Spring of 2006 was a time that all was right with the world. We still owned the bar; our son was finishing up 2nd grade; and I was working for the Washington Art Consortium and volunteering as much as I could at Happy Valley Elementary. We had our routine down. The bar was running smoothly so my love was able to come home for dinner and then head back down after our son went to sleep. Our son attended a wonderful school, played out back with the neighbor kids, swam for the Bellingham Bay Blowfish, and just enjoyed life as a kid growing up in Bellingham, WA. In addition to working for the most amazing collective of museums and galleries, I was working on my Masters in Arts Administration. All was right with the world.
The Washington Art Consortium office and collections are stored at the Western Gallery, Western Washington University (WWU). As a graduate of the WWU Art Department in Art History, this was such a familial place for me. The Art Department and the Western Gallery were like home. One day while sitting in my office, I am not sure what I was working on, one of the newer Art History professors announced that a litter of kittens were living near the sculpture studio and their mother had left them. There were many feral cats in the area as the Art Department abutted Sehome Hill, a wonderful place for nature hikes and so much more (our son’s birth ritual was atop of Sehome Hill.) To the chagrin of the lead Art Department Secretary, the professor brought the kittens into the office. Of course many of us gathered around to check them out. I could not resist. Walking back to my office the box of kittens remained in my mind the rest of the day as I devised a plan on how best to convince my love that we should adopt one.
At that point in time I think we just had one pet. It was a big old tomcat named Burky. He was quite the hunter. He would bring home any number of creatures. His favorite thing to do was to bring bunny butts and entrails into the house. Oh man, that would always get me going. Well I thought Burky needed a friend so I began to work on my love to convince him how cute these kittens were. It did not take too much convincing because my love knew he could not win and that I would bring a kitten home if I really wanted to. I suppose it was up for discussion but he was probably right. In the end, I brought two kittens home, one for us and the other for my mom.
The kittens are Norwegian forest Cats. These little lumps of fur were so tiny they could fit in the palm of your hand. While the two had similar features, their personalities were as different as night and day. The female kitten was fierce and fast. The male was timid and careful. Since we already had a male cat, I thought we should have the female kitten. My mom gladly adopted the male. By the way, he is still alive and living with us in Alaska. He actually is probably not too sad that his sister is gone. They never really got along to well. Bear, the name of the male cat lumbers along and still is just a mellow dude. While Bear has always been mellow, the female was always fast and fierce. Given her personality, we named her Flash.
Burky now had a playmate and a friend that he could go hunting out back. Our home in Bellingham was adjacent to a large tract of land that was not developed. It was a great place for neighborhood kids to build forts and for our cats to hunt for any number of creatures. While that might seem ideal, the problem was that in 2000 the City of Bellingham came through and widened our road, causing us to loose ten feet of frontage and creating a road that now could accommodate more traffic. After 2000 the road became a bypass for people who live in the Lake Whatcom area to get to the I-5 easier. Because of the increased traffic we lost a number of pets over the years.
For the first two years, Flash lived life to the fullest. Similar to Burky, she was a great hunter. While Burky had a fascination with Bunny butts, Flash would bring in birds that she had been playing with and that were not dead. The reason they could bring critters in so easily is because we had a pet door for them. I remember a number of times that Flash proudly brought in her prey and the poor bird would fly all around the house. We had lofted ceilings and of course the darn birds would try and find a way out through the skylights. What a spectacle, we would get a broom and duct tape an extension to the handle. That never worked. The bird eventually gave up and died. Birds were not the only critter Flash had a fascination with; mice, moles and bunnies were equally at risk. Flash was a lioness that enjoyed all that life had to offer.
In early summer of 2008 I received a call from my love that Flash had been injured. We really did not know how badly. My love told me that she had jumped over our six-foot fence entered the pet door and fell to the ground at my loves feet. He said she was a mess. I said well we better get her to the veterinarian to have her checked out. Our vet was on the other side of town. My love carefully picked her up and took her in. The Vet told us that Flash had at least nine fractures in her leg. We asked if he thought that he could set the leg. He admitted that while he could treat her, if we wanted it done right we should go to Seattle. We asked the cost difference and decided to give the Bellingham Vet Hospital a try instead. The Vet said that he could preform the surgery for $1,000. If we went to Seattle the surgery would likely cost a minimum of $4,000. We had never spent that much money on fixing a pet before. Flash was part of the family so we thought that we should at least give the Vet in Bellingham a try. So we agreed to the surgery.
During recovery we learned that her injuries were much more extensive then we thought. While we went back East for my grad school graduation, my mom took care of Flash. While cleaning her up she found that Flash had no feeling in her other leg at all and experienced pain in her hips and the first portion of her tail. Come to find out that during the surgery, nerves were pinched causing her non broken leg to be paralyzed and that her tail section near her hips to be paralyzed. Interesting enough, the middle and end section of her tail worked fine.
To make the most out of life, my love decided that Flash needed one of those devices that dogs use when they are missing legs. As I have said before, my love was a conceptual wizard. He designed and fabricated a wheeled carriage for Flash to get around in. My love spent a good amount of time on the carriage and in the end; Flash really would have nothing to do with it. Moving on. My love also created a carpeted step so Flash could perch herself atop and see the world. He made a carpeted playhouse for Flash. For someone who really did not want another cat, my love made every effort to find ways to make Flash’s life better.
