Ending a chapter in my family history

She came into my life on a Saturday afternoon in September 2007.

The exact date: September 29, 2007.

Early that spring, I had lost the second of my last pair of cats — sibling deaf white cats from a litter born in 1990 on my mother’s Virginia farmlet. I then went ahead with a new kitchen project I’d been delaying, not wanting to upset the lives of elderly deaf cats.

The construction took a lot longer than I expected, but, finally, on Thursday, September 27, 2007, the certificate of occupancy was issued and the project was Officially Over.

I had long since lost patience with the construction delays. But, more, I was losing patience with having to go without cats in my life. The last time I’d been without cats for that long a period was far in the distant past… and I didn’t like it one bit.

I’d checked a number of shelters that had kittens during the week, but I wasn’t really expecting to find just the right kittens to bring home when I set out that Saturday to “start” seeing who might be available.

Yeah, right.

This little girl was one of two who came home with me that day, that Saturday, not quite 10 years ago. I sure didn’t expect to be writing the end to this chapter in my family history this soon.

Her brother, a ginger tabby, was screamingly red as a kitten. So his name had to be Clancy, which means “red warrior” in Gaelic. That meant I needed a Gaelic name for her. And with a perfect black nose, black toes and black tip of her tail, I named her Ciara, Gaelic for black or dark haired, though a name that meant “feisty mischievous lap cat” would have been more appropriate.

I first met her in the home where she was being fostered. She was a rescue from a feral colony and had probably been rescued before she was eight weeks old. Smaller than the other kittens being fostered, she had the dominant personality, and a purr that you could hear clear across a room.

She’s the first one who met me when I came into the house: standing at the glass door dividing the fostering room from the rest of the house and making it clear she was the absolute mistress of all she surveyed. With little short legs and a great big heart, she fit into my life like a hand in a glove.

Unlike some of her predecessor kitties, there were no grand adventures during Ciara’s time with me. Well, except for the day I heard her meowing, couldn’t find her at first, and eventually discovered she had gotten through the accordion fold at the side of the window air conditioner and was sitting out on the roof.

Mostly, it was just an amazingly rewarding, comfortable and comforting decade of cuddles and purrs and chasing laser dots and gazing out the door at the world going by. She was the one who was never more than a few feet, or inches, from my side whenever I was home. The one who was on my lap whenever she could make me sit long enough to get into it. The one who slept curled next to me.

A constant joyful loving presence.

She had some minor health issues over the years but, it seemed, they were just minor and responded immediately to treatment.

Except that this last one ended up not being minor at all. What I thought, two weeks ago, might be early stage kidney disease turned out to be a big, nasty, aggressive brain tumor, and it manifested in symptoms that developed with frightening speed. We thought we could try radiation if we could get her stable enough do that… but that never happened.

I asked a treasured friend how anybody knows what decision to make with a beloved pet, and his answer was simple. “You’ll know,” he said. And he was 100% right. When I went to the veterinary hospital yesterday to spend time with her, I knew. Without any doubt. She signaled as clearly as she could that she’d had it. That asking her tired ailing body to keep working was just too much to ask.

She knew I was there with her. She even managed a little tiny version of her usual mighty-motorboat purr. She snuggled into my arms and I held her as the drugs were administered.

It was quick. It was painless. It was astonishingly peaceful. And of course it was heartbreaking.

Yesterday, almost exactly 10 years after I brought her home, Ciara crossed over to the meadow where, I can only hope, she’ll be waiting for me so, with all the other animals I’ve ever loved, we can cross the Rainbow Bridge together.

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