i met Tiger when i was eight years old.
i had been asking for a pet for my birthday and my parents decided to let me get a kitten. i was so excited. they picked me up from school one day and we went straight to the shelter to pick out my kitten - which is literally the most awesome thing that can happen to a kid. done with school, now you get a kitten!
we went to the shelter. tiger was one of three kittens of her litter. i vaguely remember them all being a little terrified. i think kitty was sitting on top of the other two in a little pile of fur and wide eyes. my mom told me awhile ago that i picked her because all her paws were different.
(for the record her paws are indeed all different and all great - the two front paws had one gray/black with a little white sock, one orange white a little white sock. the two back paws were 'knee socks' - that's how i always thought of them anyway. again, an orange and gray/black striped.
she was the most beautiful cat. tabby - gray and black stripes with orange speckled all throughout her coat, orange cheeks, white-tipped paws and white neck. gorgeous green eyes. to this day i have never seen a cat like her.
i named her tiger because of her stripes, but we pretty much just always called her 'kitty.' it would forever enrage me when people would think her name was tigger. no. it was tiger, damn it.
one of the first nights we had her, we had a little bed for her next to my bed. we put her on it for the night as i was going to bed, but she refused to stay in it. she kept jumping up onto my bed to sleep with me. i'd patiently put her back, having really no idea what was best or what the rules were for new kittenhood. finally i asked my mom and she agreed that kitty could stay with me on the bed.
and from that moment on, that's where she would sleep: with me on the bed, curled up in the crook of my knees as i lay on my side.
she was always a skittish little thing - except for with me.
we were inseparable. she was totally and completely attached to me and pretty much only me. she would often meow when i was in the living room and my mom would say she was asking 'can we go back to our room now?'
pet sitters that came to take care of our animals would never see her. they would only know we had a cat because the food would be eaten the next day.
we got a wonderful dog, rosie, a little later on and decided to introduce the two of them. the first time kitty met her, she swiped at her and gave her a permanent scratch on the nose. it was love.
when we moved from west virginia to florida, kitty rode in a large crate with her bed and litter and food and everything she needed. we made the mistake of putting the litterbox closest to the back of the seat where i was sitting, so she sat in it the whole time to be close to me - and she meowed every few seconds the entire several-day trip. i am not exaggerating.
rosie was in the front seat, occasionally throwing up. she did not love car rides so much either.
when we got to florida kitty hid in the murphy's bed for three days. i was utterly terrified something horrible had happened and she was never going to come out again. but she did. and we had our room once more.
since that move was so traumatic for her, i decided to have her stay at my parents' house when i moved out to LA after college. during college there was no way to have her - none of my crappy apartments allowed pets and i was gone almost all day and night most of the time with the craziness of film school. i wanted to take her with me to LA - but it would've been double the amount of time in the car as the trip to florida, and she was thirteen years old then - i decided it was best to let her stay where she was most comfortable.
she did what she had to do when her person left - she got comfortable with my parents, she started to warm up to their company a lot more, and by the time i was coming home over the years, she was a regular social cat to my family. she would curl up with my dad and mom, in their laps or beside them on the couch. but every time i came home, she always remembered me, and she loved me just as much then as she ever had, even if it was only for a week or two.
a few years ago we got another dog, bear. he is much, much larger than both rosie and kitty - but after they worked things out as far as who the boss is in the house, they even got along.
the last time i saw her was this past christmas. i'll never forget the look on her face when i walked in the door. i had taken a redeye, so it was early in the morning and i came into my parents' bedroom where she was sleeping on the bed. it was kind of loud - commotion of coming in the house, the dogs barking, etc. and kitty woke up. she did an actual double take when she saw me. it was the most incredible thing. she stood up and came right toward me and from there actually crawled on my lap and fell asleep - a rare occurrence.
she was very, very thin. she had always been a mere nine pounds for most of her life - on the small side. now i could pick her up with one hand and it was barely anything (she did not like being picked up, by the way.)
i was home for two full weeks and we got to spend so much wonderful time together. her favorite thing at christmas time has always, always been sleeping under the christmas tree:
sometimes she would let me wake her up and she would follow me to my parents' bed, where we would sit or lay and take a nap or i would read and she would curl right up against me. sometimes if she was looking for me, she would stand in the middle of the living room and meow (she had the cutest, tiniest voice) until i showed up and we could retreat for more naps and reading and hanging out. she was incredibly affectionate with me - even more then she had been in years past.
she died a little less than a month later, on january 24th, around 4 or so eastern time. she was incredibly, perfectly healthy for almost her entire life, having kidney problems come up in the last three or four years or so. they came up again, very suddenly and intensely, and that's what took her away.
she was EIGHTEEN YEARS OLD. just an absolute wonderful, incredible gift to have her in my life for THAT long. i can't believe i how lucky i am.
words can't express my gratitude for having this girl in my life. for her choosing me and choosing to spend her life at my side.
it's because of her that i have so many great things in my life. she is responsible for so much of them.
without her, i never would've adopted these two dummies:
i never would've decided to volunteer at the burbank animal shelter. i never would've gotten to work with tons and tons of cats who come into the shelter utterly terrified until we show them that we will do everything in our power to ensure they never have to be scared again. i never would've gotten to help any of these babies:
she loved me absolutely unconditionally. even when i didn't deserve it. even when i didn't clean the litterbox for days because i was an irresponsible teenager. even when she would mess with pens and knock over things on my desk in the middle of the night and i'd lock her out of the room - then, she would throw her entire nine pounds into the door in order to be let back in. even when i went away to school. even when i wasn't there, she loved me.
no matter what, she was devoted to me. and i don't know anything more amazing than having someone love you that much and loving them back just as much. she filled up my heart.
she is everything, everything, everything.
i love and miss her so very much.