September, 1992 – December 24, 1998
Our family was adopted by Iris in September of 1992, when we had taken some articles over to a friend’s house for typing (my husband and I were editing the Georgia Appalachian Trail Club newsletter at the time). While my husband and the friend were talking, I saw a lovely cream and gray Himalayan-type cat sitting beside the driveway eyeing me. Later I realized that she was saying “excuse me, where the hell have you been, I’ve been waiting VERY PATIENTLY for you!”
Our friend noticed our mutual interest and said that this cat was a stray, evidently dumped or escaped recently, declawed, and that since she already had three cats and really couldn’t keep another, didn’t we want her? Husband said “NO, we don’t need a cat,” and we drove home.
Well, I couldn’t get this cat out of my mind. Finally at bedtime, I said “I want that cat. I can’t stand thinking of her out there dumped and defenseless.” Evidently she’d gotten to my husband too, because he said to call our friend in the morning and let her know. I did just that; the friend and a neighbor experienced in animal rescue trapped her that night. The following night, I went back over and picked her up. I took her home, nearly an hour drive, with her making little mews beside me the whole time.
Iris was checked out by a neighborhood vet the next day and found to be healthy but NOT spayed. So she went back two days later to take care of *that* little problem (I firmly don’t believe in leaving animals un-fixed). Dr. Eubanks guessed that she was maybe a year old at that point, but that estimate was revised upwards a couple of times over the years. Now our best guess is that she was three years old, give or take a year and a half, when she joined us.
It took several days to decide on a name for her. As I am not terribly fluent in Cat, I finally decided to call her Iris, for her light blue-violet eyes, the color of little woods iris flowers. She apparently found that name acceptable, and would occasionally even deign to answer to it.
For the first six months she hid in various places, mostly behind/underneath the head of our waterbed where we couldn’t get at her at all. Little by little she adjusted, we won her confidence, and she would venture out, still bolting at the first sign of trouble. It took a year or more, but she settled in, decided what Her Places were, and took over our house and our hearts.
My studio was her favorite room; I was just allowed to keep my stuff there and work there on her sufferance. She slept on the waterbed with us in the winter — that’s how we’d mark the change of seasons. I was Her Person, she accepted DH, and marginally tolerated with our son.
Iris was never much of a talker, though she’d occasionally have something to say. She would purr nearly nonstop, though, even when obviously irritated or mad. She hated being combed (not good for a longhair cat!), and had these funny little growths, almost like dewclaws, on the bottom of one foot. She was seldom a lap cat (except the one time my friend Peach visited, when Iris walked right over to her and plopped in her lap, not to be moved!), but she often lay next to me as I worked in my studio or on the computer. She liked being under the treadles of the loom if I wasn’t actually weaving, or just barely out of the way of the wheel and treadle if I was spinning. If I was in the kitchen, she was usually sitting right there underfoot hoping for a tidbit.
She didn’t much like cat toys, preferring the sticky bows from Christmas presents (they make great hockey pucks), and balls of aluminum foil. At one point we got a new refrigerator, and I found a half-dozen bows under the old one when it was moved out. Fortunately, with one exception, she stayed away from threads — that one time, while I was in Tallahassee visiting my grandmother, necessitated an emergency trip to the vet with DH to remove a loose warp that she’d started to eat.
If a cat could be agoraphobic, Iris was. We didn’t let her out — ours was not a neighborhood in which to be an outside cat. Occasionally one of us would walk outside holding her, and she’d grab on tight until we got back inside.
She made it very clear during the Olympics that she wanted to be an Only Cat — my B-I-L came for the Olympics and brought his two cats with him. Iris was NOT a happy camper. If the Alien Cats stayed in the study and the upstairs bathroom she very grudgingly dealt with it, but if they had the temerity to venture any farther, she was very upset! The first night Cadem Cat was exploring the house, and at 5 a.m. my husband and I were awakened by a low mrrrowl from beside me. I placed a hand on Iris and told him to turn on the light. Sure enough, Cadem had hopped up on the other side of the bed, beside my husband, i.e. invading Iris’s territory. Well, Cadem Cat was tossed out, and that was that!
She didn’t like riding in the car either, since the only time she did was to go to the vet! And every time she went there, she gave the techs and the vet quite a time, but they loved her despite it. Donna the lab tech always had nice words for her, even when she’d been aggravating.
Iris spent a lot of time with me during a very aggravating and stressful time of my life, as I was working my regular full-time job plus serving as registrar for an international conference. After the conference, in summer 1998, I began to notice that she was slowing down a bit. But I just chalked that up to middle age.
When she went in for her regular checkup and teeth cleaning two days before Christmas, 1998, disaster struck us unawares. She reacted badly to the anesthetic for the cleaning, and it triggered a rapid, cascading deterioration of her condition. The new vet said that she’d apparently been compensating for illness for some time, but that the anesthetic had destroyed that compensation. She barely made it through the night in an oxygen cage at our local emergency clinic — according to the staff, they were certain at least twice that she wasn’t going to make it. The next morning when I came to get her and take her back over to our regular vet, I knew that it was time to let her go. I was simply grateful to whatever power helped her hang on until I could be with her.
Just before the vet gave Iris the overdose, Donna the lab tech said through her own tears, “look at her, she’s such a fighter,” as we settled her down. That is when I knew she was leaving no matter what, because I *swear* she saw something out there that we humans couldn’t see, and she was bound and determined to go to it.
The vet found, in the autopsy, that Iris did have cancer, and that it had metastasized and was affecting several internal organs, including diaphragm/lungs, liver, and intestines. From the sound of it, she was sick for a while but just not showing it, and the sudden collapse may truly have been a blessing because it shortened her suffering by at least several weeks.
I’d actually consciously thought just a few days before it happened “you know, you’re going to lose Iris one of these days.” Six years was far too short a time to have her, though I know I was blessed to have her with me for that time. She was a wonderful companion and teacher, and I expect to see her waiting for me at Rainbow Bridge when I get there.