Friday, February 15, 2008

In memoriam: Snowball, 1997(?) - 2008

There were no visible symptoms until it was too late.

Snowball seemed a bit "off"; she was not as active as usual, and she'd lost some weight. It seemed like more than just the stress of a new puppy. I thought it was a mild fever, or a tooth gone bad. I never suspected a massive, inoperable tumor. She was suffering, and failing fast. We spent last weekend keeping her comfortable and saying our good-byes. It was all so sudden, and so gut-wrenchingly sad.

We adopted Snowball from the SPCA as a young cat, along with a kitten we named Muffin. The kids were also quite young at the time (3 and 6), so the kids and cats have grown up together. The cats moved across the ocean and back, endured quarantine, and weathered the arrival of more family pets. Snowball stood out from all of our pets for many, many reasons:
  • Snowball was sociable. Snowball was a great communicator, both verbally and with her tail. She could say "hello" by holding her tail just so. She liked spending time with the family. One summer we often played baseball in the front yard; she would always join us and be right in the middle of the action.
  • She loved the outdoors. At first we kept her inside, fearing neighborhood traffic. But our house in England had a walled garden, and she enjoyed exploring every inch of it. Our current property was even better. She often took walks with us, exploring the orchard and the pasture. I'm convinced the past four years were her happiest.
  • She was adventuresome. Where most cats will hide or withdraw from new experiences, Snowball seemed to thrive. Her feline curiosity, combined with incredible agility, took her to places most cats only dream of. She could fit into any box, no matter how small. In England, she managed to climb from the garden wall up onto the roof. She also liked to jump from the kitchen counter to the top of the cabinets. From that little space between cabinet and ceiling, she would hold dominion over all.
  • She was an excellent hunter, presenting her prey as a gift to her people. I wasn't so fond of this, but cats will be cats. And she was highly skilled. During her first year with us, when she wasn't allowed outside, she honed her craft on Beanie Babies. Returning from a week's vacation, we found the front hallway strewn with over 30 Beanie Babies and other plush toys from the kids' rooms! I can only imagine what the petsitter thought ...
  • Snowball had exceptional emotional intelligence. When we adopted her, the tag on her SPCA cage read, "loves people and likes to give kisses." And she did; she was affectionate with us from the moment she entered our home. She was also incredibly sensitive to human emotions. If one of the kids was sad, Snowball would pick up on their mood and immediately be at their side, providing comfort. I have never seen anything like it.
Snowball's passing was a devastating blow, partly because of all her redeeming qualities, but also because she had been an integral part of our family as the children moved from toddlers to teenagers. Snowball often appears in the "mental movie" of past events. We didn't know she was ill, but in retrospect there were signs. She seemed to be slowing down a bit. She hadn't jumped on the kitchen counters in quite some time. When the weather was unseasonably warm a few weeks ago, she didn't ask to go outside. I hope that wherever she is now, she is whole, and able to do all of her favorite things.