Thursday, February 21, 2013

Remembering Bailey, Part Two

It’s been a couple of days since I lost Bailey as I write this. Even though Brillo and Chaucer are here, my house seems bigger and emptier then usual. Bailey had this big, goofy kitty personality that filled up a room. 
Bailey with the catnip shrimp Santa
brought him this past Christmas (2012)

From the time I brought him and Brillo home from the Fox homestead, in July of 2007, Bailey claimed the house as his own. There wasn’t a surface, nook, or cranny he didn’t explore. I tried lemon juice, aluminum foil, all the old wives’ tales for keeping kitties off kitchen counters. Failure, each and every time. If Bailey wanted something on the counter, Bailey got on the counter. 

Bailey had a knack for getting into trouble. I called his paws “paws of destruction.” He would tap on something with his paw – a glass, a mug, a dish, a book – to see what would happen. If nothing did, he’d tap a little harder, then a little harder. I lost several dishes and glasses that fell off a counter or table with a little help from those paws of destruction.

He also tended not to listen to me. “No” did not seem to be in his kitty vocabulary. As a result, he ended up with four names: Bailey Benjamin Bartholomew Brown-Hamilton. That was quite a mouthful for a little 10-pound kitty – and for his Mama too. Usually by the time I got it all out, he was on to his next bout of mischief. He had a couple of nicknames, too: Bailey Bones when he was being good and Bailey Monster when he wasn’t.  

Brillo and Bailey birdwatching
Bailey also loved to sit on things, like my stereo, magazines I was trying to read, my black pants. The stereo is one of those all in one units with a touch on button on the top. It sits on my sideboard, and both Bailey and Brillo like to sit on top of it. They often turn it on, which can be a tad unnerving at 2:30 in the morning or coming home from work. Just this past Sunday, Bailey jumped up on the sideboard and plopped down on top of the stereo. My guided stretching CD started to play. Now it’s great when you’re exercising, not so great for background music. I was at the dining room table, writing, and the two kitties were bird-watching. I glanced up at one point, and Bailey had his head turned to look at me, with this look in his eyes that said “Are you going to turn that off?” I had to laugh. “Don’t look at me,” I told him. “You turned it on.”  

Like any kitty worth his catnip, Bailey loved being up high. Problem is, I think he was like his Mama – afraid of heights. He had no problem getting up on top of the kitchen cabinets, but getting down was another thing. More times than I care to remember, I had to climb up on the kitchen stool and pluck him off his perch.  

Unlike any kitty worth its kibble, Bailey wasn’t fond of fish. Vegetables, especially green vegetables, were his food of choice. I found this out quite by accident one summer, when I was puzzled by zucchini in my vegetable bowl that seemed to go bad faster than it should have. The rotting all started at one end that had gouges in it. The other squash was fine, so I just shrugged it off, cut off the rotten section, and sautéed up the rest. The next day the other squash was similarly distressed. I couldn’t figure it out, until one afternoon I came in from the patio and Bailey was contentedly gnawing away on the zucchini. He was so content he didn’t even see me snap a picture of the guilty party in action. 

Bailey had some other strange habits, too. He would drive Bate nuts, sitting on the washing machine and meowing plaintively at a Norman Rockwell print I have hanging in the laundry room. He’d stand on his hind legs and reach his front paws out over the picture, almost as if he was hugging it. He didn’t do this with any other picture in the house and to this day I have no idea of what it was about that print that elicited that reaction. He eventually outgrew the habit, much to Bate’s relief, but every once in awhile, he’d go back and hold this secret conversation with the man and the woman at City Hall applying for a marriage license. Recalling it now, maybe Bailey was a frustrated artist, maybe I should have given him some paper and paints, and I could have been the owner of the rich and famous kitty Picasso.

Bailey was pretty much content to be a house kitty, but every once and awhile, usually at his sister Brillo’s urging, he would try to make a break for it. He figured out how to open the screen slider (and taught his sister), so now I have to go out the breakfast nook door to get to the deck. I can’t leave the slider unlatched.  One day he got out when I was coming back in from getting the mail. I didn’t know he’d snuck out, until I looked out the dining room window and saw him, trotting oh so casually down the driveway. He hung a left onto Kensington and was almost down to Somersby before I caught up with him. I was furious – and scared – at the time. Remembering the incident, it strikes me that Bailey looked like a cat on a mission as he trotted down the street. It seemed like he knew just where he wanted to go. Hmmm….

