Pets. Yes. I used to say, “I have two farm girls and a street-walker.” I still have my two farm girls. My streetwalker passed and we’ve been joined by a merry-andrew. Sarton and Simone are my farm girls. One summer, twelve years ago, I worked on a horse farm. And one day, I came home with two tiny fur lumps of flees. It wasn’t planned or thought of really; mostly it was time for a cat to return to my life. I remember calling a friend and asking a big favor: could she run out and buy some basics for setting up new kittens. By the time I got home, it appeared as if my darling friend had bought out the store.
My Bronte (loving street-walker of a pitbull), thought it was Christmas and that I had brought her the bestest, most wonderfulest, two presents in the whole wide world. I set the girls up in Bronte’s crate. Bronte just lied down next to the crate and watched. Every day Bronte glued herself to the crate, watching, peering, wide-eyed, and patient. I would have to pull Bronte away to go on walks. Sometimes I even fed her right next to the crate. When the girls were around three pounds, I would let them walk all over Bronte. I told Bronte she just had to take it. Strangely, she didn’t mind. Sarton and Simone could nibble anywhere on Bronte. Then we would switch it around, and I would hold one of the girls and let Bronte lick on them. Bronte was good at cleaning them, gentle and light.
I had no idea what fun it would be with two kittens. Whenever I hear someone talk of getting a kitten, I always suggest getting two. Watching Sarton and Simone play was hysterical. How they would run and race. Then just jump straight up for no apparent reason. Run around and around Bronte, then jump over her. Ah yes, the days before cell phones and instant YouTube videos. Only in my head do these memories play. Where wads of paper and empty grocery bags were playthings and play grounds of endless delight and silliness. Then the adorable fur circle they made when curled up and purring.
But I remember, and if Bronte were with me she would remember. Bronte would tell of the bullfight she and Simone once had. I woke up to it. My apartment looked like a crime scene and no one was talking. Not one of those girls: Sarton, Simone, or Bronte ever did tell me what it was about. In fact, Sarton had run and hid. When I found Sarton hours later, she threw up her paws at me and insisted she had nothing to do with it. That was just like Sarton with her sweet tiny kitten face. Sarton always seemed to know her kitten face gets her out of lots of trouble. Even now, when our merry-andrew named Whitman plays with Sarton, I always call him out if I hear any hissing. He’s the big goofy-galloping pitbull. How could Sarton ever do anything wrong with the life long baby face? She is always innocent.
Sarton is the social butterfly; she’ll come out and flop on her back for you. She’ll just waft her parts to anyone, begging for attention. Simone, not so much. Sarton is the fastidious groomer: hours on the windowsill tonguing individual hairs on her paws. Simone, not so much. Sarton is the adventurer. Just ask the girls who was the first to escape the apartment. (Which is why I always wonder about that bullfight with Bronte-I believe Sarton had something to do with it). Sarton has kept her kitten like figure. Simone not so much. In fact, I usually say Simone just has to look at food and she blows up like a tick. Sarton is the ladylike grazer, and Simone is the vacuum. I’ve seen Simone suction up a bowl of kibble in one breath and purge herself in the next.
Even now, I’m thinking on how many little things I’ve been blaming on Simone. Lately with little hairy piles of purge randomly scattered about, I blamed Simone. Or the bottom kitchen cabinets left ajar at night, I blamed Simone. Or the bigger, wider, heavier clumps in the litter box, I blamed Simone.
Friday before last, Sarton went to jump on the side of the tub. She missed. Later Sarton went to jump up on the short bookcase she eats on. She missed. Later after eating, Sarton went to jump off the short bookcase. She missed. Her back legs crumpled under her when she hit the floor. There’s no blaming Simone for her sister’s mishaps.
My baby-faced Sarton has a very low potassium. The good news a week ago Friday was that Sarton didn’t have diabetes, hyperthyroidism, or in kidney failure. Sarton came home with Potassium gel and doxycycline. There was that sad inkling of Sarton’s mortality and age recognition. To myself I thought, she is twelve. She can’t be with me forever, but we can do this K gel twice a day thing for the rest of her life. It’s all okay. It’s doable.
Last Friday, Sarton stuck her whiskers up to canned food. She turned to walk away. Instead, she stumbled, her back legs wobbled, and she rolled over onto her right side. She was down. This time Sarton and I spent two hours at Dogwood, the emergency hospital. The ER vet, and neuro-vet, used words like iintracranial disease, meningioma, progressive neurologic signs, postural deficits. I understood the doctor was describing my Sarton, but all I could think of was how tiny she was. How itty-bitty Sarton’s head seemed to me. How do you do brain surgery on a peanut?! My face was warm and wet. My left leg bounced uncontrollably. The mortality inkling was now ringing in my ear; it wasn’t an inkling anymore. The clangorous steam train was thundering through my head, my baby-faced Sarton wasn’t going to get better.
Once again, I had to explain to my dog, this time Whitman, that the dog crate needed to be a kitty safe place. Sarton moved in with her own little litter box, beds, and food bowls. For our present good fortune, Sarton took to the comforts of her room and is eating. A good thing for now. I’d like to say that Whitman is lying next to crate because of his concern for his feline sister. Truth is, his lying and whining is only for his frustration that he can’t get to her food or litter box. It’s hard to know what is best. I am only grateful for having come to this place once before. For now I will share what are our days together. I will rely on Sarton to tell me what she needs.