She always made sure we knew how much she loved us. If love could take the shape of an animal, it would have been Astarte.

You couldn't make up the wonderful things she did. Here she was, hugging my arm with her face resting on my hand, purring away. 
Curled up in Carlos's lap after a rough shift in the human ER. 
She loved me to pieces but she adored Carlos. On her last day on earth, when she was too weak to go to the litter box from the renal failure that had been slowly stealing her away, she still stumbled out of her bed all the way to the living room just so she could crawl into his lap one more time. And she did not purr.

I sat next to Carlos as the tears streamed down his face. The only thing harder than facing a loved pet's impending death is seeing a grown man cry over that pet.

We knew it was time.

I couldn't take her in to work with me because it was a one-hour drive in morning traffic. I just couldn't do that to her, and I couldn't handle dealing with who would hold her and who would place her IV catheter (I couldn't do either. Not with her). So I asked Carlos to take her in to the specialty hospital across the street from us the next morning after he got home from work. I could not handle being present.

I meant to bring home some clay from my hospital so I could make a pawprint of her tiny paws while she was still alive. I had always wanted to do this and I kept procrastinating. Halfway home that day, I realized I had completely forgotten the clay. I tried to not be upset and hoped that at the veterinary hospital across the street they would do it for us. This is something that most specialty hospitals do.

Her tiny paws, claws always sheathed. She was a terrible hunter because she never unsheathed her claws. She would use them on her favorite scratcher, but she would never even hurt a fly.
I love all cats with especially tiny paws because of her. I wanted a memory of those paws.
I only slept four hours that night. I kept waking up to go pet Astarte. She was a shell of the glorious cat she had used to be.


Carlos came home at 4:00 am and I rolled out of bed to set up the carrier. I picked up Astarte and held her for a long time, saying my good-bye. You can't hold them long enough when you know you'll never see them again. I told her how much I loved her and what an amazing cat she had been. When I placed her in the carrier, she immediately curled up on the towel I had placed in there for her. She used to hate the carrier and would wail when placed in it, but on this day she didn't say a peep. She knew and she was ready.

"You brought me to your hospital to have blood drawn, which I hate more than anything in this world...but I love you anyway and I accept your food offering." - Astarte
I couldn't be present. I didn't know anyone at this hospital and I would have panicked over the IV catheter placement, over the euthanasia itself, and it would have upset Astarte. I asked Carlos to be there for her when she went; he was her favorite after all. He said he would.

Her "I love you" face.
I prayed that they would have good technicians on staff that morning, that they could get the IV in quickly and smoothly, and started to get ready for work. For my last day at work at the hospital I have worked at for the last 4 years, which is a whole other can of worms.

I felt her go. There was a flash of orange, black and white behind my eyes, at exactly 5:00 am, and I knew she was gone. I cried.

I never did tell Carlos about the pawprint.

He was back by 5:30 am. They had been able to place the IV without issue but had mentioned that her blood pressure had been very low; they had taken her away for it and brought her back immediately. She went peacefully.

"I love you, so I will rest my head on your arm." - Astarte
I burst into sobs when I saw what he held in his hands.

The pawprint. A pawprint of her tiny paws.


And I finished getting ready for work and went into the hospital that I had worked at for the past four years and kept a dog alive on the OR table despite her every effort to die on my very last day. Because I had to. No one else was dying on that day. I left that job with a bang.

I will miss you so much, my little one. You were such a good cat. Thank you for taking care of us, for watching over us, for loving us. Thank you for choosing us and for doing everything in your power to make us happy. A piece of my heart left with you.

This was my favorite picture of her, sitting next to a paper mache angel.
Because she was an angel herself. 



25 comments:

  1. I'm so sorry. There isn't enough time. I could never write so lovingly after I lost my girl, the words wouldn't come without too much pain, so I know how hard this must have been to write. Thank you for sharing her with us.

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  2. My heart breaks for you. Those clay paw prints are so special. I know I said this on FB, but I will leave it here as well. Our furry loved ones leave us with a very special gift. Her memories will warm your soul on a cold day and bring a smile to your face when you are sad. Maybe not today, but in the future. You will miss her every day, but some day you will feel her love for you when you think back on the time you had. Big hugs to you.

