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My Pwetty, Pwetty Princess


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I fell in love with her the first time I saw her.

Smudge was an eight-year-old rag-doll cat who came to us a little under a year ago when her owner, my friend Tim’s mother Barbara, passed away, and Tim and his wife Lisa could not keep her because of Lisa’s allergies. My and I were a little unsure about becoming catparents again less than a year after our beloved Siamese cat Elric had had to be put down, but we were lonely without someone furry and four-legged in our lives, so we agreed to take Smudge and Calli (Barbara’s other cat, a little calico she’d rescued from a shelter to keep Smudge company). In spite of our apprehensions, we looked forward to having two cats at once, as Elric had been an only “child.”

After the funeral, we were at Tim and Lisa’s house and Lisa said, “Would you like to meet your new cats?” She led us into the basement (which was the cats’ more-or-less exclusive domain), and we were treated to our first sight of our little girls. Calli was a nervous little thing, a little shy of strangers but not actually frightened, and consented to sniff our fingers and allow us to pet her. She was and is a thin cat, and her bony back arched under our hands. Smudge, though…

Smudge was curled up on one of the heated cushions the cats had, resting on top of one of those scratching pad/treehouse things, and did not get up at our approach, but blinked sleepily at us in greeting. She too sniffed my hand, and extended her head for me to pet her. Her fur, grey and white except for the black smudge on her nose that gave her her name, was so soft and thick and dense that it was like petting a cloud, and her tail was bushy and tremendous, and lashed happily as I stroked her. She blinked her blue eyes at me (rag dolls are cousins to Siamese, and share their eye color), meowed softly, and before I could stroke her a second time, began to purr.

We would not take them home for another week yet, but from that moment, she was my cat.

It was a treat getting to know two cats at once. Smudge and Calli weren’t exactly friends, more old enemies who’d known each other so long that they had become uneasy allies. Smudge, who had been an only cat before Calli’s arrival, seemed never to have quite gotten over the idea that she should go on being an only cat, and usually looked askance at Calli as if to say, “Who are you again, and what exactly are you for?” For her part, Calli thought Smudge was just fine, and would rub up against her at feeding time (to be fair, Calli did and does rub up against just about anything at feeding time). Smudge’s reaction to this was generally an exasperated glare and/or an irritated mrrowwl. And although they both loved to lie on our bed, they hated to share it – if one of them was up there, the other one would grouse about on the floor like a small child denied its favorite swing on the playground. Usually, Kim or I would pick up the exiled cat and plonk her down next to her “sister,” and whichever cat it was would grumpily settle down and relax, inevitably turning its back on the other.

Smudge herself was definitely a character. She tended not to vocalize much, punctuating thoughts and deeds with meows that were more glottal stop than actual vocalization: “M---!” She was a compulsive bather, like many longhairs, but this also extended to your hand, arm or indeed your whole body if you happened to be nearby as she was washing. Her tongue was like wet sandpaper, and watching her go to town washing between her toes was a variety show in itself. She loved the bathtub, and liked to jump into it and roll around. Petting her during this process produced an ecstasy of purrs and playful swipes at your hand. She didn’t especially like being held, but accepted it with begrudging good grace.

And she loved being sung to. I was home with her most days, discovered that Smudge had a wide musical palette of tastes, liking everything from Sondheim (pretty much anything) to Erasure (“A Little Respect” was a particular favorite). Smudge liked it when I sang ballads; my usual tune was Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender,” in which I would replace “darling” with “Smudgeling.” (This is why I am not a lyrics writer any more than I am a singer.) Regardless of the song, she always got very excited when either of us would sing, meowing (singing back, as we called it), winding between our legs, and reaching up with one paw as if to grasp the sounds from the air, like Peter Boyle in Young Frankenstein. And purring, always, always purring.

I could go on all day about her, and never get tired. I could talk about those massive, fluffy white paws, which prompted me to nickname her “Thunderpaws;” I could talk about her almost recreational ability to vomit without there actually being anything wrong with her at all (a trait Calli seems to share); about her fascination with the front door, which she would watch as eagerly as though a hundred Narnias awaited just on the other side; or about the slightly vapid expression she always seemed to wear. (We used to call her a “pwetty pwetty pwincess,” always with the w’s and always with two “pwetty”s. It just seemed to fit.) I could go on all day. But sadness catches up with me, and I have to proceed to the inevitable.

Yesterday, without warning, Smudge began hiding, pressing her head hard against the back wall of her little cubbyhole. Her breathing became shallow, and she was unresponsive to stimuli. When I took her to the emergency animal clinic, Smudge started to suffer from seizures on the way. Late last night the diagnosis was delivered: a brain tumor, from which her life could only be prolonged, not restored; and that, only with months and months of chemotherapy and radiation, which would leave her sickly, disoriented, and confused. We could not do that to our little pwincess, and we made the decision to let her go. She slept, and slipped away under our stroking hands, and one last time, I sang to her: “for my Smudgeling, I love you, and I always will…”

We didn’t have her very long, but she was my girl, my comfort, and my joy. She was our Thunderpaws, our Smudgeling, our pwetty pwetty pwincess. We will never forget her, and we will miss her always. Goodbye, my angel.

This is Smudge. She too likes the bed. She is only eight. I will never, ever get over grieving for her. We had her for such a short, short time. My heart is breaking and I will mourn her for the rest of my life.


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Dear Kimberly,

What a beautiful story you wove here, allowing us to get to know your darling Smudge (and Calli, too)...even though I'm sure you could write about her all the time and "never get tired," as there is always, always more to tell. The heart is not bound by the seeming constraints of time, when love runs that deep, for such love is truly "timeless."

I find it's akin to being the writer her/himself, being taken on such a journey, heart opening & being warmed, smiling, chortling in agreement, reliving one's own similar remembrances....but holding my breath all the while, knowing what's coming in the 'end,' and so also reliving the opposite feelings that are all so common to grief. Such is the power of sharing. But through it all, the heart still opens...

And so, may I offer my complete condolences to all 3 of you, for your loss of Smudge...as well as for your loss of Elric, not that long ago. No matter how long or short our earthly relationships with our beloved ones are, it's the depth of those relationships that count, as so many who've known and loved animal companions have quickly discovered. And despite not being linearly long, yours with your dear Smudge was clearly full and rich, as well as filled with respect for her individuality.

Perhaps she will send you loving messages in the form of songs, since that was such a big part of your daily life with each other. I know my kidlets do, as I sang to them as well, changing words around to fit them, just as you'd done for Smudge.

Taking on pain ourselves so that they don't have to is one of the most selfless acts that can come from love. You did that, and you were there with and for her during her transition. Your little 'cloud' girl is now as unencumbered as one, with no failing body to hinder her spiritual essence, and I hope you can eventually take some solace from that, even if not just yet. She was beautiful in the physical and she still is, in her spirit's depth and breadth, living on and still loving you, as always.

Again, I'm so sorry...

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I am so sorry you lost Smudge, she is very pretty...I had a "King George" that looked a little like her, also black and white. Cats are very special creatures, each one so unique, they have a way of worming their way into our hearts and are never forgotten, nor could be.

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