While my love tried everything to give Flash a good life, Flash had her own ideas of what life was going to be like now that she had limited capabilities. When we returned home from graduation Flash used the perch that my love made for her and escaped out a window. She disappeared for over two weeks. Well we thought this was it. She went off to die. Working in the yard I heard a tiny meow from the apple orchard across the street. Curious, I walked over and yep, there was Flash, a flea bitten mess. We cleaned her up and moved the perch away from the window so she could not escape again. Probably a year later she managed to escape again. This time she left for only a week. Each time we thought this was it. Flash had gone off to die.
Fast forward to the fall of 2010. I accepted a job in Valdez Alaska. As my love and son sailed off to Desolation Sound off the coast of British Columbia, I packed the house for the trip north to Alaska. By this time Burky met his match with a raccoon. A year earlier my love had talked me into the sweetest golden retriever black lab mix. Her name is Annabelle. In addition to packing the house, I made sure the pets had all their papers so we could drive up the Alcan Highway (that is a story unto itself and I will likely tell it later.) We drove a 26-foot U-Haul and trailered my car. As the cab of the truck was full, the pets traveled in the car on the trailer. Annabelle rode in the front seat and Flash in a pet carry in the back. To ease Flash’s nerves I got some kitty downers for her. As my love had to get back to the boat in less then five days, the trip up the Alcan was going to be one of those quick trips. I had planned on driving myself with our son but my love would not have it. We drove from Bellingham to Valdez in a little over three days. While Flash faired relatively well, Annabelle no longer likes riding in the car. The washed out roads and dust were too much for her.
Once we arrived at our new house it was time to start moving in. Given that doors are left open when moving into a new place, this was yet another opportunity for Flash to wander off into the wild. This time though, there are bigger and meaner predators out there, bears and eagles to name a few. Yes, you got it. While moving in, Flash went on walk about again. Since she has done this before I really was not that worried. Oh, I was a little worried since this was a new neighborhood. The thing she had going for her was that there is thick brush all around the house. There are plenty of places to hide and voles to eat. One week went by and I mentioned to my son, “maybe this is it for Flash.” Then another week went by and I was now certain this was it. Until one afternoon I was in the yard contemplating what I would like to do with it, I hear a tiny meow. Yep, there she was again. While she was a mess, she had no fleas. The nice thing about Alaska, there is no fleas. So once again Flash was home.
Over the next few years Flash was queen of the household. She ruled with a sharp claw. We made sure that both Annabelle and Flash had equal love. We provided two pillows in front of the fireplace, a large one for Annabelle and a small one for Flash. Flash felt the small one did not suit her so she appropriated the large pillow and Annabelle was left with the small pillow. In the end, that worked out for Annabelle as we eventually allowed her to lie on the couch. Here was Flash on a dog bed that she occupied only a mere 5% of the pillow. Also, my mom and her cats now live with us. Flash’s brother Bear and my mom’s other cat Tjtske live on the first floor. As you can imagine, Flash made sure that her brother knew who was boss. Flash was perfectly able to get up the stairs but would scream until someone would come and get her. Flash knew how to play the game.
About six weeks ago Flash managed to find her way outside again. As this was three weeks before the passing of my love, I really had more to think about then Flash. Furthermore, she had done this so many times in the past; I figured she would come back. Although, three weeks is a long time and the snow had begun to fly. My love and I talked numerous times about how this time Flash went off to die. The weekend before my love passed, he had spoken of Flash wondering what had happened to her. The day after his passing, a neighbor who found her in his front yard brought Flash home to us. I took the cat in and scolded her for not coming back a day earlier. My love would have enjoyed knowing that Flash was all right.
She was a mess and so very thin. I cleaned her up and immediately fed her. She seemed to respond well to eating and attempted to clean herself and use the piddle pad that we provided her. A week went by and her health began to deteriorate. She did not eat and her bowel movements and urine were bloody. As I just lived through this with my love, I knew all was not right with the world. I probably should have brought her in days earlier, but I was a mess grieving the loss of my love. Then when I found the strength to call the local vet, they were out of town. The vet and I played phone tag for a week and I finally was able to get an appointment to put Flash out of her misery. Today, November 21, 2014 at 4:30 pm Flash left this world.
Until now, I have never had to deal with taking a beloved pet to the vet to be put to sleep. This is something that my love always handled. All day long I fretted. I reverted to the sobbing mess I was the week my love passed. Then I realized that I had forgotten to take the anti depressant that the doctor prescribed for me. I went home for lunch and found that Flash was in misery. Before going back to work, I took one of those anti depressants and continued on. At 4:05 pm I went home to pick up Flash. I knew this was the right thing to do. The poor animal no longer looked up lovingly. She had a look of pain. I found that inner strength that got me through picking my love up at the post office. I put her in the pet carry and drove off. As you can imagine I had memories of the day I drove my love to the emergency room. Similar to that day, I made sure to avoid the bumps in the road. Upon arriving at the vet office, I was ten minutes early. There were people in the office with their dogs and I thought that I would wait until they left. After they left, I took a deep breath and entered. The front desk clerk was very nice. They asked if I wanted to stay with Flash as they put her to sleep. There was no way I could have handled that as the memories of the day that my loved died are still fervently planted in my brain.
It is now the fall of 2014 and all is not right with the world. Oh, how I would love to go back to the spring of 2006. I know that is not possible. There is so much uncertainty in the world. What will 2015 be like?