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    1. *Hugs back* I know you especially understand, Sara. </3

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  3. I am so, so very sorry for your loss. I can tell through every word of this how much she was beloved.

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  4. What a lovely tribute. So hard to let them go... It's obvious Astarte had a wonderful life with you and Carlos. (((❤️❤️❤️)))

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  5. Crying my eyes out for you and Carlos, Saiph... I am so very sorry for your loss of Astarte. It does sound like all is truly as it should be, though. I LOVE that you got her dear little paw prints and bless the people at the hospital for doing that.

    ((Hugs to you both)) and I hope there are many boxes on the other side of the Bridge for Astarte to rearrange. Her sweet spirit will remain with YOU, though, I'm certain.

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    1. Thank you so much RiderWriter. The comment about the boxes made me giggle at a time when I really needed it! *hugs*

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  6. Sorry for your loss. When Fred passed away they gave me an impression of his paw as well.

    She sounds like she was a pretty special cat!

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    1. The pawprints are so special. On ER I tried to do all of my coworkers' when their pets passed away because I made sure they came out perfect. We had little letter stamps for their names but sometimes I would do outright calligraphy in the clay. I was always so proud of them.

      She was one in a million.

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  7. They get so little time with us for the profound impact they make on our souls. Mi mas sentido pesame.

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  8. I"m so sorry for your loss. She sure sounds like a very special animal.

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  9. I'm so sorry for your loss. She was a very pretty cat and she sounds like a good soul.

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  10. I am so sorry. That was beautiful.

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  11. She was truly one-of-a-kind and goodbyes are never easy. Many hugs, my condolences <3

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  12. I sobbed reading this. I am so incredibly sorry for your loss and your sorrow. She was a gorgeous kitty and it sounds like an incredible soul. I am so lucky she got to be yours for so long. I am wishing you peace and thinking of you <3

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  13. She was beautiful, it sounds like she had a lot of love in her life.

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  14. Thank you everyone for the many condolences. <3

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  15. Astarte was a once in a lifetime cat, many lifetimes over.

    I love the pic of her hugging your arm. And waiting for you at the door. And on your lap. What a cat. I've always wanted a dog-like loyal cat, one who likes laps, and PURRS. Maybe someday.

    I read an article last week that you can judge personality by the cat's color. You seem to agree. If this is really true, then it can't be that far fetched for horses. In my experience the friendliest cats are orange. I've had two grey tabbies now, both standoffish.

    How I'd love to have a kitten of Astarte's! I can see why your brother wouldn't give her up.

    I'm really sorry to see your avatar change: (

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    1. There are some stereotypes associated with color: orange cats do tend to be very sweet, gray cats tend to have horribly short fuses as patients, tuxedos are very stubborn, and calicos & torties are very opinionated. There is also an assumption that male cats are sweeter and more extroverted than females. But the sides of them we see at work are so different from how they are at home! And I've met so very many exceptions to all of these generalizations that I don't assume anymore. :) My own gray tabby (Aengus) is absolutely incredible in his own way. My Sir Chirps-A-Lot. We have entire conversations with him responding to everything I say, and he has been especially amazing since Astarte is gone.

      But I still miss her. It was hard coming back from our trip this past weekend and realizing she wasn't going to be home to greet us.

      I changed the avatar a couple of months ago, when she started to fade. Because every time I opened Google, it made it so very clear that she was not the cat she used to be anymore, that she was on her way out. I couldn't stand it. That was my favorite profile picture ever, and at some point I will use it again, when writing about her doesn't make me automatically start crying. :,(

      You will get your lap cat too one day. <3 He/she will find you.

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  16. Oh my goodness. I am crying at work. I saw this post come up but couldn't read it at the time because I knew it would be so sad. Boy, was I mistaken. This isn't sad, this is absolutely devastating. What an amazing cat she was - just the most perfect cat you could ever hope for.

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