Is there anything in there for me?
Bailey never met a bag he didn’t like. It didn’t matter if it was plastic or paper, large or small, if there was a bag available, he was in it, or at least trying to get into it. Bailey didn’t give up easily, so he would continue to try to squeeze into bags half his size. He fell off the bed more than once, as head in bag he kept trying to get ALL the way in. Of course, all he accomplished was moving the bag, and before too long, he and the bag were head over heels and on the floor. Bailey didn’t want to snooze in the bag, like Brillo, he wanted to check it out and see if there was anything in there for him. The bags were always empty, but Bailey never gave up hope that this time there’d be a catnip mouse or a kitty treat in there just for him. 

Bailey also never met a person he didn’t like. My Dad never got to meet Bailey, but I am pretty certain he would have become a cat lover if he had. It didn’t matter who came into the house, Bailey would go over, sniff them, then roll over on his back for a belly rub. Then the purring would start. I have never had a cat who purred so loudly. Dr. Cardoza at VETSS told me she had a window of about two seconds to listen to his heart; then the purring started and there was no chance of hearing anything else. She wasn’t the only veterinarian who treated him who said that. 

Bailey was a once in a lifetime cat. Brillo and Chaucer are wonderful, and I love them dearly, but Bailey was, well, he was something else. Anyone who met him would agree. There is a void in my life now, and it is going to take some time to learn to live with that.

I miss you, Bailey Bones, and I will never forget you.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Remembering Bailey, Part 1

Things were just a little off this morning. Brillo echoed the alarm clock by meowing in my ear at 5:30 am. Chaucer’s strident meow from the doorway announced he was starving. 

It was a morning like any other morning. Except Bailey wasn’t there to smack me on the head with his paw if I didn’t respond immediately. He wasn’t there to echo the meows of his sister and brother. He wasn’t there to lead me to the cabinet where the cat food is kept as I stumbled into the kitchen and tried not to trip over him, something I was not always successful at.  
My baby kitty Bailey

Bailey is in heaven, rolling in a field of catnip and, if I know my baby kitty, looking for the chance to get into some mischief. (God, if you’re listening, don’t leave your laptop unattended.  Keys have a way of disappearing when You’re not looking and Bailey is around.)  

I made the toughest decision of my life last night – I told Dr. Salmon at VETTS in Charlottesville it was time to end Bailey’s suffering. He had been diagnosed with HCM at the beginning of December and while initially the medicines he was on worked well, he quickly went downhill. Since Christmas Eve, he has been in and out of the emergency vet clinic and Woodworth Animal Hospital. It has been a steady downward spiral and when I came home last night and found him struggling to breathe, I knew this was it. 

Dr. Salmon, Vivian, and Molly at VETTS were wonderful. They were waiting for us when we arrived and Vivian whisked Bailey off to an oxygen crate. She got some additional information from me, then Dr. Salmon came into talk with me. She told me what she thought was happening and what we could do. We could intervene, she said, and it would buy Bailey a “few days.”

No, I said, I couldn’t do that to myself. More importantly, I couldn’t do that to Bailey. “It’s time,” I told her. She nodded. “Just because it is the right thing to do, it is never the easy thing to do,” she said. 

After I signed the paperwork consenting to the euthanasia, Vivian brought Bailey into me. I had decided I wanted to be with him when he slipped from my arms to God’s. “Take as long as you want,” she told me, after giving me a hug.  

Bailey and I spent our last 20 minutes together, snuggling and cuddling. I told him how much I loved him, shared memories of all the silly things he’d done in the past five and a half year, and told him again how much I loved him.

And then it was time. Dr. Salmon had me stand at his head while Vivian held him still. It was over in less than a minute. Bailey slipped away from me, with his head on my hand, the way it often was when I was on the computer and he was snoozing next to me.  

Bailey will be cremated and I will get the ashes back. I am going to plant a tree this spring in his memory and bury the ashes there. Bailey will live in my heart and my memory, but a tree will be that visual reminder of the kitty with the goofy cat personality. Bailey could always make me smile with his antics, even this morning, in the middle of my grief. 

Mama loves you, baby kitty, and she always will. Rest in peace.